7 Things Experts Want You To Know About Burnout

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Many of us get a sense of fulfillment from our career. We feel empowered, a sense of purpose — it may even be the main thing we use to define ourselves. But this pride, this drive can lead us to pushing ourselves too far. That's where experiencing work burnout can come in. We go above and beyond, past our limits, and suddenly we can't take it anymore.

Work burnout it hard, physically and mentally. You can feel fatigued and unable to take on tasks that you used to find easy — but you also can find yourself hating things that you used to love. It's a scary prospect, but it is something that you can come back from. So if you find yourself curious about whether or not you might be approaching burnout or need some help coming back from the edge, it's worth learning more about what you can do to help yourself — whether it's a familiar feeling or a new one.

"You’ll recognize burnout by the sheer fatigue you feel," Gestalt Life Coach and psychotherapist, Nina Rubin, tells Bustle. "Even with ample sleep, you will feel a sense of tiredness, a lack of energy, exhaustion or a lackadaisical point of view about things you normally care about."

The truth is, there's a good chance that work burnout is more common than you realize — and you might be surprised at what can cause someone to workout. Here's what experts want you to know about work burnout, because prevention is the best cure.

1. You Might Not Recognize A Toxic Environment Right Away

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The novelty and excitement of a new job can cover a multitude of sins. Maybe you are OK with the changing deadlines or don't notice the late nights when the work is fresh and the people seem great. You need to pay attention to small changes, because burnout can take you by surprise. "Burnout creeps up on you so slowly until one day shit just hits the fan and it sucks the life out of you," Sharon Kaslassi, account executive of Blonde2.0 tells Bustle. Keeping an eye on your mood and how much you're enjoying work can help keep you healthy over the long run.

2. It's More Common Than You Think

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Burnout may sound like extreme, isolated instances — but that's really not the case. "It's extremely common and everyone is at potential 'risk' of experiencing it," Kaslassi says. "A Gallup survey found that about two-thirds of full-time workers experience occupational burnout. Of the nearly 7,500 employees across a variety of fields who took part, 23 percent reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out occasionally." In other words, if you worry you might be burnt out you are definitely not alone.

3. Prevention Is Better Than Cure

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If you do end up burning out, don't worry — you can come back from it. But it's also important to learn to recognize the signs, because it's easier to prevent burnout than put yourself back together if you've reached a really bad place. Paying attention to how you feel in your life generally can be a huge help.

"Burnout may start from work, but it doesn’t stay at work," Sanji Moore, vice president of People & Operations at Praytell tells Bustle. "Keep an eye on how you feel when you leave your desk. How are you sleeping? Are you eating differently? Are you feeling physically and emotionally healthy in your personal time? If you can see that these things are moving in an unhealthy direction, take a closer look at what's happening at work and make small adjustments now to protect our immediate and long term health." Smaller steps along the way can make all the difference.

4. There Is Support Available

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Many people feel totally isolated if they find themselves approaching burnout, but it's important to reach out. "Managing it on your own may not be very effective," Kaslassi says. Talking to your manager and HR are good first steps, but you can also consider seeing a work-oriented therapist or getting advice from friends who have experienced burnout.

5. It's OK To Get Creative

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Many offices allow creative scheduling in order to help prevent burnout — where you mix up the days or hours you work to find a system that's a better fit for you. Career coach and founder and recruiter of Ninja Recruiting, Jennifer Yeko, tells Bustle that lots of people find schedules where they change the number of hours they work in a given day — for instance, working ten-hour days in exchange for a slightly longer weekend — to shake things up. Sometimes, spreading the work out — or compressing it — can allow you to find a better rhythm for you.

6. You Can Be An Ally

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Normally when we talk about burnout, we think about ourselves — but it's important to look for burnout in other people, too. "One of the best tricks for combatting burnout is getting help from colleagues," Moore says. "If you see a coworker displaying signs of burnout, reach out to them, flag it to their manager, or inform your HR team. People can experience burnout without even realizing that's what's happening to them, but by helping and supporting each other, colleagues can actually address these issues quickly." They can also help create a healthier work environment for everyone, so it's a definite win-win.

7. It's About More Than Just The Number Of Hours

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Most people associate burnout with working too much, but it can be more complicated than that. "Burnout isn’t just the result of long hours and stress," Moore says. "It usually comes from many factors such as feeling out of control and a lack of recognition for your work. Partner with your supervisor to develop goals and milestones that you can drive. This will put your supervisor in a position to support you, while getting yourself the opportunity to direct your work." Sometimes, it's more fulfilling work and more recognition that can make the difference.

Work burnout is more common than you might be think but by understanding the signs and how to combat it, it's easier to create better work environments — for ourselves and the people around us.