The role of being Steve Jobs’ executive assistant might sound like a sweet gig, but there was a draining side to it. As Naz Beheshti, Jobs’ former executive assistant, detailed, working for the praised innovator was rewarding and exhausting. The high demands caused her to sacrifice basic elements of self-care. She would go long periods where she rarely spent time with her loved ones. All that work left her with the signs of burnout.
It’s a feeling that has become all too common in today’s workforce.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, 89 percent of people said that their work-life had gotten worse ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With work burnout so common, many feel they have no choice but simply to live with it.
They think it’s part of the “new normal.”
Such thinking can be destructive. Burnout, first coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, can lead to several adverse effects, such as:
- Strained relationships with friends and family members
- Declining physical and mental health
- Poor performance at work
It can be challenging for people to see the signs of burnout in their own lives, so you need to know what to look for. As you read this article, you’ll learn more about the signs of burnout at work and how you can take action.
The Signs of Burnout
“Fatigue happens to your body, but burnout exhausts your soul.”
1. Feeling Distant
A feeling of distance from work has nothing to do with your office’s location. Instead, it’s a feeling of emotional disconnect and a general lack of passion when it comes to your job. These feelings can show up in the following ways.
- Thinking your boss has no understanding of what you do.
- Arriving late to work most days.
- Feeling like you have no control over your own success.
- Experiencing lower satisfaction with your job.
- Feeling like what you do doesn’t matter.
2. Strained Relationships
The signs and symptoms of burnout include having strained relationships both personally and professionally. Those experiencing burnout generally feel like those relationships slowly unravel over time. You may be suffering from strained relationships if you experience the following.
- Isolating yourself from others more often.
- Irritability with your closest friends and family members.
- A sense of drifting during conversations.
3. Physical Problems
Burnout symptoms don’t just have an impact on your mental state. Physical symptoms can accompany them too. These symptoms aren’t always extreme in nature. In fact, they can be low-key and lurk under the surface. Some of these subtle symptoms include:
- Stomach pains
- Low energy
- Frequent headaches
- Intestinal problems
4. Difficulty Relaxing
Work-related stress can leave you feeling emotionally drained, so you’d think that upon leaving work, you’d have a chance to relax. However, burnout can leave you unable to relax, even outside of work. This can show up in the following ways.
- When you’re alone, you can’t get your body to relax.
- You think about work even when pursuing your hobbies.
- Your sleep is restless.
5. Heightened Emotions
Stress and burnout can also lead to feeling heightened emotions. Normally mundane events could fuel unexpected feelings. Other potential issues might look like:
- A cycle of changing emotions, leading to confusion.
- Feelings of emotional exhaustion.
- Momentary feelings of relief, followed by extreme sadness and anxiety.
6. Distress in Your Life
Symptoms of burnout can show up in your life in unexpected ways. Even if you try to separate your work life from your personal life, it can feel like there’s no escape. If one of the following feelings sounds familiar, burnout may be the cause.
- Nothing feels like it’s going right.
- Every day feels like a bad day.
- Though you try hard, you feel like you fail at everything.
What Causes the Signs of Burnout in the First Place?
While you may be able to identify the signs of burnout at work, pinpointing the causes can be a challenge. Recognizing the causes helps you to figure out where the problems are coming from. Only then can you properly address what is happening and introduce the right solutions. The following are some of the most common causes of burnout.
- A lack of control: When you have no control of the factors and outcomes that affect your job, you can feel burned out. Some of those factors can include your schedule or project deadlines. A study from 2016 even shows that a lack of control is one of the leading causes of work burnout.
- Constant activity: If you show up at work and the whole day requires your full energy and concentration, burnout often results. Constant activity means you have little to no time for breaks or rest.
- Hostile work environment: A hostile work environment can make you feel threatened. Work cultures like this raise your stress levels and make you dread having to go to work each day.
- Vague expectations: Do you have a job where you’re not sure what your boss expects from you? That may cause further burnout. Without clear expectations, you may feel like you’re wasting your time and getting nothing done.
- Imbalanced life: When you spend far more time at work than at home, you may feel like your professional life dominates your personal one. Without proper work-life balance, you’ll have no way to alleviate stress.
- No resources or support: People who feel alone often experience work anxiety and burnout. That usually comes in the form of having no resources or support systems to help them when they need it most.
How to Beat Work Burnout
With a better understanding of what causes it, you may be able to determine what made you feel so burned out. As can be seen above, burnout is all about a lack of control. So it’s reasonable to think that beating it means taking more control of your life.
Get started by:
- Looking at your life from work, health, and personal perspectives.
- Taking the time to make a list of what you feel is out of your control.
- Ideating on ways to beat each problem.
- Developing a concrete plan for fighting burnout and scheduling time each day to work on it.
The following are a few suggestions for each area that can lead to long-term relief.
Start by eating a healthy diet. As part of this, make sure you get plenty of water. Additionally, get a full night’s rest and take brief naps. If possible, a nap is best in the afternoon.
Also, find ways to get your body moving. Something as simple as stretching at your desk can help. Outside of work, take walks, go for a jog, work out, or do yoga.
In your personal life, take a moment to examine your relationships and identify any that are strained. When you suffer from burnout, it’s easy to focus only on yourself. However, try actively listening to others in your life. From there, you can see different perspectives which may help you overcome anxiety and stress.
You may find it the most difficult to gain control of your work. Talk with your boss, and be open and honest about the challenges you’re facing. Get advice on how to improve or ask questions that allow you to gain clarity about why the work you’re doing is important. At an organization with poor leadership, these candid conversations might not be welcome. In extreme cases, you may need a change of scenery, so seeking a different job may become a viable option.
Seek Help When Needed
Luckily, the business world is a much different place than when Naz Beheshti had her experiences with work burnout. Beheshti would go on to found Prananaz, a company dedicated to improving employee wellness and engagement through better leadership.
Today, many leaders are much more aware of the need to help their workers. Addressing the root causes of burnout in the ways demonstrated above will benefit you and your team in the future.
When it comes to your own experiences with burnout, don’t be afraid to get help. Start by reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, counselor, or mentor to get their advice.
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