How do you know when you're heading for burnout or are already in its grasp? Beverly Potter, author of Overcoming Job Burnout: How To Renew Enthusiasm for Work (Ronin Publishing Inc., $14.95, 800-858-2665), explains six common symptoms:
1. Negative emotions. It's normal to feel frustrated, angry, depressed, dissatisfied or anxious occasionally. But if you're caught in the burnout cycle, you usually will experience these negative emotions more and more often, until they become chronic. Eventually, you will feel emotional fatigue.
2. Interpersonal problems. When you feel emotionally drained, it becomes harder to deal with people at work and at home. When the inevitable conflicts arise, you're likely to overreact with an emotional outburst or intense hostility.
3. Health problems. You may frequently experience minor ailments, such as colds, headaches, insomnia and backaches. In general, you feel tired and run-down.
4. Below-par performance. During the burnout process, you may become bored with your job, lose enthusiasm for your projects, or find it difficult to concentrate. You become less productive and the quality of your work declines.
5. Substance abuse. To cope with the stress associated with job conflict and declining performance, you may find yourself drinking more alcohol, using more drugs, eating more (or less), drinking more coffee and/or smoking more cigarettes. Increased substance abuse further compounds your problems.
6. Feelings of meaninglessness. Increasingly, you find yourself thinking, So what? and Why bother? This is particularly common among burnout victims who were once very enthusiastic and dedicated. Your enthusiasm is replaced by cynicism. Working seems pointless.
Reprinted with permission from Ronin Publishing Inc., Berkeley, California.