You can’t get enough sleep. You’re not interested in doing anything. You can’t even muster up enough energy to think about what to make for dinner or to go out for those drinks with your pals. If this sounds like you, you might be dealing with burnout.
What is burnout?
Described by Mental Health UK, burnout is usually tied to our work and is “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion” that totally overwhelms you and takes over your life.
It often happens when we’re super stressed – hello, new job! – or have been working in a physically or emotionally draining job for too long. It’s so prevalent now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in 2019.
It’s fair to say that burnout is becoming surprisingly common. Around one in five UK workers say that they feel ‘unable’ to cope with pressures while at work. Combine this with the rising cost of living, lower wages and a stagnant jobs market and it’s easy to see why a lot of us have just had enough.
Burnout is often celebrated through #girlboss and grindset culture, and it can be really hard to break free of the toxic mindset that work should consume everything. In fact, our very own editor-in-chief Cate Sevilla even wrote a book on the topic, the trend is so widespread.
In the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe and often take our work home with us – whether physically or in our minds, worrying till the wee hours about whether you’d emailed the right person or wondering why your boss hasn’t gotten back to you on something important.
Burnout became even worse through the pandemic when smartphones and laptops meant we could work anywhere. But that also meant we could be contactable any time. Many of us couldn’t resist the urge to just quickly check that email or to work later than we should. One study found that 46% of UK workers felt ‘more prone to extreme levels of stress’ compared with a year before the pandemic started.
According to Mental Health UK, the signs of burnout include:
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time
- Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
- Feeling detached/alone in the world
- Having a cynical/negative outlook
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
- Feeling overwhelmed
There’s not one-size-fits-all solution to burnout. The push towards a four-day working week has seen positive outcomes – findings from the University of Cambridge show that a four-day work week significantly reduces stress and illness and helps worker retention.
And post-pandemic workers are embracing ‘quiet quitting’ and full-on quitting jobs that are simply too stressful to be worth it.
It can also be helpful to set some boundaries professionally. Is your boss regularly asking you to do late nights unpaid? Let them know that you’re not going to be available for that anymore. Or if you’re struggling to stop checking emails, try turning your phone off for the evening and locking it in another room.
Finding things you love – whether that be chilling on your Switch, going out for walks after work or going to the gym – can really help you find something that makes you feel productive and at peace outside of work.