What Is Burnout And How To Identify It At Work Before It’s Too Late

Have you ever felt exhausted from work on a regular basis? Does it take a serious pep talk with yourself to get out of bed to continue with the commitments in your life? If so, you may very well be burning out.

Burnout is a term used to describe someone that is feeling tired and mentally exhausted brought about by a buildup of stress. This can come from several different commitments, such as school, work, and parenting. Although the specific reasons for burning out may differ from person to person, there is a simple pattern we can identify to help us better manage it.

Here’s my story:

When I first started teaching, I was so excited to be a positive influence in every single one of my students’ lives. I created great lesson plans, executed them well in class, tutored, held parent meetings, graded papers in a timely manner, and I coached sports.

It was great seeing my students succeed with everything I was a part of. All of these commitments, however, began to take its toll on me. I would come home late after work and coaching, and I would still have to grade papers. I would’ve graded papers during the day, but I left all of my available time open for my students just in case they needed help with something we covered in class.

During the weeks where we have assessments, my students would take advantage of my open hours to meet with me for tutoring. So, I had to put off grading papers until I had other time available, which happened to be either late at night or on the weekends.

At this point, I would spend the week teaching, coaching, and attending meetings, and on the weekends, I would grade papers and plan lessons.

I didn’t really have time for much else after I added in errands that had to get completed over the weekend. A couple weeks of this schedule, and I was exhausted!

I would arrive at school tired, and my energy level teaching wouldn’t be in a place for my students to get excited about the material. If I couldn’t sell what we were learning about as being exciting and interesting, my students would have a hard time getting excited about it.

Once school was over for the day, I would still have my coaching commitments in the evenings. After that, I would be so tired that I would only want to go to bed. The next day I would have to do it all over again until the weekend came along, where I would spend the greater part of both days grading papers and planning lessons.

The stress got so bad for me that I would have to take personal days off work just so I wouldn’t fall too far behind grading papers. Eventually, I lost the motivation to do my best work, and instead opted for ways that I could just get the work done.

From a psychology standpoint, there are 12 accepted steps that lead to burnout. However, within my experience teaching and many others who have experienced feeling burned out, there is a simpler pattern we can identify that makes it easier to remember.

  • New task
  • Stress buildup
  • Continual stress
  • burnout
  1. New Task

When you’re presented with a new task, such as a new job, project, or promotion, the prospects are exciting. You want to do your best, so you take on the challenges associated with the task headfirst and put all of your hard work and effort into it. This is an exciting time. You really want to show that you can do well.

2. Stress buildup

Over time, the stress from that task can build up. This can result from your need to work harder in the task as your responsibilities increase. It can also come from neglecting your own needs in the process.

As an example, if you’re in the middle of a semester and all your professors have exams happening on the same week, this would be an event that builds stress for you.

You have to figure out how you’re going to do well in all your classes that week, so you decide to dedicate your free time to studying leading up to the exam week. And that’s all you do. You don’t dedicate any time for yourself or doing anything you enjoy, which can build up your stress levels.

So, at this point, stress will show itself here and there in different forms, but it’s manageable. You may also neglect some things that give you a sense of recharging. An example of something that I find recharging is spending time outside on a nice day. This is an important thing to do if you’re looking for a way to manage stress.

3. Continual stress

Continual stress happens when you find yourself stuck in your task. It may not feel like there’s anything wrong with how you’re feeling because it’s all part of your task. You may feel that if you continue to work hard, maybe there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and the stress will die down.

Even with all these feelings, the one constant is the stress that continues to grow from your task. At this point it may feel like you’re carrying the stress around with you even after you leave your task for the day.

You may also withdraw yourself from other commitments, like spending time with friends and family, so that you can dedicate more time to tackling your task, or the continual stress from your task makes it to where you’re unable to enjoy some of the things you used to do. From your withdrawal, you may start to feel depressed about where you are with your task.

4. Burnout

If we equate the stress buildup to blowing air in a balloon, the burnout stage is where the balloon pops.

This is where you feel exhausted and mentally drained constantly. You question yourself often on whether you should have taken on the task, and you really have to build yourself up to continue doing it. You may even dread having to go back to your task to continue with it.

Burnout can affect your performance in the task, and it can leave you feeling unsatisfied with where you are in life as well as feeling empty inside. It can be a difficult feeling to overcome, especially if you’re committed to the task that caused it.

I loved teaching. It was a rewarding career, but I didn’t manage my commitments or take care of myself well enough to prevent feeling burned out. And once I hit that stage, it took a serious action plan to build myself back up again.

Whether it’s school, work, or parenting, you’ll want to do what it takes to avoid burning out for your social, physical, and emotional well-being, not just for you, but for your friends and family around you as well.

Conclusion

Through this article, my hope is that you have a better understanding of burnout and how to identify the progression to burnout before it’s too late. If you see anyone else going down this path, it would be important to provide support for them as they may not realize it. Because once you’re feeling burned out, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!

I Became A Father While Still In School. Here’s What Surprised Me The Most

It is such an amazing feeling becoming a father. When your newborn holds your finger for the first time, and you’re holding them with all the love in the world, you realize that you would do anything for them.

My son was born one year into my second bachelor’s degree. My goal, at the time, was to complete the program in two years. With him added to our family, I was wondering if it could still be possible.

My wife and I took the whole summer leading up to my second year to plan how our family will function while I was still in school and we were both working. Once the semester started, we implemented our plans.

There were many ups and downs with raising a newborn during the following year, but here are the things that surprised me the most about it.

  1. Daycare is ridiculously expensive

As new parents, we could not believe how expensive a traditional daycare costed. I’m talking second mortgage or vacation every month type expensive. This was probably our biggest concern while I was finishing up school. Adding an expense like this on top of everything else we had to pay was incredibly stressful.

At one point, we considered having my parents help with babysitting, but they lived over an hour away from us. Taking two hours out of our day traveling for our son on top of driving to and from work and school wasn’t feasible for us.

Instead, we decided to research the different daycare options in our area, and select the one that fit our budget as best as possible and one that we were comfortable leaving our son with.

Tip: Daycares will fill up fast for newborn care, so it’s important to research your options and get your name on a wait list for when your child reaches the minimum age that the daycare will accept.

Our budget during the year was tight, but thanks to some solid planning over the summer, we made it through to the end.

Aside from the traditional daycares, another option to consider is in-home care. This is where people take children into their homes and care for them. In-home daycares vary, but a reputable one will be licensed in the state its in, and will have good reviews. They don’t take in as many kids, but the ages of the children can vary widely. They will typically be cheaper than a traditional daycare as well.

Tip: Research all your options before deciding on care for your child. Keep in mind these options:

  • Traditional daycare
  • In-home daycare
  • friends/family

2. I felt like a natural caring for my son

This one was weirdly surprising to me. My experiences with babies and small children were very minimal. In fact, I couldn’t remember ever holding a baby prior to holding my own son. But, whenever I held my son, my heart felt full and my life complete.

I was told a few times in my life that I’d be a good father, and although I know it’s something I’ll continue working at for the rest of my life, with my son, I feel like a natural.

3. Changing diapers and cleaning weren’t an issue

When I thought about changing diapers before my son was born, I would always cringe. I’d think about the kinds of things I’d find in a diaper, the smell, and then cleaning it up. I couldn’t help but feel a little queasy.

Once he was born, however, all those feelings went away. I don’t even remember his diapers having any sort of foul smell for the first few months.

Changing his diapers was a part of caring for him, and I’d do my very best to make sure he was receiving the best care.

4. People are much more comfortable talking to you with a baby

It’s amazing to me how many strangers strike up conversations with my wife and me when we have our son. And while I’m not at my most comfortable when people engage in small talk with me, it’s easier when my son is there being the center of attention.

Other dads are incredibly supportive, too. I remember going into a men’s restroom to change my son one time, and other guys that going in and out of the restroom offered their support and words of encouragement. It’s not something I expected with my son, but it’s a great feeling.

5. My professors were incredibly supportive when it came to my son

I almost tear up thinking about this point. While I tried my best in school and got to know my professors, I didn’t expect them to be so supportive and understanding when it came to things going on with my son.

Whenever he got sick or couldn’t go to daycare for the day, I notified my professors saying I wasn’t going to be in class that day. Often, I would get a response wishing my son well or giving me an update on what’s going on in class and what I should do to prepare for the next class.

Tip: Always communicate with your professors and be proactive whenever you find out you’re going to miss class.

My grades never suffered because I missed a class due to my son. My professors were always flexible and wanted me to succeed. I am still grateful for their support, and I hope other students in my position have the same luck with their professors as I did.

Summary

Becoming a father is an incredible feeling. I learned so much about him and myself, and I continue to do so. During the first year of his life, there were 5 things that surprised me the most:

  1. Daycare is ridiculously expensive
  2. I felt like a natural caring for my son
  3. Changing diapers and cleaning weren’t an issue
  4. People are much more comfortable talking to you with a baby
  5. My professors were incredibly supportive when it came to my son

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!

Networking As An Introvert

If dogs were all I needed to network with, I would be set. With their warm coats, lovable demeanor, and innate understanding of humans, it’s easy for me to run up to any dog I see while I’m out on the town and greet them as if I’ve known them all my life.

Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. In order to develop your inner circle, your professional contacts, as well as get ahead in your career, networking with others is a crucial, constant task to accomplish in your daily life.

As an introvert, it takes getting out of my comfort zone every time I try to get to know someone else. Whenever I see an opportunity to connect with someone, my palms start to sweat, my heart races, and my mouth gets dry. It never fails.

If you experience any of the things I just described, or something similar, it’s okay! You are not alone in this. The ability to network, like other skills, is something that can be developed. Here are some things you can do to improve your networking skills.

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication

Whenever I get caught in my own thoughts, it’s so easy for me to forget my body language. Be aware of your nonverbal communication! People gather information about others in such a quick manner, and most of that information comes from nonverbal cues.

The way I address my nonverbal communication is to be actively aware of the message I am sending. Some questions I’ll ask myself would be:

  • What am I saying with my facial expressions?
  • Am I slouching?
  • Am I crossing my arms?

Addressing these questions will help with your nonverbal communication.

As an example, If I am new to a job, I’ll make sure to have a smile on my face, position myself so that I am not slouching (such as in a chair or standing) as well as not crossing my arms.

If I’m not paying attention to my facial expressions, sometimes I can come across as being not very approachable. This can hinder my networking opportunities, so I make time to be aware of the message I am sending in this way.

Slouching usually sends a message of not being interested in what’s going on, so watch out for it!

The reason you don’t want to cross your arms while networking is that it creates a perceived barrier between you and the person you’re talking to. We don’t want barriers when networking! It’s important to show that you’re open to communicating with others.

2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation

This is a huge networking problem for me. Imagine you’re joining a group mid conversation. The discussion interests you, and you want to contribute. Or, the conversation doesn’t interest you, but if you don’t contribute, then you’ll feel like the quiet person of the group who doesn’t add to the conversation.

In either case, finding the right time to jump into the conversation can be tricky as an introvert. For me, I always sit on the border of wanting to wait until an opening comes up, but also not wanting to miss out on giving my input. I’ve missed out on so many conversations in my life because I waited until it was too late.

Especially in a group setting where there’s obvious extroverts excited to share, how do you engage in the conversation?

  • Look out for side conversations

If you’re the kind of person that shutters when thinking about speaking up in a group conversation, look out for smaller side conversations within the group you’re with.

When you hear someone speaking up, but not quite loud enough that it gets picked up by the whole group, try to make eye contact with the person and build on what they were saying. The eye contact part is important here because it creates a connection between you and the other person to start talking. Throw in a smile and genuine interest, and you’re on your way to building your network!

On the flip side, it’s okay if you share your input out loud, and the whole group doesn’t hear it. It’s practice, and you’re actively working on networking! There’s a strong chance that someone will hear and engage in a side conversation with you.

  • Use a person’s name before sharing

This can be helpful if someone is taking control of the conversation. If you have something to add, say the person’s name and make eye contact with them before you talk. This can give you the space to contribute to the conversation.

3. Use your skills to your advantage

I haven’t always been very good at small talk. However, I’ve been a stellar listener for as long as I can remember. When networking, I always make it a point to remember something specific about the person I’m talking to, and I’ll try to incorporate it into a conversation we have later on.

A while back, a coworker and I were talking about vacation. He was telling me about his plans for his vacation. I made sure to ask questions to show I was interested, and it allowed him to talk in the conversation more than me, which is usually where I’m most comfortable.

Flash forward to when he returned from his vacation, and I made it a point to ask about it. I brought up specifics to show I was listening before, and he was happy to share. Now, we talk about things we want to do on our vacations all the time!

If talking is not your strong point, don’t worry! You have many other strengths that you can lean on when networking with others. Think about your skill set, and try to incorporate it into conversations with others. Skills like empathy, team work, positive attitude, trust, and creativity are just a few examples of skills you can use.

3. Preparation is key!

Like many things in life, preparation is a big component to networking success for introverts. If I didn’t prepare a few questions or have a goal in mind for when I was networking, I would stumble with my words, feel awkward, and not make a good impression.

Practice what you want to say in networking situations. Have questions ready in your head. Doing this will allow the conversation to take off, and you can guide the conversation based on the responses. Having that buffer of questions in your head ready to go can go a long way in developing your networking skills.

4. Send a follow up email

This is important in a work setting. If you successfully network with someone, and you get their contact information, send a follow up email thanking them for their time. Say something specific about the meeting and keep the line of communication open between the two of you. This can go a way in maintaining the connection for the next time you meet with them.

5. Be true to yourself

As an introvert, it’s exhausting to be the center of attention and talk for any extended period of time. I need a decompress day just to recover. This holds especially true for when I try to be someone else to build my network.

Conversations are so much easier when there’s things in common between the people talking, isn’t it? If you’re trying to network with someone, it can be so easy to jump on the first thing the reveal they’re interested in or like to talk about. If you do not share the same interest, it’s important to refrain from expressing interest in it as well.

For example, if your boss says to you that his favorite hobby is watching baseball games, but you have no interest in baseball, you wouldn’t want to tell him that baseball is your favorite sport and you’ve been playing it since you were a child.

Instead, having a follow up question ready for this situation would put you in a better position to build the relationship for the long term. Some follow up questions to something that doesn’t quite interest you would be:

  • I’m not very familiar with that. What would be some important things to know?
  • What’s your favorite thing about it?
  • How long have you been involved with it?

Having a follow up question ready will enable you to keep the conversation going, and it allows the person you’re with to talk about something they’re interested in.

Tip: It’s easier to talk about something you’re interested in as opposed to something you’re not. This holds true to the people you’re talking with as well.

You do not have to share all the same interests as the people you’re networking with, but chances are you have more in common than you think.

In being true to yourself, when you’re talking with others, you can casually add your interests into conversations to see if they have the same interests.

For example, if someone asks you what you did last weekend, that would be a perfect and low risk time to share an interest you have. If you went to a concert or festival you enjoyed, or even played video games, you can put that alongside other things such as relaxing or running errands.

If the other person shares a similar interest, they’ll keep the conversation going. If not, it’s okay! You’re being true to yourself, and you’re working on your networking skills.

Summary

Networking as an introvert can induce a lot of stress and cause anxiety. In this blog post we hit on 5 keys for introverts when working on your networking skills

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication
  2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation
  3. Preparation is key
  4. Send a follow up email
  5. Be true to yourself

Working on these 5 things will put you well on your way to growing your network.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!