Career Burnout: A Cautionary Tale

Career Stress Help

Career burnout is a term we’ve probably all heard, yet thought we were impervious to. Then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves being inundated by a myriad of symptoms, wondering what happened and where we go from here.

I recently found myself in such a position, and can vouch for how debilitating it can be.

My Experience

I’ve always been of the mindset that with the right amount of hard work and determination, anything is possible. I’d get into the office early, stay late, work weekends, etc. – all to reach business goals and to climb the proverbial ladder. By my mid-30’s, I had the wind at my back. I was established in my career and had so much in front of me.

Like so many people, I didn’t see burnout coming.

My symptoms were gradual. They started out mild with some fatigue, recurring colds and having trouble sleeping. I dismissed these symptoms as temporary and situational.

Next I started experiencing chest pains. Concerned that I could be having a heart attack, I relented and called my doctor. Many tests later, I was told it was likely anxiety that was causing these issues.

I remember thinking, “Anxiety? Okay, that’s ambiguous. Everyone deals with stress. I just need to learn how to handle it better.” I made some lifestyle changes: I reduced the number of hours I was working, took up yoga and made more of an effort to do things with friends and family. I felt better… for a while.

As time went by, any semblance of a balanced life went out the window. I had no energy, I was neglecting my health and I had become disillusioned with my work. Just shy of 40, I found myself battling a cold, the flu, gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, anxiety and mild depression – all due to a job. It was then I realized I needed to make some significant changes.

What I experienced was a classic case of burnout: multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time left me totally drained and no longer performing at my best. In a few years, I had gone from optimistic about my career and future to seriously burnt out.

Based on recent data and business publications, I’m not alone.

The Data

Employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions.

While many disorders associated with burnout such as depression and anxiety are hidden, 84% of employees report having experienced physical, psychological or behavioral symptoms of poor mental health.

The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees alone costs an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S., and those are just some of the more obvious impacts.

So many people, regardless of industry, experience burnout but don’t know that’s what they’re experiencing and/or never see the signs. So many, in fact, that a whopping 95% of human resource leaders admit employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention.

For all of these reasons, mental health, which has been a stigma in the workplace, is becoming more common and is anticipated to be a major focus of employers in 2018.

Good and Bad Stress Curve, Eustress

What You Need To Know About Burnout

Recognizing the signs of burnout can be difficult, and you might chalk up symptoms to normal stress like I did. But burnout is more than a bad day or a bad week. It affects the way you feel about your job, your life, and how you deal with others.

1. Know the causes – examples below

  • Lack of control
  • Unclear or unrealistic job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Poor job fit
  • Extremes of activity
  • Lack of social support
  • Work-life imbalance

2. Know the signs – examples below

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention
  • Physical symptoms
  • Increased illness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

3. Know what to do if you’re on your way to burnout (or already there)


Thanks for reading, friends! I hope you found this information helpful.

I’d love to hear from you in regards to your experiences with burnout. Feel free to post in the Comments section below or send me an email.

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