Already burnt out in 2020? You’re not alone.

Q1 can feel a bit like a rollercoaster. There’s no formal transition between the holidays and heading back to work – you just dive in and get to it. Recapping the year prior and establishing objectives for the year ahead might bring on the sensation of whiplash. Although you’d hope to start the year off strong and head into Q2 organized, the truth is many of us are stressed and scrambling.

While there is nothing wrong with feeling some stress from time to time, you may want to take a moment to reflect if those sentiments have become more cynical, more overwhelming or more consistent. Burnout, which Psychology Today defines as “a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress,” can have a serious impact on our productivity but, even more importantly, on our overall health and wellbeing.

“Isn’t that just stress?” many wonder when the topic comes up.

Well, it can be tricky to recognize whether or not you’re experiencing genuine burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic, some key symptoms are more related to performance, such as feeling a greater struggle – physically or mentally – in concentrating and producing work. Or maybe something more related to interactions with others, like feeling heightened irritability or impatience with colleagues, customers or clients.

Some red flags might be more physical, such as seeing significant changes in eating or sleeping habits, noticing a lack of satisfaction from actualizing achievements, unexplained symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues or other bodily troubles.

The way burnout looks and feels to each professional is unique to their lifestyle and character, but, the truth is, many of us will experience it at some point in our lives. A recent study published by Gallup found 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work “very often or always,” while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out “sometimes”, which suggests two-thirds of workers are experiencing burnout on the job (2020 Gallup).

With feelings of stress and feeling overwhelmed being so commonplace, you might wonder what causes the onset. There are quite a few reasons as to why you might be more prone to burn out these days. As it turns out, the American Psychological Association reported that 38% of survey respondents shared that their levels of stress ironically increase after the holidays.

This time of year ends up being less about rest and relaxation, and more about festive parties, travel plans and plenty of expenses.

It probably won’t surprise you then to learn that reported 27% of Americans take zero off days from work during the holiday season. For those that do carve time out of their schedules, only 8% make it count and take eight or more days away from work.

An entrepreneurial culture can promote the hustle and grind mentality, but taking a look at stats like these can help put things in perspective. The holidays may be the most practical time to take a vacation and set yourself up for a Spring season without symptoms of burnout.

As we soon roll in to Q2, perhaps we all can consider time away from work as the most productive thing we can do for our careers. Stress interferes with our creativity, focus and problem solving abilities, so never undermine what a day off can do for your professional pursuits.

If taking time off seems like an impossible preventative measure, consider what else you can do in your professional life to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Rather than hit the wall and experience major burnout, do what you can to manage your stress continuously and find moments away from work along the way.

It isn’t about leading a life free of worries or problems – rather, it is about spending our time wisely across all areas of our life. We shouldn’t live to work, but some work is required to live. To set yourself up for lasting success, remember to take a pause and prioritize rest.

Nicole Villegas is a freelance writer and graphic designer based in Miami, Florida. She also teaches yoga on the side and loves to travel.

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