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Burnout: What to Look for & How to Fight Back

By Steve Austin | life coaching

Jun 02
Burnout: What to Look for & How to Fight Back

A dear friend of mine recently resigned from his job. We'll call him "Sam." Sam worked for a Christian organization where he was doing a job that made a real difference. He had been a star player in this organization for five years. Sam was respected by his peers, adored by his clients, and always came out ahead of the pack.

Sam was an all-star, but he was unhappy.

Sam was the kind of team player that rarely (if ever) complained. His clients assumed everything was peachy. How could such a beloved guy who performed so well possibly be disgruntled? His co-workers were too busy, focused on the good of the organization to realize anything was wrong. Sam's supervisors were so enamored with "the Lord's work" that they had no idea there was a problem.

Why? Because Sam was loyal to a fault.

He'd always agree to come in early. He never got a lunch break. He'd stay late regularly. And when there was no money for resources, he'd spend his own money on supplies.

While Sam was partially at fault for not speaking up, the real problem here is that Sam's organization had loads of expectations and demands, but none of the support.

High demands + unrealistic expectations - support = burnout. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #stressmanagement #lifecoach

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How do you know if you're nearing burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger defines burnout as "the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one's devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results."

But burnout isn't only happening in Christian companies or churches. A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes.

Here are 5 symptoms to look for:

  1. Decreased job performance
  2. Feeling cynical about your job
  3. Headaches or stomach aches
  4. Reduced creativity
  5. Chronic exhaustion

Facing burnout? Here's hope. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #stressmanagement #selfcare

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According to the Gallup study, employee burnout has 5 leading causes:

  1. Unreasonable time pressure. Employees who say they have enough time to do their work are 70 percent less likely to experience high burnout. Individuals who are not able to gain more time, such as paramedics and firefighters, are at a higher risk of burnout.
  2. Lack of communication and support from a manager. Manager support offers a psychological buffer against stress. Employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70 percent less likely to experience burnout regularly.
  3. Lack of role clarity. Only 60 percent of workers know what is expected of them. When expectations are like moving targets, employees may become exhausted by merely trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  4. Unmanageable workload. When a workload feels unmanageable, even the most optimistic employees will feel hopeless. Feeling overwhelmed can quickly lead to burnout.
  5. Unfair treatment. Employees who feel they are mistreated at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment may include things such as favoritism, unfair compensation, and mistreatment from a co-worker.

If you feel like the world is on top of you, read this. via @iamsteveaustin #burnout #selfcare #catchingyourbreath

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The Effects of Burnout

Life seems to come with lots of expectations, doesn't it? Sometimes it looks like we are expected to know everything, do everything, be everywhere, and never complain. Especially as an adult - if you're not careful - you can feel like Atlas, with the whole world on your shoulders.

Employees who say they very often or always experience burnout at work are:

  1. 63% more likely to take a sick day
  2. Half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager
  3. 23% more likely to visit an emergency room
  4. 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer
  5. 13% less confident in their work performance

The good news? It doesn't have to be this way.

No is Not a Four-Letter Word

Whether you are facing employee burnout or just feel completely overwhelmed with life, you have to start saying no. Maybe it's substantial debt or the extra job you no longer need. Perhaps it's your lack of saying "no" to your children, fearing you'll harm them if you don't provide for their every whim and desire. Maybe you came off your depression meds sooner than you needed to and shame is whispering, "You're a failure if you have to call the doctor again."

From Catching Your Breath:

Saying "no" doesn't make you a bad person or a mean parent. It doesn't make you a bad employee or selfish. Sometimes, saying "no" to people or projects is actually saying a great big "yes" to yourself. When is the last time you said "no" to reclaim your sanity and serenity? Boundaries aren't comfortable when you first start setting them. But if you neglect them, you'll take on more responsibility and pressure than you can possibly keep afloat. Whatever it is, the only way you're going to make it back when your life has taken on too much chaos is to get rid of all the non-essential cargo.

Like Sam, many of us feel like we are slipping beneath the weight of it all. We feel the floodwaters creeping chest-high or hear the sounds of an avalanche chasing us down. Our hopes can get buried underneath an ocean of negativity. Our wildest dreams can seem like pure insanity because our daily lives are so far from what we envision. We're putting one foot in front of the other, dragging ourselves forward, but we are overwhelmed and can barely catch our breath.

If the pressure of daily life feels like it might cause your soul to rupture, I get it. But friend, none of this will get better until you start practicing regular self-care, listening to the doctor, learning to love yourself, and creating a reliable support system. Start with those things, and you'll make significant progress toward finding peace within yourself. When you're in crisis mode or facing burnout, you have to let go.

"No" is not a four-letter word. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #selfcare #stressmanagement

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Listen to the CYBpod

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

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