career

Quitting your job isn't the answer to burnout. There's a much better solution.

If you’re hanging round the office well after everyone else has left, having nightmares about unanswered emails at 2am and can’t remember the last time you had ‘me time’ that wasn’t spent mentally going through tomorrow’s to-do list.

You’re burnt out.

You’re no longer happy and fulfilled at work, instead you’re mentally and physically exhausted to the point that you dread the next work day.

But while leaving the very job that’s causing you to feel that way may seem like the obvious solution (if you have the financial security to allow you to do so), journalist and former BuzzFeed News editor Stacy-Marie Ishmael argues that it doesn’t solve the problem at all.

On latest episode of podcast The Broad Experience while examining why women are experiencing burnout faster and younger than ever before, Ishmael recounted instances from her own career.

The lesson she’s learned from these times? Quitting won’t magically fix your burnout – and there’s something far more important you need to do first.

“I think people quit jobs for other reasons. I mean sometimes your preferences change, the country you want to live in changes, your family circumstances change – because unless you figure out how to deal with burnout as a concept, as a thing, it doesn’t matter what job you’re doing,” she said.

In most cases, it’s closer to a temporary band-aid fix that doesn’t address the underlying problem.

And while some cases of stress-related burnout might be industry specific – medicine in particular has extraordinarily high rates – the causes will likely follow you round wherever you go.

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It gets to a point that not even coffee can fix. Image: iStock

"So let’s say you work in a media industry, tech, advertising, you think that your burnout is related to your industry, sometimes that’s true, so you maybe switch job, but unless you’ve developed the coping mechanisms to identify what does it feel like to be burned out, why do I feel like this, what can I do about it? – it doesn’t matter what you are doing, it will happen to you again …unless you maybe quit and take up professional surfing."

Now Ishamel is ruthless about ensuring she doesn't get burnt out rather than waiting to deal with it once it's happened.

"So I schedule my workouts in, I make sure I see people I care about a certain number of times a week or month, I say no to a lot of stuff because I know if I say yes to too many things in a week I fall into this hole of exhaustion that makes other things harder," she says.

If it is time for a career change, you need to listen to this episode of Mamamia Outloud. 

"That is a more effective strategy both short-term and long-term, than waiting till I can’t go to work any more and then I’m like ugh, I’m done.”

However that's not to say you should stay in a job that threatens your mental and physical health.

In fact, it's that determination to stick it out and not "give up" that is causing such severe burnout in women in the first place.

"I think a lot of times what happens with my female clients is they will be on edge of burnout and feel like they can’t do anything about it because it’s self-indulgent," career and burnout coach Dana Campbell  told host Ashley Milne-Tyte.

"Or they’ll get to a place where they are burnt out and they’ve already given away their energy to everyone else, they don’t have anything left to turn around and fix themselves, or they just believe it’s wrong," (Post continues after gallery.)

Obviously quitting a job when you have nothing else lined up is a luxury not everyone can afford, just as continuing to push yourself to the point of burnout and beyond is also not advised.

But Ishamel's argument serves as an important reminder about that sits at the heart of burnout - forget everyone else for a minute and focus on yourself first.

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