Working everyday can be a grind. Vacations are supposed to leave you recharged but often they simply remind you of how much stress work causes. To work more productively and stress-free, you need to first be able to identify signs that you are burning out.
Our 24/7 World
The last night of a vacation, I always get this feeling of stress. It is a faint sense of anxiety knowing that work starts in only a few hours. I know that the next morning is going to start with the morning rush out of the house. I know that the day is going to drain every last bit of my emotional, mental, and physical energy. By 3pm, I am usually burning out.
What complicates work is that I, like most of you, are in a service industry. What I mean by that is we work with people. We don’t work on assembly lines where we can avoid human contact for hours. Every interaction of our day is with people. In addition, because we are interacting everyday with people, we are expected to give 100% to our interactions. The same quality of engagement is expected at 4pm as 8am.
In addition, our world is increasingly dominated by 24/7 work. That means we are receiving emails late into the night and first thing in the morning. We are increasingly pinged, emailed, message, nudged, and notified continuously during and after working hours. It is no wonder that those in education are prone to burning out.
Yet, despite all of those pressures, if you know the symptoms of burning out, you can effectively try to manage it. You can counteract the causes and ensure that you can give 100% attention and engagement throughout the day. There are ways to do this. First, you must be able to identify the symptoms.
What Is Burning Out?
Burnout is a real condition. It is simply the mental and physical decline that results from experiencing chronic stress. Most who work in education know how stressful it can be. Most days, more is asked of us than we have resources to give. This leads to a feeling of stress.
When people are exposed to stress over long periods, it can have truly damaging impacts of health, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Simple Signs That You Are Burning Out
If you cannot fall asleep at night because you are thinking about all the things you left undone or need to do tomorrow, this is a sign of burning out. It is medically defined as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week.
2. Lack of Motivation
Education mostly is a field of workers who are intrinsically motivated. There are few prospects of large external rewards like trophies or large salaries. Instead, many workers in education do it out of a sense of purpose. When you are burning out, you no longer feel that sense of purpose in what you are doing.
3. Frustration, Sarcasm, Negative Emotions
Sarcasm and expressing negative emotions is a survival mechanism. Those who have very little emotional or mental energy try to conserve as much as they can. For those burning out, it seems easier and safer to retreat emotionally during stressful situations. Those burning out generally feel more pessimistic than you used to.
4. Poor Productivity
When burning out, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work. In fact, despite putting in additional hours or staying late into the day will actually do more harm. Stress is actually preventing you from being fully creative, engaged, focused, or productive. Those burning out may feel that they are generally less productive than they used to be.
5. Increased Illness and Physical Symptoms
Stress doesn’t just affect your mental abilities, it also affects your physical health. Those burning out are more likely to show physical signs of stress. These include chest pain, shortness of breath, or headaches. Being continuously under stress weakens your immune system. This makes those burning out more vulnerable to colds, flu, and other illnesses.
What Does All This Mean?
I am certainly not a medical professional and most of this can be found with a simple Google search. So what does it all mean then? I know what it is like to experience burning out. In 2014, I was ready to throw in the towel and leave the classroom.
I am still teaching but burnout is something we should all be aware of. Even if you are not feeling the symptoms right now, burnout is an insidious condition that only happens after stress builds up over a period of time. Most of the time, you won’t notice you are burning out until you are already feeling the symptoms.
This is Part 1 of 2 on Burnout. The next blog post will deal with some simple ways you can manage your daily stress to avoid the long-term buildup that will lead to you burning out.
Question: When as the last time you or someone you know experienced burnout? What were the telltale signs for you?