Burnout goes beyond situational stress; it’s a durational drag on your motivation, confidence, and demeanor, which can easily compromise your career success, not to mention your immune response. Meaning: these aren’t just workplace stats…they are signals of a modern mental health crisis.
To get to the bottom of these trends and begin the healing process, The Forem invited Dr. Chela White-Ramsey, career counselor and master development facilitator, to speak about the vectors that cause burnout, and the strategies we can leverage to manage it.
Here are four lessons-learned that you can add to your burnout recovery toolbox, whether for facing it now, or preventing it later.
1. Cultivate Your Relationships
As burnout can arise from a multitude of factors and present itself in myriad ways, it’s important to take a moment to assess how burnout is manifesting for you personally. Many of the signs of burnout—emotional, physical, behavioral—can just as easily stand in as signs of loneliness.
Note if you might be withdrawing or feeling isolated from the people around you. Lacking a community that makes you feel safe and supported can cause undue anxiety that can ultimately affect your sense of direction and motivation.
Chela invites us to brainstorm: who can we connect with? Who can we share our personal stories with? While venting to close colleagues can be an alleviant to immediate stressors, reaching outside of your network to find new connections you might relate with can help foster a more grounding, sustaining sense of community.
2. Clarify Your Values
One of the most common burnout triggers is a values misalignment between you and your org. While there is often public clarity on the standing morals of your company, the values held at an operational level by management and employees are something we typically don’t discover until we’re on the inside.
These are things like work/life balance, communication styles, or even remote work and vacation policies. There may also be values incumbent of a certain industry that you’ve come to outgrow as your personal life evolves.
Example: being in sales often demands round-the-clock availability, which may have been something you thrived upon…until starting a family and needing more time to unplug.
If we can zero in on what we value most (making a lot of money vs. feeling appreciated at work, for example) then we can use those values as a north star for finding more fulfillment in our day to day. We can also train ourselves to ask for them at work, and/or consider moving on to a new org or career path that will honor what we need.
3. Build a Mindfulness Practice
Just as easily as we can become bogged down by our workload, we might also find ourselves feeling detached because we’re overqualified for the work we’re assigned. Both of these mind states correlate to burnout because they reflect feeling a lack of control over our creative and productive energies.
Chela defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Actively practicing mindfulness when you are feeling burned out can help you recenter when it feels like things are racing out of reach.
Through journaling, meditation, unplugging from your devices, or even simply making lists to help focus your energy on one thing at a time… taking a step back sends a reminder to your brain: you are always in control of your body and the boundaries you set to retain your health.
4. Know When It’s You and When It’s Them
Of course, sometimes it’s not personal; it’s a much larger issue that falls on behalf of the industry or the org that is likely plaguing a multitude of people.
Ask yourself: have you self-reflected, and/or sought support from management and peers? If the answer is yes and you’ve experienced little or no change, it might be time to consider your exit strategy. In Chela’s words, “you can’t self-care your way out of a systemic failure.”
Reminder: quitting a job that doesn’t support your mental health is never a mistake, no matter how high-profile the company or how glorified certain habits are that you don’t align with.
Re: tip #2…valuing different things than your management or your colleagues is okay. But if you’re the outlier, it may be in your best interest to seek a workplace culture where your values are embraced instead of tolerating the “norm” of your current situation.