Contributed by Mike Ulasewich

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. That feeling of dread when the phone rings and it’s someone at your job site calling.  Maybe the thought of going to work puts a pit in your stomach.  Perhaps you feel stuck and powerless, or you feel your work is meaningless.  You consider changing careers, but have no energy to think about what else you could do.

We all go through phases when we are more energized and less energized by our work.  That is normal; we’re all human.  But sometimes we find ourselves in a place of great sadness and helplessness—especially regarding our work.  I’m talking about burnout.  I’ve been there.  Maybe you have as well.  Burning out is an unfortunate reality for many of us these days.  Most people lead very busy lives, so understanding the potential for burnout and its causes are essential.

There are numerous reasons a person might burnout, but I’d like to write about three.

Unclear or Unreasonable Expectations

If you regularly ask yourself if what you are doing at work is good enough or on target, perhaps you should ask your supervisor for more clarification.  If you are self employed, you need to be clearer about your goals and steps to achieve them.  Nobody wants to feel uncertain about whether the job they are doing is making any difference.  Also, make sure those who work under you know what you expect of them and that they have the tools in place to live up to those expectations.

If your company’s expectations of you are all too clear, but impossible or unrealistic, consider what the cost of all the extra hours and stress may be doing to you.  You might discuss with your supervisor various options, such as getting more help on your team or reducing your workload, if that is at all possible.  If not, you might think about working for a company that values its employees’ well-being better.  There is always give and take in a working relationship.  How good is your relationship with those you work for?

Incompatible Values or Personalities

If you find yourself at odds with the things your company says or does, it will take a toll on you.  It is stressful to work for and with people who have very different beliefs from yours.  Sometimes just incompatible personalities can be enough to take a toll on you and your health.  You might consider discussing this with your supervisor about the person or people you have difficulty or, if that fails, you might consider working for a company with whom you fit in better.

Poor Self Care

There is a huge difference between coping and caring for oneself.  Binge eating, drinking, shopping, or other extreme behaviors can start to become more normal than we’d like.  Taking care of oneself requires discipline.  It isn’t always easy to live a healthy lifestyle, but good health, looks, and better energy levels are worth it.  Eat real food–not processed or fast foods. Exercise.  Spend time outside.  Move around throughout the day.  Use vacation time (you’d think I wouldn’t have to say that, right?).

All three of these factors were working against me some years ago, and I started to burnout.  I recognized the burnout I was feeling and did something about it to take care of myself and protect my family.  If you sense you are burning out, please discuss this with someone you can trust.  Unchecked burnout can lead to long-term health effects and making reckless personal choices that can effect the rest of your life and the lives of those close to you.