When it comes to work-related anxiety, there is no time of day that’s safe from unwanted stress. Like, when it’s 2 a.m., and you’ve been rolling around in bed, mulling over that snide remark your coworker made and worrying if your manager is secretly unimpressed with your work. Or, it’s 7 p.m. and your partner is excitedly telling you about their latest creative conquest, and you’ve missed the last three minutes because you’re refreshing your email as you stir the dinner you’re making.
It’s estimated that upward of 83% of Americans report a frazzled feeling toward their careers, a common thread that’s leading many to a major professional crash-and-burn.
Though for some, an OOO or long weekend is enough to clear your mind and refocus your work/life balance will do the trick, for others, a priority gut check is in order.
“Career burnout is a unique type of job-related stress. It’s an indication that your job or business has taken more energy that you have available to give and that your brain is signaling that things are out of whack,” explains career coach Melissa Brown. “Normally our weekends and vacations offer us enough space to feel refreshed and ready to take on challenges at work. But if you’ve recently taken a vacation, and instantly felt depleted upon returning to work, burnout may be to blame.”
Here, some strong indicators you’re speeding toward career burnout — and what to do about it.
1. Your Sunday scaries are intense
Even for folks who landed their dream gigs right out of college (lucky fools!), sometimes going to work seems, well, bleh. Though it’s normal to want more time to play than to work, if you boil over with stress and anxiety on Sunday night because you have to report to work in the A.M., your career burnout might be in full swing, according to Brown.
Maybe it’s due to a change in upper management or a shift in your personal life that has you interested in other industries or ways of living and working, but this continued sense of dread means it’s time to seek different opportunities.
“Sometimes cutting the cord and leaving your current job might be the best solution for you, but if you’re not ready for something completely new, try to find a new project at work that excites you. And don’t forget that there’s more to life than just your job — perhaps a passion project in your free time can help lift your energy and make your time at work more inspired,” lead career and business coach at Rowan Coaching, Louisa Shepard says. “Either way, my advice is to follow your joy, whether that means finding new opportunities in your current role, or looking for them elsewhere.”
2. You’re skipping meals and avoiding working out
When a quick glance at your overbooked Google calendar is enough to make your heart race, the last thing you want to do is sprint it out on a treadmill. Feeling strapped for time during a busy week or month is an experience all professionals have, but if you feel so limited by the number of hours in a day that you aren’t eating or working out, it’s time to reconsider. As Brown notes, this means you’re 100% prioritizing your work over your physical health and over time, your body will pay the price.
To overcome this, Brown suggests scheduling self-care much like you would a sales meeting, a product marketing call or a check-in with your assistant. “You’ll feel better at work and consequently, do better work, if your physical health is taken care of. People say ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ for a reason. But if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself to eat, do that,” she suggests.
It’s also recommended to skip out on some of the post-work social events that could be overloading your evenings unnecessarily. Though making an appearance at some corporate happy hours is often seen as a plus to managers, if the office culture has get-togethers nightly, you shouldn’t feel pressured to attend them all – and as Brown says, you’ll perform stronger if you’re reenergized than constantly sleepy at your cubicle.
“If you have to pass on the glass of wine after a long, stressful day so that you can wake up an hour early to get a workout in, know that it’ll make you feel better in the long-run. Trade in the alcoholic instant gratification for long-term career success,” she says.
3. You find simple tasks difficult
If you used to zip through your morning routine of answering emails, pulling reports, and scheduling calls without a second thought, and now you procrastinate every click of the mouse, you might be growing increasingly unhappy at your job. This is when Brown says to dig a little deeper and determine your motivations — or rather, lack of.
“If you feel resistance towards your to-dos and procrastinate heavily, it’s probably because you lack motivation to do the things you have to do. When you’re motivated, you can do the impossible. When you’re unmotivated, you’ll do just enough to get by. If you’re becoming more and more unmotivated at work, it’s likely that the reward — whether monetary or intrinsic — is not worth the cost,” she says.
Though it might seem elementary, Brown suggests taking 30 minutes to write down (or okay, type out), the kinds of tasks you’re currently doing. Then, in another column, write down the kind of tasks that used to get you excited. Now presents your challenge: how do you incorporate what you love into your job description.
“This might mean talking to your boss about taking on personal projects or switching departments. It might seem like you’re adding work, but if it’s the kind of work you like, it’ll make your overall job situation a more positive one. And, it could lead to new opportunities more in line with the kind of work you care about,” she says.
4. You don’t like the person you’re becoming
Part of the perk of having trusted and true friends is their undying commitment to stand by you through the many seasons of your life. That’s why when your best friend raises concern of your mental state and your attitude toward life as a whole, you might need to do some soul searching to analyze if you like the person you’ve become lately. How come? A clear indicator of career burnout, according to Shepard, is when your gig makes you someone you’re not.
“If you know that you value something like authenticity but your work won’t allow you the space to be yourself, you’re going to exhaust your energy stores simply trying to show up in a way that’s misaligned with who you are,” Shepard says. “Take stock of what’s important to you and see if your job aligns with the things that you value. Many people are simply stressed because they’re spending the better part of the day trying to suppress who they really are and what they really want out of a career in favor of what’s safe, what’s acceptable, or what others expect of them.”
To do this, Shepard says to take a weekend away (or a staycation, if your budget doesn’t allow) to honestly identify the things that make you most happy and most fulfilled. When you reach the end of this brainstorm, see how your current role matches your passion.
“If your career stands in the way of what brings you joy, it might be time to find a better fit,” Shepard says.