Making a Living
Our jobs can be sources of great satisfaction in our lives.
If you have built a successful career doing work you find meaningful, you are on the right track. And if that work also gives you an opportunity to collaborate with people whose company you enjoy, even better.
But let’s face it: Oftentimes, our jobs can be sources of great stress in our lives.
And if we allow that stress to build up, it can start to have a significant impact on our mental health. Petty office politics, unrecognized work, unclear expectations, a sense of drudgery rather than purpose, and more can contribute to a feeling of dissatisfaction. If we ignore that feeling, the stress will continue to build until it results in what is known as burnout.
Burnout has implications for our mental health—and may also put us at a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder if we turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to manage our stress.
So how can we keep the fire of inspiration and satisfaction burning while keeping burnout at bay?
Let’s take a closer look.
Burning the Candle at Both Ends—And Other Causes of Burnout
Perhaps the most obvious cause of burnout is an excessively large workload. If you are putting in long hours during the week, giving up your weekends in order to get more work in, or eating lunch (and dinner) at your desk every single day, odds are pretty good that burnout is on the horizon. Your work-life balance is out of whack, and eventually that will catch up with you.
But several other work situations can pave the way to a feeling of burnout:
- You work in a profession like education or healthcare (or another “helping” profession) that involves constantly expending energy to serve those in need.
- You feel as though you have little say in how work is distributed or that you have to say yes to every request—whether it comes from your supervisor, a peer, or a direct report.
- Your job lacks variation, so you are frequently bored and seldom inspired.
- You have allowed your personal identity and your work identity to merge so completely that your friends (or even you yourself) can’t separate them.
Burnout Beats Up Your Body and Your Brain
So what are the symptoms of burnout? They vary from person to person, of course, but common issues include:
- A sense of unrelenting stress
- Fatigue and insomnia (a particularly annoying combination)
- Increased feelings of anger, irritability, and/or sadness
- A weakened immune system, leading to frequent illnesses
- High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and/or heart disease
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol
This possible combination of serious health issues—both mental and physical—with the development of a substance use disorder is, of course, alarming. That’s why it is so important to have strategies for dealing with burnout before it becomes a major issue with long-term consequences.
Burnout Gets Better With Balance
You can do a number of things to keep burnout at bay, maintain good mental health in general, and, if you are in recovery, protect your sobriety.
- Get some exercise—and some sleep. Exercise is a known stress reliever, and sleep is essential to our overall health and ability to stay flexible and resilient in the face of challenges.
- Eat well. A poor diet consumed in fits and starts and filled with processed foods is unable to provide the energy needed to power through mundane tasks—or to think creatively.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation encourages us to stay present in the moment, focusing on each task with a spirit of openness and patience. Regular mindfulness practice at home will help you bring mindfulness to the workplace.
- Get a hobby. Have something in your life that is for you–and that is entirely separate from your work life. It can be anything at all as long as you enjoy it and it absorbs your attention. The break from thinking about work is invaluable.
If Your Burnout is Bad, It Might Be Time to Make a Break for It
Sometimes, a change in habits and a commitment to finding more balance can be enough to recalibrate the way you feel at work—and the ways in which work impacts the other parts of your life. But sometimes, the problem isn’t about balance or a lack of sleep or a failure to find a hobby.
Sometimes the problem is the job.
Maybe your boss or coworkers create a difficult environment. Maybe the workload expectations aren’t sustainable. Maybe the job no longer inspires you the way it once did.
In any of those situations, the best thing may be to look for a new opportunity. That, of course, can be a challenge and can take some time—and even a certain amount of sacrifice. But finding a better fit can radically change your life for the better.
Peak View Can Offer Perspective on Burnout and Much More
The team at Peak View Behavioral Health is committed to your mental well-being. From depression and anxiety to burnout at work, we can help you learn strategies for improving your mental health—and, if you’re in recovery, for protecting your sobriety.