How to Regain Motivation After Burnout
Productivity-related issues cause losses of up to $200-300 billion dollars annually in the US.
Contrary to what the executives would tell you, the reason is not that people are slacking at work, but that they are not taking enough rest from work.
Yes, that’s right. Taking a break from work can not only increase productivity by reducing your stress levels, but it is vital to avoid burnout.
Burnout has only recently been recognized as a medical complication caused by prolonged and elevated levels of stress.
It is a workplace-related medical condition that affects your motivation, but in extreme cases, it can lead to chronic depression and even suicide.
Therefore, it is important to immediately start working on getting back your motivation after burnout.
A colleague at my previous job was the typical hustle-till-you-drop kind of a guy. He would immediately jump at opportunities of working on new projects.
To outperform every time, he would bite off more than he could chew by taking on new and more responsibilities.
Consequently, the stress took its toll on his health and his relationships with his colleagues. He became emotionally withdrawn.
Not long after that, he dropped off the radar completely for a good couple of months only to resurface afterward to tell us about what had happened to him.
It was burnout: the feeling of being spent.
Combating burnout feels like making your way through a sludge of mud; every step saps more of your energy and the more you try to work your way through the burnout, the harder it gets to stay motivated.
In most cases, working through burnout can cause more harm than good. It’s better to work on regaining motivation after burnout.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of why we experience burnout, and how to regain motivation after burnout, let’s first understand the World Health Organization’s definition of burnout.
What is Burnout?
According to the WHO,
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Three conditions have been identified that accompany burnout:
1. Emotional Fatigue or weariness
2. Cynicism and Negativity towards people in general
3. Dip in Productivity
We all remember the excitement of a new job, the prospects of a new business, or even starting on a new career path.
But the excitement soon dwindles, the flow associated with working before the burnout morphs into a thick fog of pessimism, and the high experienced during the honeymoon phase flat lines. You feel drained and used up.
It’s hard to stay motivated during burnout. But knowing how to combat burnout is only possible if we know why we experience it in the first place.
Why Do We Experience Burnout?
Is burnout inevitable? Something that we have to resign ourselves to experiencing once in a while?
Indeed, burnout occurs mostly due to our inability to manage stress properly, but stress is common in every job. Even people who love their work feel some sort of stress.
The writer and optimal performance expert, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has identified that to experience flow, a job or activity must offer some form of a challenge that can potentially push our boundaries.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing a little stress from time to time, however, prolonged and elevated levels of stress can lead to complications and burnout.
Prolonged stress may be the main culprit behind a dip in motivation that leads to burnout, but it isn’t the only suspect out there. To regain motivation after burnout, it is essential to identify what factors motivate you to work.
In other words, are you extrinsically or intrinsically motivated?
Types of Motivation and How Do They Relate to Burnout
Research conducted on professional rugby players to explore the relationship between burnout and types of motivation, found that athletes who were motivated by external rewards and recognition (extrinsic motivation) were more susceptible to experiencing burnout.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
On the other hand, athletes who enjoyed playing rugby, discovering new tackling techniques, perfecting their form et cetera were the least susceptible to experiencing burnout.
It was the process of learning and playing that they enjoyed more than the external rewards. In other words, they were driven by the process of improving themselves (intrinsic motivation).
Intrinsic motivation leads to feelings of fulfillment and engagement; the opposites of burning out.
Measuring Burnout with MBI
The Maslach Burnout Inventory or MBI is a measurement test that scores your performance on a 0-6 scale based on how you answer certain questions.
The scale measures the three dimensions of burnout that, as mentioned before, are emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a drop in productivity.
It is useful to measure your score on the MBI before, during, or after the burnout recovery stages.
7 Steps to Regain Motivation After Burnout
Now that we know a little more about burnout and why we experience it, let’s dive into the burnout recovery stages.
This step-by-step guide on how to combat burnout will help you salvage your motivation after burnout.
1. Know the Signs of Burnout
Burnout is a medical condition that manifests itself through various observable symptoms. Although it is not a disease in the original sense of the word, according to the WHO, it is a complication that can lead to other mental and physical ailments.
Identification of the signs of burnout is the most fundamental of the burnout recovery stages, without which, proper treatment is impossible. The following are the most common signs of burnout:
- Cynicism and negativity during interactions with people
- Burnout makes people withdraw into themselves; avoiding social situations is common in people working through burnout
- Lack of energy
- Work no longer satisfies; it seems like a burden.
- Productivity plummets as work loses its appeal
- The individual working through burnout experiences a sense of loss of control in life
- Lack of concentration
2. Acknowledge That You are “Burnt Out”
People working through burnout lose their sense of perspective. More often than not, people just double down on their efforts to hack their way through productivity slumps.
But the way to combat burnout effectively is to first acknowledge to yourself that burnout is real.
Fitness enthusiasts are usually guilty of this. They chase muscle pumps and soreness and ultimately end up doing more damage than good.
Acceptance and acknowledgment are powerful because they will help prepare you mentally to regain motivation after burnout.
You should also take the Maslach Burnout Inventory test to make sure that you are in fact suffering from burnout.
3. Identify Why You are Feeling “Burnt Out”
Regaining motivation after burnout requires that you identify the causes first. You can talk to a friend, sibling, or even a professional therapist to get to the bottom of your predicament.
You should understand the factors that drive your motivation, the type of motivation, and what other possible explanations are there for your burnout.
According to various researches conducted in the field of work-related stress, there is a strong causal link between certain professions and burnout.
Jobs in the services sector, medical, and education are often the most fulfilling, but at the same time, they can be immensely taxing on your motivation.
Over time, when you lose sight of the meaning the work represents for you, feelings of fatigue can set in rather quickly.
4. Determine What Gave You Meaning and Happiness Before the Burnout
The best way to extricate yourself from burnout and regain your motivation is to remind yourself of the time when you first started your job, business, or any activity where you are experiencing burnout.
Remind yourself of the meaning that that work carried for you; the happiness you felt when you first started. Identify your why and watch all else fall into its place.
Also, at this point, you should have already identified the extrinsic or intrinsic direction of your motivation.
5. Ask for Help
Many times in life, we think we are alone in any given situation. Asking for help is the last thing on our mind because we think our problem is unique to us and no one will be able to understand our predicament.
Burnout, too, is something that most of us have experienced alone, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can talk to your friends, siblings, colleagues, relatives or seek professional help to quickly acquire your motivation after burnout.
Talking to someone will help in identifying the causes and symptoms, acknowledging burnout, and suggesting possible remedies for getting back your motivation after burnout.
6. Take Some Time Off
Stepping back, resetting, and coming back refreshed is a guaranteed way to drive productivity, but, even more importantly, it is also an excellent burnout preventive measure.
Overly stressed out people need some space to feel normal again. Space to breathe away the stress.
In the book, Great at Work, Morten Hansen argues that taking breaks from time to time is a great way to boost productivity.
So the next time when you go up to your boss asking for time off to go on a vacation, tell him/her it is for productivity.
7. Live a Balanced Life
All the beautiful things in life are balanced. The yin balances the yang.
Aware of this fact, you should always strive to separate your home life from your work life as much as possible. Don’t bring your work projects home or answer work-related emails or calls when you are enjoying time with the family.
A balanced life is where you have your day segmented into specific blocks of time. You should take into consideration not letting work and home life mix.
Another way to lead a more balanced life is by taking up a hobby. A hobby is something that you do for the sake of doing because you enjoy it.
There are a lot of hobbies out there that you can choose from according to your wishes and personality.
Burnout has finally been acknowledged by the health governing body as a serious medical complication that is common in workplaces.
These 7 steps to regaining motivation after burnout are remedial measures.
Extra effort is needed for making lifestyle changes that can lead to better stress-coping mechanisms because ultimately burnout is a stress-related issue.
Sikandar is opinionated on a diverse set of topics that include, but are not limited to, Productivity, Health, Fitness, Motivation, and Career. He is in love with the written word and writes mainly to help others on their self-actualizing journeys. A journalist by education, getting to the bottom of things is his modus operandi. Often, he finds himself moonlighting as a life coach to his family, friends, and colleagues. He can be reached at his LinkedIn for collaboration.