How to Deal With Burnout at Work

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Burnout at work is a common phenomenon, and South Africa is particularly known for its workaholic mentality. High demands, tight deadlines, and long hours – all while juggling family responsibilities, can take a toll on even the most resilient individuals. Understanding burnout, recognising its signs and symptoms, and knowing how to deal with it effectively are important for maintaining mental, emotional, and physical health.  

What is Burnout at Work?

Burnout is a condition induced by long-term stress or dissatisfaction at work. It’s more than just having a bad day or a busy week; it’s a chronic condition that results from being overwhelmed and overworked over an extended period.  

A recent study by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) revealed that approximately one-third of South African workers experience burnout. This study underscores the widespread occurrence of burnout within the corporate landscape of South Africa.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Recognising burnout is the first step towards addressing it. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability or impatience with co-workers or clients.
  • Lack of motivation or interest in work.
  • Feelings of disillusionment about your job.
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits.
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
  • Causes of Burnout
  • Burnout can result from various factors, often interrelated, including:
  • Excessive workload or overtime.
  • Lack of control over work activities.
  • Insufficient rewards for effort.
  • Lack of a supportive community at work.
  • Unfair treatment or discrimination.
  • A mismatch between job and personal skills or values.
How to Deal with Burnout at Work
  • Acknowledge the Burnout: Admitting that you’re experiencing burnout is the first step toward recovery. Denial only prolongs the problem.
  • Evaluate Your Options: Discuss your concerns with your supervisor. You can change a demanding workload, gain more control over your tasks, or get involved in more rewarding projects.
  • Seek Support: Support and camaraderie, whether from co-workers, friends, family, or professionals, are essential for overcoming burnout.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritise your health by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and engaging in activities that relax and rejuvenate you.
  • Set Boundaries: Learn to avoid additional responsibilities and set clear boundaries between work and personal life to ensure downtime and recovery.
  • Take Time Off: If burnout seems inevitable, take a break from work. If you cannot take days off work, don’t allow work to consume you after hours. Turn off your phone when you get home and resist the urge to check your emails.
  • Reevaluate Your Goals and Priorities: Consider what’s truly important to you and whether your current job aligns with those values. Sometimes, a career change might be necessary to find more fulfilling work.
  • Delegate: Don’t try to do everything yourself. While asking for help with tasks may not come easily, delegating can help reduce your workload and stress levels.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Concentrate on the aspects of your job that you can control, such as your reaction to problems and how you manage your time.
  • Find New Meaning in Your Work: Find value in your role. Focus on aspects of the job that you enjoy or find meaningful, even if they’re small parts of your day.

Remember, it’s essential to prioritise your well-being, not just for your sake but for your colleagues, friends, and family who rely on you. If you’re struggling with burnout, consider contacting a mental health professional who can provide personalised strategies and support to help you navigate this challenging period.