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Burnout vs. job fatigue: know the difference

Have you lost count of the number of coffees you’ve had, and it’s barely 10:00 a.m.? It could be burnout or just fatigue a vacation can cure.

Amir Basiri, a senior financial advisor in Vancouver, has struggled with job fatigue over the years. “This is an extremely stressful profession,” he says. “People get carried away by the pressure. Sometimes it’s hard to know if you just need a break or if you should be doing something else entirely.”

Dr. Mark Luoto, who coordinates the trauma response teams for an Emergency Medical Services Agency in Northern California, sees people suffering from job fatigue and burnout every day. “If you can no longer find meaning in your work, it’s probably burnout,” he says. On the other hand, if you find your job meaningful but need a break, there’s probably a quick fix in the form of a beach towel with your name on it!

Simplify, simplify, and simplify
Over time, even petty annoyances can become overwhelming and lead to burnout. Nip this in the bud by simplifying your life. “If you don’t have time for the things that relieve your stress, you’re in trouble,” says Dr. Luoto. “Remember to prioritize and keep your job and personal life in balance.” Amir Basiri agrees. “I’ve trained myself to leave my work at work. When I’m home I focus on my family; for me it’s the only way to sustain a stressful career.”

Zen and the art of… working
Re-think how you approach the workplace. Make a list of simple things that might improve your day. New plants for your desk? Baking cookies for your co-workers? You’ll be surprised at how small changes can increase your enjoyment. Try shifting your perspective and you might realize the job you have isn’t so bad after all!

Heck – take a vacation anyway!
Getting away can clear your head and help you sort things out. “If you can get away, even for a few days, do it,” says Dr. Luoto. “Either you’ll come back refreshed or you’ll realize the problem runs much deeper than that.”

If the shoe fits, you’ll like wearing it
The bottom line, says Dr. Luoto, is finding a career path that energizes you. “Sure, you’ll need the occasional break, but the right job actually gives you energy. If you’re experiencing burnout it’s time to re-asses your career choices. If you can see this as an opportunity for long-term, positive change, you’ll probably feel energized immediately!”

Dr. Luoto says you may be experiencing burnout if:
• You can’t get perspective on your job and have lost your sense of humour
• You are overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks and dread going to work
• You stop taking pleasure in things you used to enjoy in the workplace