In our society, we will offer our well wishes to someone who sustains a bodily injury, such as a broken leg. However, when it comes to mental health matters, there’s radio silence. We are uniquely uncomfortable dealing with mental health issues, like stress, anxiety or burnout.
Studies show that the major source of stress is related to a person’s job. Think of your own situation at work. How many of us need herculean strength to get out of bed in the morning and go into the office? Once at work, do you immediately start feeling uncomfortable or nervous? Are you finding yourself becoming easily irritated or impatient with your boss, clients and co-workers? By the afternoon, is all of your energy depleted and you legitimately dread trying to make it through the rest of the day? Is there a lack of job satisfaction and fulfillment? Are you at a loss for what to do next?
In addition to pressures at work, we are bombarded with constant bad news. It’s impossible to escape horrific events, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, terrorist attacks, school shootings, wars, random violence and political outrage. We also have to worry about the security of our jobs, how to save enough to actually retire one day, set aside funds for our children’s escalating college tuition and staying ahead of one medical misfortune that could bankrupt you. It’s almost impossible not be stressed and anxious.
It’s rare to have an open conversation about mental health. We’ll talk endlessly about the school shooter and guns, but never raise the issue of the mental health of the perpetrator and what can be done about it to prevent future occurrences. There is a negative stigma attached to mental health issues, so we tend to keep these thoughts and feelings to ourselves.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on stress, mental fatigue, anxiety and burnout. However, I deal with people manifesting these traits on a daily basis. Oftentimes, when people approach me about finding a new job, it seems clear that they are suffering from symptoms of stress, mental fatigue, anxiety or burnout.
From a layman’s perspective, the feeling of stress is a response to a threatening or demanding situation—and anxiety is the way you react to the stress. Burnout is characterized as a state of emotional and physical exhaustion. This is brought about by long periods of constant, unabated and unrelenting stress. It makes people feel beaten up, weak, dejected, inadequate and like an absolute failure. These pent-up feelings adversely impact aspects of your life outside of the workplace. It’s an all-too-common problem that many suffer from, regardless of their profession and income level.
Here are some of the behaviors I’ve noticed employees, candidates, human resource professionals and hiring managers exhibit who are feeling stressed, anxious and burnt out:
- Overly critical of their job, boss, co-workers and company
- Take a large number of days off from work
- Easily annoyed, quick to get angry and lashing out at the people around them
- Lack energy, drive, motivation and passion
- Have trouble concentrating
- Report headaches, backaches and other physical ailments
- Feel constantly overwhelmed and exhausted
- Have trouble sleeping or sleeping too much—the same when it comes to eating
- Withdraw from social engagements
- Easily frustrated, resentful and feeling helpless and lost
Here is what you can do right now to make a positive step forward in coping with your feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout.
- Recognize that there is a problem and seek help.
- Don’t be ashamed to share your feelings with family and friends.
- Take breaks during the workday to recharge.
- Find fulfilling activities and hobbies to do after work and on the weekends.
- Take a mental health day every once in awhile.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with your manager.
- Focus on your physical, mental and emotional health.
- Take more frequent vacations.
- Take 15 minutes to relax daily.
- Discern the trigger, take a mental pause and internally reflect before you react.
- Seek out a new job that will make you happy.
If you are confronting these and related issues, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. The vast majority of people—including myself—deal with these matters all the time. Once you confront this head on, you’re on the way toward building a better, rewarding and more meaningful career and life for yourself.