Feeling a little blah every time you step into the office lately? That I-really-don't-want-to-be-here mood might be something more serious. Career burnout is real.
Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations, according to CNNMoney. So it's really no wonder why we're constantly tired, easily irritated, and wholly uninspired.
If you're not sure whether your fatigue and negative attitude is a result of not getting enough sleep or actual work burnout, Brandon Smith, career expert behind The Workplace Therapist, has a tell-tale sign.
"Apathy is a good way to tell — when you get to a point where you just don't care about anything," Smith says. "When you're angry, you still care. But the moment you've lost that, that's when you've probably hit rock bottom."
If you already feel like you're at the point where you've stopped caring about impressing your boss and moving up the ladder, there's a fix: "Take some time off. The pace we're at right now isn't sustainable," Smith says. "We're sticking with the old rules of Monday through Friday in the office, plus technology allows us to work at 5 in the morning and 10 at night."
If taking a mental health day isn't possible, don't go all Office Space on everyone just yet. Try these five tips for avoiding all-consuming burnout instead.
1. Set boundaries for yourself.
Aka put your phone away when you're not at work, or at the very least turn off work notifications. Before you take time off, make it clear that you will not be accessible — and then stick to it.
"We all have to set boundaries," Smith says. "Times when you don't check email, times when you recharge or exercise. You need to take care of yourself."
If you feel the need to be attached to work 24/7, it's time to talk to your manager about making some adjustments. Study after study has found that overworked employees are less productive and more of a burden on their employers (poor employee health leads to more sick days and higher health insurance costs), so it's really in your boss' best interest for you to prioritize tasks and set up clear, unconditional boundaries.
2. Know your limits.
The harder you push yourself, the more exhausted you'll be. Being self-aware is key to a successful career (and life, really). If you're not sure exactly why you're unhappy at work, that's the place to start.
"Know when you're getting to that point to where you're starting to break a little bit. We all have our different tells and triggers, and when you know those and are in tune to those, that's the most important thing in all of this," Smith says. "You know when you're about to be in a bad emotional state that could hurt you down the road."
3. Get some sleep.
Seems obvious, but there are a whole lot of us who aren't getting the amount of zzzs we need to function. Getting some solid shut-eye won't just help you feel more refreshed — it'll improve your memory, lower your stress levels, and even make you less likely to catch a cold.
4. Lead a healthy lifestyle.
It's been proven many times that a healthy lifestyle will help you in all aspects of your life. And if you want to live a long time, changing things up is a must.
"Look at people who have lived to be 100 and survived burnout, like those in the Blue Zones project, which looked at the places in the world with the greatest concentration of centenarians," Smith says. "When you see how they survived burnout and the kinds of things they did, it's all about having a healthy lifestyle: They ate a healthy diet, exercised daily, had strong communities around them, and had an individual sense of purpose. And they also had a glass of wine every night."
5. Keep your work environment positive.
Everyone has been in a bad mood at work at some point. But all the time? That's a problem. It's time to get rid of the unnecessary negativity once and for all.
"For the last 20 years, there's been research done on this topic: Emotions are contagious, and negative emotions are the most contagious. They're kind of like a virus; you catch it and you hold onto it," Smith says. "When we take care of ourselves, we come into work with positive emotional energy. When we don't, we come in with negative emotional energy. That can not only damage other people, but damage your reputation at work, which is very hard to overcome. And if there are negative people at work, keep your distance."
We all have our bad days, but don't get to the point where you wake up every day feeling totally worn out and miserable. You can fix things — just don't wait any longer.