Stress is a normal part of life in many businesses. When you experience high levels of stress over a long period of time, however, it can lead to professional burnout — even when you're doing work you love. By learning to recognize the early warning signs, you can take corrective action.
Apathy, or a lack of interest in your work, is a common warning sign of professional burnout. You might notice that you're not feeling enthusiastic about your favorite parts of the job, or that you just can't get motivated to tackle new projects. Do you love your job? You may start to lose the emotional connection to the work. As burnout gets worse, you may start to dread the idea of going into the office each morning. As soon as you notice a lack of motivation, it's a good idea to take action. Reducing your workload and improving your work-life balance can help ease the underlying stress, so you can rediscover your passion for the job.
When you're going through professional burnout, it's common for your attitude and actions to change. You might be more cynical or easily irritated, particularly when dealing with others. The trouble is that it's difficult to notice these changes in yourself. Instead, look to your co-workers for clues. Do you notice that colleagues seem to be cautious when talking to you? Have your office friendships felt strained? If so, burnout could be the culprit. The same goes for your personal relationships; after all, job stress can also bleed over into your home life.
Intense stress can throw off your emotional responses. Under normal circumstances, you can react rationally to small mistakes and setbacks. If you're dealing with professional burnout, these incidents can spark disproportionate emotional reactions. You could find yourself sobbing in your office after a casual comment from a client, or irrationally angry with a colleague who didn't meet a deadline. These outsized reactions are a sign that something's going on under the surface, and that it's time to get your stress under control.
Prolonged stress has a distinct impact on your mental well-being — but it can also impact your physical health. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, it can cause stomachaches, headaches and even heart attacks. It can disrupt your sleep, which makes it harder to fend off colds and viruses. If you notice that you're calling out sick more than usual, or that you feel fatigued and weak, you might be dealing with professional burnout. The APA recommends that you eliminate unnecessary tasks and deal with negative emotions to reduce stress and improve your health.
Professional burnout often comes on over time. By keeping an eye out for the early indicators, you can take action and get your stress under control.