If you’ll type ‘burnout’ into your browser, you’ll get thousands and thousands of articles telling you how to recognize it’s what you’re actually experiencing and how to deal with it. Not sure if you can relate but I’ve found that I just simply couldn’t apply any of them to my daily life.
As I was reading the articles, there were a few things going through my mind:
- Are there any common patterns in these burnout stories?
- Is there any way I could view these as applicable?
I was determined to find out. A few of the articles also mentioned research on burnout. I was starting to discover that I am not alone in what I’ve experienced, it’s a global epidemic.
The studies confirm that burnout is becoming increasingly problematic: 2018 Gallup study shows that 23% of over 7,500 full-time employees feel burned out at work ‘always or often’, and 44% said that they ‘sometimes’ experience it. The effects are also worrying:
The Gallup study also confirms that once employees start experiencing burnout, it’s very easy for them to fall into a downward spiral of taking steps to overcome burnout while not discovering and curing the root cause of it. Is there anything you can to do avoid doing exactly that?
The first step in avoiding burnout is learning how to recognize it. Let’s check it together in the next section.
As I’ve mentioned in my last article, recognizing that you’re depleted is not always easy. Admitting that you need help is even more difficult.
So, what are some of the tell-tale signs* of burnout?
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased irritability (the one you notice even if you’re just naturally grumpy!)
- Being bored while you’re tackling tasks that excited you before
- Feeling exhausted without any particular reason
- Denying all of these feelings
*Please note that they may be different for everyone - I’m sure that you’ll be able to spot yours from miles away once you’ve gone through a breakdown yourself.
After reading the articles, I also wanted to know more real-life examples of how others have dealt with burnout.
I reached to developers on Twitter asking them for advice on how to avoid and handle a burnout. Here are some of the responses I’ve received:
Heather Wilde@heathriel@matylda_wro @yourTeaminator @aaronbassett @yoruba_dev @EmmaWedekind Take stock of everything you're doing -- write down all that work, the little tasks, busywork, even leisure activities that are taking up your time.
Ditch the extraneous stuff, delegate as much as you can to gain back time -- and what's left will be easier to handle.16:10 PM - 07 Mar 2019
some dev@yoruba_dev@matylda_wro @yourTeaminator @aaronbassett @heathriel @EmmaWedekind I recently had to deal with burnout. What I did to get back on my groove was to learn something new (new language in my case), took myself out to try food I've never eaten before, and most importantly binged Netflix for a few days.15:25 PM - 07 Mar 2019
Keep in mind that these recovery techniques will be different for everyone. Find things that energize you before you’ll start applying them. Here are also some of the things that work wonders for me are:
- Taking time off - I know it sounds obvious but what I mean by that is actually disconnecting. So, no using my phone, no distractions, no checking my email every few hours.
- Being in nature - this one has been a life saver for me. Fortunately, I live in a place which is about an hour drive from the mountains.
- Focusing on things that excite and energize me, i.e. connecting with other people, running, walking my dog.
And one more thing: recovery from a burnout does take time. Here’s how Lewis Menelaws, a lead developer at TMRRWinc has dealt with it:
Despite all of this negativity in my life, I had to keep telling myself that just like it took a lot of work to let my brain get into this state, it will also take a lot of time and work to get out of it as well.
Don’t forget that overcoming burnout may look completely different for everyone, so give yourself time and space to come back to your usual self. You can’t rush these things.
And whatever you’ll decide to do, remember that the world won’t end if you’ll take a few weeks off or decide to switch roles.
So are there any common patterns in the articles I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article?
If I’d be to leave you with some key lessons from today’s post, they’d be:
Recognizing your own burnout may not be the easiest task - ask your teammates for help if you think you may be experiencing one.
There is no cure-all solution when it comes to dealing with burnout. Find your own strategies and build up your ‘work endurance’. Aim for methods that can help you in the long run, not quick fixes.
Give yourself time and space to recover. It may take weeks or months, remember to do things at your own pace.
It’s easy to think about burnout as something that slows you down or even blocks you while you want to keep going.
In fact, I’ve learned to be extremely grateful for the periods in my life when I experienced burnout. These were the moments where I’ve realized there’s more to life than work. I’ve also discovered that exploring new things and going out of your rut are crucial if you want not only to become a better employee but a better person.