How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace - WOC Therapy

How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace

Self-Care

Tamika Lewis January 10, 2022

I vividly remember when I started a new position at the office. At that point, the term “leadership burnout” didn’t mean much to me. I was far too excited about the promotion to be aware of the stress eating me up inside. Learning how to prevent burnout for me came too late, once I was already tired, empty, and hollow.

When I was going through the motions, my friends would take up the roles of therapists in a collective strive to find a remedy for my exhaustion. The furthest we got was finding some instant fixes, like taking a vacation or starting a workout. It wasn’t until I started seeing a counselor for women, that I was able to resolve the problem. After learning about the condition, I can now treat and prevent it successfully. So, here’s what I learned on how to overcome burnout.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our job that we forget everything else that life has in store for us

So, What Is Burnout and How Is It Related to Your Workplace?

Burnout was first acknowledged by German-American psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger in the late 1970s. Initially, he recognized that people in professions that require a high level of sacrifice or emotional labor would often feel overwhelmed and drained during work or after leaving the office. So, he defined the state of being burned out as weariness caused by over-demanding from one’s energy, strength, and resources.

Things have changed since the 1970s, and in today’s world, burnout is experienced out of the “helping” sector, in which the psychologist first placed it. People in all occupations tend to experience such weariness sooner or later in their lives, which is why it is really difficult for scientists to give one all-encompassing definition of the term. So, to get to burnout prevention, we need to look up what causes the condition and how to recognize it early when it starts creeping up.

Is Burnout a Diagnosable Disorder?

While burnout shares symptoms with anxiety and depression, it isn’t classified as a health or medical condition but rather a syndrome or a phenomenon. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be diagnosed with the help of a professional psychologist or therapist.

Burnout is a phenomenon that requires serious consideration, however, you should steer away from self-diagnosing because the chances of misdiagnosing yourself are high, especially since the condition shares a lot of similarities with anxiety and depressive episodes.

To find out more about the difference between burnout and depression, check out the following video.

What Are the Signs That Show You May Be Burned Out?

Although these feelings may be complex to explain, they can easily be felt and experienced (maybe even too easily at times). Most people equate the feeling of being burnt out with exhaustion, tiredness, or emptiness, however, there is a multiplicity of symptoms that indicate you are overworked. Normally, these can be placed in three categories: physical, emotional, and behavioral.

Physical Symptoms Are Often Confused With Simple Exhaustion

If you find yourself feeling drained and lacking energy for longer than a day or two, you may be dealing with something more than simple tiredness. Other than overall fatigue, you may notice you don’t have as much appetite, and your need for sleep is disturbed. For these reasons, your health may fall through, causing you to get ill more often. Experiencing pains and aches in your muscles, back or coming across frequent migraines and heart palpitation is also not uncommon.

Emotional Unsteadiness Is One of the Clear Signs You’re Burnt Out

One of the clearest signs something is afoot is a chronic lack of motivation. You may find yourself feeling defeated, unmotivated, unsatisfied, and unable to impact these emotions with your usual self-care methods. Cynical thoughts and the inability to feel hopeful could also be experienced, as well as self-doubt and the sense of chronic and constant failure.

If You Notice Harsh Breaks in Your Usual Behavior, It May Be Time to Find Healthier Coping Mechanisms

You may find yourself acting out of character as a result of being overwhelmed. Your nervous system can’t regulate properly due to the quantity of work, so you notice yourself reacting more strongly and becoming irritable more easily. That could mean you start crying easily, feel extremely angry, or nervous, which leads to a tendency to regulate in other ways, such as withdrawing socially, avoiding responsibilities, and putting off your obligations. It could also lead to substance abuse and even dependency on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

From decreasing health to behavioral changes and emotional unease, being burnt out can turn your life upside down in a day without you even noticing

What Causes Employment Burnout?

Feeling burned out at work can be attributed to a series of external and internal factors. Research shows that the most common cause employees cite as the root problem of experienced work stress is being overworked, both in the number of hours they spend on the job and the quantity of work they have to take on.

Additionally, as a woman of color in the workplace, you could be prone to experiencing racism and double standards that your other colleagues don’t acknowledge. These are just some of the external factors that induce exhaustion, others include the following:

  • Increasing responsibilities,
  • Problems with colleagues and superiors,
  • An uncomfortable or violent atmosphere in the office,
  • Lack of days off,
  • Under-stimulating obligations,
  • Lack of results,
  • Lack of positive feedback,
  • Lack of social support.

While Outside Conditions Severely Impact the Onset of Burnout, Causes of the Problem Can be Internal as Well

Causes can also be internal, that is, they could be rooted in the individual’s belief system or personal coping mechanisms. For example, perfectionists and high-achievers are prone to getting overly exhausted because they might neglect their emotional and physical needs because of work.

People-pleasers and those in need of others’ recognition tend to neglect their personal boundaries and self-care and focus on external validation. The tendency to keep everyone else happy can lead to betraying one’s self which induces uneasiness associated with being burnt out. Luckily, no feeling is final, and all these things have their own cures as a way to cope with stress.

Women of color are so marginalized that success can feel like a fleeting occurrence, and thus one that brings up more pressure and stress than excitement and pride.

How to Prevent Burnout at Work?

Unfortunately, extreme fatigue won’t go away on its own, but there are ways to prevent and treat it. Often, these will depend on what the root cause of the condition is. If the causes are external, you should try to change your surroundings or try to impact the working environment and conditions so that they become more manageable. On the other hand, if the causes are internal, you should find new ways to calm yourself down and work on changing harmful coping mechanisms in women’s counseling.

Consider Looking for a New Job

When it comes to preventing employee burnout caused by external factors, it’s important to reduce your exposure to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should quit your job – but it could. It can be hard to apply for new jobs if you’re feeling unmotivated and defeated, especially if you meet real challenges and deal with racism on the daily. However, there are people out there who will appreciate you, and maybe a change is just what you need. However, sometimes, the chase is worth it.

Reduce Exposure to Stressors at Work

If you’re not ready to give notice, you could talk to your managers and let them know you’re having issues with workplace management. If it’s a toxic environment or lack of days off that is stressing you out, you could ask for remote workdays. However, work-from-home burnout is still possible because external stressors don’t have to be located physically in the office.

If you’re a freelancer or someone who always takes their job home, it may be a good idea to become unavailable after a certain hour. For example, let your colleagues know that after 7 PM, you won’t be able to respond to emails or workplace phone calls. That way you’ll have more time to relax and forget about workplace troubles.

therapy for women of color
If you constantly feel underappreciated and overworked, it may be time to look for a workplace

Turn to Yourself More and Prioritize Your Needs

Burnt out is often a clear sign you are abandoning yourself and your inner needs. You may not know what it is exactly that you are lacking, but turning to yourself is always at least a part of the answer. Start exploring your interests and hobbies more. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but a promise that you are your own priority. Journaling, drawing, meditating, hiking, and even exploring movies, TV shows, and music are all things that could help you feel more inspired and deal with all the bad in the world.

Spend More Time on Activities and People That Energize You

It may seem counterintuitive, but spending time with the right people and in the right places can actually increase your energy levels. We tend to socially withdraw in hardship, but seeking emotional support is a much healthier route to take. Besides, when it seems like your career is a dead-end, it may be time to shift your perspective and cool off. Spending time with those you love can be inspiring and fun and remind you there is more to life than just anxiety.

Maybe it’s also time to meet new folks and come across fresh opportunities and exciting adventures. Getting out of your comfort zone is scary, but it is important. Follow the roads that excite you and fill your days with laughter and enthusiasm. And who knows – you may meet someone who can excel your career or point you in the right direction. Open yourself up – you never know what good can come out of it.

In the long haul, it's important to exchange the stress-inducing factors for emotional support and experiences that give life meaning

Creating a Plan for Emotional Regulation Is Much Easier With a Therapist of Color by Your Side

External circumstances and pressures are often the factors that trigger the experience of being burned out. However, the reason why we stay in the pitfalls of exhaustion for so long is because we often don’t know how to regulate ourselves emotionally. We choose the wrong coping strategies and prolong our suffering unintentionally. That’s why, if you find yourself overwhelmed, it may be time to research “women’s therapy near me“.

Starting therapy for women of color is a great way to not only cure your weariness but prevent it from ever happening again. Counselors for women will create a plan that is tailor-made to your specific needs and personal history and help you reach your highest potential. If you don’t feel comfortable going alone to a first therapy session, consider researching group workshops. They are a fantastic way to learn not only from a licensed therapist but also from those struggling with similar issues.

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