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!

As A Full Time Student, Employee, Husband, And Father, Here’s How I Balanced It All

Balancing Multiple Commitments

You can do anything, but not everything.

— David Allen.

David Allen is a productivity consultant who basically penned that quote for me. In my attempt to have it all, I tried to do it all. I wanted to be a great husband, change my career path, and I also wanted to be able to help provide for my family. Balancing multiple commitments is not easy. For me, it required prioritizing the things that are important in my life, an understanding support system, and keeping my goals in front of me. With these three things, I was able to be a supportive husband and father, and ‘A’ student, and help provide for our growing family. Here’s my story:

My wife and I got married the summer before I went back to school to pursue my second Bachelor’s degree. Also during that summer, I quit my job as a high school chemistry teacher, and I picked up a more flexible job as a chemist. A lot of life changing events happened then, but I felt lucky to be able to use my first Bachelor’s degree in chemistry to work full time while also being able to go back to school.

I was with my new company for about a month before I started school. It didn’t even take the full first week of school before I realized how challenging balancing the two commitments would be. Not only was I still learning the procedures at work, but I was responsible for learning the material in my classes while also finding time to sleep and be a supportive husband.

  1. Prioritize The Things That Are Important In Your Life

During the first few weeks of school, I didn’t have a plan to effectively do both work and school well, not to mention the responsibilities I had at home. I was constantly tired, and I wasn’t doing any one thing particularly well, aside from just making it to the next day. After a couple weeks of this, the teacher side of me finally took over, and I created a plan to map out all of my commitments and prioritize their importance. I wrote down everything that I needed to do in a week, and with my wife’s help, we ranked the commitments by importance. Doing this helped us visualize and prioritize what we felt was important. Here’s how we ranked things at the time:

  1. Sleep
  2. Coding class
  3. Calculus
  4. Work
  5. Easy intro classes
  6. Family time
  7. House responsibilities
  8. Friend time

Without prioritizing and working with my wife, I wouldn’t have pegged sleep as the top priority for me over work, school, or my family. However, we were able to reason that if I can find time to get enough sleep during the day, I would be better prepared to handle work and school. We both knew that doing well in my classes would lead to opportunities for a better career, so we set aside our time together for when there was time available. So, for the rest of the semester, my sleep times were all over the place, but we made sure I got enough sleep. From there, most of the commitments that were written down were completed throughout the week.

When you’re deciding how to prioritize what’s important to you, being able to see all of your commitments by writing them down helps because you can compare priorities and rank them based on their level of importance in your life. In my case, without good sleep, I wouldn’t have been effective at anything else on my list. At the end of my list I had friends and fun activities, like going to the movies or playing games. While my social life suffered for a short time, I was able to see that I had other things that I felt were more important at the time.

2. Have An Understanding Support System

About halfway through my first semester, my wife and I found out we were expecting our first child. It was wonderful news for us! We were both excited, but then preparing for our child became another commitment that I needed to add to my list. We needed to plan doctor visits and save for medical expenses. As much as I wanted to go to every doctor appointment with my wife, we both knew that my schedule was tough as it was.

We ended up going to appointments together when we were scheduled to connect with our baby in some way. Ultrasounds were the main appointments I attended, and each visit was worth the time spent without question.

Having my wife be as understanding as she was at the time was invaluable. Not only were we on the same page about where my priorities needed to be, but she was able to support me in so many other ways that I wouldn’t be able to thank her enough for.

And not just her, but both of our parents understood that what we were going through was to enable us to have a better, more fulfilling life. They were always encouraging and offering support where they could. Looking back on it now, I feel so fortunate to have had such an amazing support system to help me balance all of my commitments.

Having a support system that understands what you’re going through can make the difference between succeeding in managing multiple commitments and failing. It’s important to be connected to people, whether family, friends, or other people who are going through the same thing, so that you can have people on your side to help you through these tough times. Without my wife and family, it would have been so much harder for me to succeed in balancing my commitments.

3. Keep Your Goals In Front Of You

In May the following year, our son, Harrison, was born. I had just finished the first year of my second degree, and I had some time to spend with my family without any work or school commitments. I made sure to cherish all the time we had together.

In June, I went away for a 10 week internship in a different state. My son wasn’t even one month old at that time. This was a hard time for all of us. While I was away taking summer classes and doing the internship, my wife stayed with her family, about 8 hours away from where I was staying. It was during this time that we both reassured each other in knowing that what we were doing was for a better life.

Our goals centered around having a better life for our family. Whenever I questioned whether or not I made the right call in accepting the internship, I looked at the goals we had and found that this decision linked directly to them.

Creating and keeping goals when balancing multiple commitments helps you see the big picture of what you’re doing. It provides the motivation to succeed, and the drive to keep going. If your goals don’t align with one or more of your commitments, this would be a good time to ask yourself why aren’t your commitments lining up with what you’re trying to accomplish, and how can it be adjusted to where your commitments correlate with where you’re trying to go in life.

Conclusion

So, the 10 weeks came and went, and I was reunited with my family again, for good this time. We had one more year to prepare for, but unlike the previous year, we had a plan in place to get through it.

I knew that to balance all of my commitments, I had to have my priorities in order, my support system, and my goals at the forefront of my mind to help me get through to graduation and my new career.

How do you balance multiple commitments?

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!