How to make job burnout actually work for you


The feeling of burnout is common in work culture today, especially because we’re connected to technology and have little excuse to “turn off,” says Steve McClatchy, a career consultant and author of “Decide.”

“The boundaries of when we’re working and when we’re not have really gone away,” he says. “That creates a lot of stress and anxiety, and the word we use when we feel that way is burnout.”

The World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as syndrome and “occupational phenomenon,” characterized by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” People who are burned out feel a lack of energy or exhaustion, and experience negativity towards their job, among other workplace-related symptoms, according to the WHO.

According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, 23% of employees reported feeling burned out very often or always, and 44% said they felt burned out sometimes.

“If you don’t do anything about burnout, it becomes a rut, it becomes depression, or it can become a midlife crisis,” McClatchy says. But the key to moving past it is to use burnout to inspire and motivate you to make a change, he says. There can be a big benefit to tapping into those feelings. 

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“When we hit that place where we feel like it just can’t get worse, we start to get inspired to act on making things better,” he says. “We start to dream when we’re burned out, we start to brainstorm, or we read new things and get creative.”

Those feelings of inspiration can push you towards change, but you need to look at your skills as well as your weaknesses to determine what’s realistic for you, McClatchy says.

“When we’re burned out, we start to take inventory of where we are and we start to assess what’s realistic and achievable,” he says. “You start to strip away what’s not possible and that creates a gap of where we are and where we want to be.” Take advantage of that gap to kickstart new projects, McClatchy says.

And while burnout can often leave you feeling like you don’t have any energy, putting a plan in place for how to get out of that situation can motivate you.

It may feel scary to face the feeling of burnout and actually do something about it, but burnout can actually give you the courage to make moves, McClatchy says.

“That courage is just the mindset that says, I’m going to be vulnerable, I’m going to take a chance and face the risk head on,” he says.

By taking small steps, you’re more likely to measure the changes and improvement and move away from those feelings of burnout, McClatchy says.

“We take those baby steps and we really see momentum and get excited: that is what starts to extinguish the feeling of burnout.”

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