Most jobs come with their fair share of stress. The non-profit world is no different. It’s easy to find yourself in a place where stress has boiled itself over into burnout. Here are some signs, symptoms and tips for recognizing burnout and getting rid of it.

Dictionary.com defines burnout as “fatigue and frustration from too much work and stress.” HelpGuide.org takes it a bit further by calling it “a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” These definitions make a distinction between stress and burnout in that stress can cause burnout, but it is not burnout itself.

Burnout is a feeling of overwhelming that reduces a person’s productivity. It takes energy away and makes a person feel helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful. Here are some signs that you may be heading to a burnout:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Your responsibilities at work and home seem to be a waste of energy to care about.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • Most of your daily tasks seem overwhelming or mind-numbing.
  • You feel completely unappreciated.

Nathan Hand of School on Wheels in Indianapolis recommends scheduling time to do everything and a time to do nothing. The “doing nothing” should include unplugging and shutting down from technology. Schedule time with your family. Schedule time to reflect on what happened that week and on any future goals. He says, “We need to refresh, we need to rejuvenate, because we’ll be so much better after.”

In non-profits, a lot of emotion is poured into lives and causes and this can become draining if a person doesn’t have an inlet for refreshing. Here are some tips for preventing burnout:

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual, about 15 minutes of something calming, ie., gentle stretches, meditating, reading something that inspires you, writing in a journal, etc.
  • Start living healthy – eat healthy, exercise more and get more sleep. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep your body energized and equipped to handle daily stress.
  • Set boundaries. The hardest word to say sometimes is “no,” but it is essential to free you to say “yes” to other things.
  • Take a daily break from technology. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but make sure you set a time each day to disconnect from your computer, phone, email, etc.
  • Be creative. Creativity can really ward off burnout. Whether you pick up an old hobby or try something new, add something new and interesting into your life, completely unrelated to work.

Here’s the full HelpGuide.org article on Burnout.


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