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How to Survive Workplace Burnout.

Updated on September 18, 2010
Mental Escape is Important.
Mental Escape is Important.

How to Survive Burnout at Work.

Burnout at work can happen to anybody, whatever type of work you do. Burnout is that feeling of utter stress, exhaustion, disinterest and in severe cases, even dread that you get when you contemplate going in to work for another day.

Burnout has a habit of creeping up on you and you don't realise that it's happening until suddenly you just think 'I can't go on' or 'I can't face going into work for even one more day' . When these feelings manifest themselves you are already burnt out. These feelings can be quite devastating, especially if you have to work to pay the bills and so have to carry on in employment. You can feel trapped in a vicious spiral of depression and can see no escape. A few years ago when the economy was better, it would have been fairly simple to resign your position and look for another. This is an effective and legitimate escape from workplace burnout. These days on the other hand, if you have a job then chances are that you need to keep it to pay the bills. Resigning often isn't an option any more.

Burnout often occurs in people who are generally highly motivated, concientious and expert at their job. Once you have fully mastered your job there can be a certain lack of challenge. You may have learned all there is to know about your job and a future of repetition of the same things day in, day out, can cause a sudden demotivation and boredom. You start to dread going in to do the same things without the future prospect of a challenge to your skills. This is burnout.

Burnout at work can colour your view of the whole of your life. The feelings of depression and demotivation can spread to other areas, such as family life, social life and recreation. Workplace burnout can progress to cause total burnout if not recognised and dealt with. So how do we deal with workplace burnout?

The first thing to realise and acknowledge is that the problem lies with your work. It is your job that is causing the feelings of depression, even despair. Your job may be causing everything else in your life to seem pointless or hopeless when they are not. Recognise it is the job that is the problem and then compartmentalise it. Recognise that there are no major problems with anything else but the job is taking over your life. Think of the good things about your family, your social life, your hobbies. They are still good.

Now you need to distance yourself from the job. You may not be able to give up your job, you may still need to keep doing it for financial reasons but recognise that this is the ONLY reason that you are going to continue. Don't expect to find fullfilment, don't expect to be motivated, just expect the paycheque. Once you can review your expectations of what you will gain from your job and realise that it is going to provide a financial reward but maybe nothing else, then you can start to look for those other things elsewhere.

In an ideal world, our job would provide a challenge, interest, a feeling of self-esteem as well as a healthy paycheque at the end of the month. For most of us this isn't an ideal world and our job may not provide all of these things. That doesn't mean that you can't have all of these things, it just means that you may not get them all in the same place.

So use the job to get the paycheque and start looking for other things to provide the self-esteem, the motivation and the challenge. First you need to identify what you feel you need that your job does not provide. Then start looking in other places to find those things. Maybe you have skills that you have learned in your job that would be useful to other people. Maybe you could offer to provide classes on these skills. That would provide self-esteem and maybe an extra income. Maybe you could volunteer your services to an organisation for free.

If you need a challenge, think of the things that interest you but that you have never actually tried before. Maybe you could join an amateur dramatics society and get a part in a play. That would certainly be a challenge and would get the adrenaline pumping again. You could join a sports club, try to grow the biggest pumpkin in the county or learn a new language. The sky is your limit. Remember that you still have the paycheque from the main job. What you need to find are the other intangible things. You do not necessarily need more money but if you can get it then that's a bonus.

You can do this. It does work. You can get your life back on track even if you have to keep going in to the same job that caused the burnout. Life is about more than work.

Next time somebody asks you 'What do you do?' The answer should be 'Well, I am playing in the chorus of the local Am-Dram musical, I am attempting to grow the biggest pumpkin in the county and I have just started training for the next marathon'! Don't even mention the job, that's only for the money!


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