Do you remember a time—perhaps right after you got the job—when you were truly excited about your work? A job that pushes you creatively, brings a sense of meaning or identity into your life, and helps you pay the bills can be a source of great satisfaction. And that sense of satisfaction will probably motivate you to work hard.
Burnout Affects Your Mental Health
Working hard, of course, is generally considered a good thing. Our bosses certainly like it when we work hard, right? Our coworkers and clients do, too.
And burning the midnight oil now and again or eating the occasional meal at your desk or taking a project home over the weekend, well, those might seem like reasonable expectations. Working hard requires the occasional sacrifice after all.
But what if the occasional long day or weekend project starts to become the norm? Maybe you can maintain your level of excitement and commitment for a while, but eventually the demands of the job might start to put a damper on your level of enthusiasm for the work. Worse yet, a sense that you need to work all of the time (whether that sense comes from you or from your boss) can start to have an impact on your overall mental health.
To put it more simply: burnout is a danger to your mental health.
Spot the Symptoms of Burnout
All of us get tired and frustrated from time to time. That’s just part of life. How can you tell when you are experiencing burnout rather than the simple ups and downs of the workaday world?
While the symptoms of burnout will vary from individual to individual, there are a number of common indicators that you may be burning the candle at both ends—and be in danger of burning out.
These signs include:
- Ongoing feelings of stress that never seem to let up—even when you set aside time to relax
- Insomnia accompanied by fatigue—meaning you are tired and you can’t sleep
- A marked increase in feelings of sadness, irritability, and/or anger
- An increase in illness, likely due to a weakened immune system caused by overwork
- The development of heart disease, high blood pressure, and/or type 2 diabetes
- The misuse of alcohol or drugs—possibly leading to the development of a substance use disorder
The sad truth is that these symptoms can sneak up on you if you are not careful. It is all too easy to let the demands of your job overwhelm your life to such an extent that it seems normal to feel stressed all of the time. But it isn’t normal—and it isn’t healthy.
So what should you do about it?
Balance Is Best
We all need a sense of balance in our lives—and we need to pay attention to our physical and mental well-being. Strategies for overcoming burnout include:
- Getting enough exercise and enough sleep
- Eating a balanced and nutritious diet while avoiding sugary and highly processed foods
- Taking up a new (or rediscovering an old) hobby that is completely separate from the work you do
- Making time to enjoy experiences with family and friends
- Practicing mindfulness, which encourages focusing on the present moment with your full attention rather than replaying the past or worrying about the future
- Considering finding a new job
That last strategy might seem extreme—especially if there was a time when you truly loved your work and could keep up with its ongoing demands. But if you are feeling uninspired, have the sense that your input is not valued, and/or work for a boss who demands more and more from you, your best option may be to move on. Even when we aren’t asked to work extra hours, we spend a lot of time at work. And if a workplace is a danger to your mental well-being, it is time—perhaps past time—to find a new work environment.
Helping With Mental Health Challenges Is a Job We Love
Whenever a difficulty related to mental health is in play, there is one more strategy you should always keep at the forefront of your mind: getting help.
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we have the expertise, experience, enthusiasm, and compassion necessary to help individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, trauma-based disorders, and more. We will listen intently so that we can personalize a treatment plan that will lead to improved, sustainable mental health.
If burnout is threatening your mental well-being, the time to get help is right now. We are ready when you are.