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While it’s easy to believe that burnout only happens from a job you dislike, this isn’t always the case, in fact, you may have landed a position you absolutely love, but have begun to see some warning signs like increased exhaustion and irritability. The World Health Organization has identified burnout as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” and it’s incredibly common—a study completed by Indeed in March 2021 revealed that over half of the respondents (52 percent) were experiencing feelings of burnout (up from the 43 percent who said the same in the company’s pre-COVID survey). So, what can you do if you actually like your job, but are feeling drained? Keep reading for some expert tips about managing burnout and when it may actually be time to walk.
What should I do if I love my job but am starting to feel signs of burnout?
Sami Toussi, a life and business coach who helps professionals and entrepreneurs navigate the pressure of over-productivity and embrace balance, tells Lively that even if you love your job, it’s totally normal to feel burned out.
“The concept of the saying, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ is actually a myth,” she explains. “The reason for this is because loving and being passionate about your job can make you want to do more of it — all the time — which can ultimately lead to becoming completely worn out.”
In terms of what to do here, Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, and founder and career coach behind Caffeinated Kyle, points out that it’s key to ensure your career is not your sole source of happiness. It’s also important to consider carving out regular time for self-care into your daily routine. “Recognize that self-care does not have to be time or energy intensive—it can be as simple as taking lunch away from your desk, removing work email from your phone or setting a clear boundary as to what time you leave the office each day,” he says. The idea is to be able to discover what works for you and your unique mental health needs.
What are the five stages of burnout?
Let’s talk about the steps involved in terms of getting to the burnout stage. There are many research pieces about burnout and its various stages, and Elaine Lou Cartas, business and career coach for women of color and allies, points us to one in particular by Winona State University which identified five stages of burnout:
1. Honeymoon Phase
In this phase, you may have positive feelings associated with high job satisfaction, commitment, energy and creativity. The key issue here revolves around what patterns of coping strategies you develop when facing the inevitable stresses of the job. In theory, if the patterns of coping are positive and adaptive, then you will remain in the honeymoon stage indefinitely (but few people do). Cartas notes it’s important to remember to make time for yourself no matter how excited you are about the project or task at hand.
2. Onset Of Stress
In the onset of stress stage, Cartas explains we acknowledge that there are some days that are more difficult than others which can affect us physically, mentally or emotionally. At this stage, you may experience increased irritability, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness and partake in less self-care.
3. Chronic Stress
At this point, feeling stress is a daily occurrence and it might show up as chronic exhaustion or feeling out of control. You may also notice a decrease in motivation resulting in missed deadlines and/or targets.
The fourth stage is the crisis stage. At this point, you feel as though it’s simply not feasible to continue working as if everything is okay. This is where it becomes so difficult to cope that one might feel empty inside, neglect personal needs and even suffer from physical ailments.
5. Habitual Burnout
If you’ve reached this stage, burnout is completely ingrained in your life to the point that it has become habitual and you’re likely to be affected by ongoing physical, mental and emotional issues.
How can I deal with burnout before quitting?
You’ve found yourself a role you really love and are starting to feel signs of burnout setting in—you don’t want to walk, but know something has to change. Toussi shares the first step to simply recognize the issue and ask yourself questions like, “Have I been feeling cynical at work?” “Do I find it hard to concentrate?” and “Do I lack the energy that I once used to have?” From here, there are a few things you can do and a big one is creating boundaries for yourself.
“Acknowledge what your capacity is before adding things to your plate — when you learn to respect your capacity, you can decide what you can and cannot take on,” says Cartas, who also recently launched a podcast called Color Your Dreams which will tackle various work and career related topics. On a similar note, Toussi highlights that you'll want to make sure your tasks follow your job description and that you’re not regularly going above and beyond the parameters of your role.
It’s important to seek out support, too, and Cartas notes you’ll want to learn how to do so (ideally before you really need it) from loved ones, a trusted therapist or even colleagues and supervisors. Additionally, perhaps one of the reasons you love your job is because of the benefits. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your company’s policies and take full advantage of what’s available. There are also many other resources out there including apps such as Headspace and Happify which can help you with mindfulness and learning to better cope with feelings of unease.
Lastly, it’s time to start putting systems in place to consistently create time for yourself, aka, “me time,” whether it’s exercise, journaling, getting a massage or firing up your favorite show on Netflix. Taking breaks is a key part of managing burnout, so use those PTO and mental health days.
How do you know when burnout is a sign to quit your job?
One of the biggest signs it’s time to quit your job is when you start having more bad days than good days, Elliot says. “Although it is normal to have a bad day here and there, ask yourself if you are willing to stick with a job that’s no longer offering you fulfillment,” he says.
Another sign comes when you’ve done the work and sought help both professionally and personally, yet still find yourself to be completely irritated and exhausted (all signs of burnout). “Remember, when you’re at a job that you may no longer love and it’s causing you to burnout, it is sometimes holding space for something remarkable to come,” Cartas says. “Trust yourself and your ability to purposefully pivot.”
Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.