For young, skilled and ambitious western professionals seeking to launch their careers, China is a great destination for getting unique experiences and practical training. Working in China allows you to build your career quickly by taking greater responsibility sooner and gaining more experience faster which you can afterward leverage to attain a more fulfilling and high-compensating career. However, China will also expose you to some of the longest working hours that can push you to break point. According to a 2014 report by Beijing Normal University, you are likely to put in 2000-2200 hours per year in China compared to 1677 hours a year in the UK and 1400-1500 hours per year in most western countries. Hence, as a young professional from a country with shorter working hours, it is highly likely that you will experience fatigue at work in China. Below is a look at ways of preventing burnout signs symptoms causes and coping strategies.

Why Are Burnouts Common among Foreigners Working in China

Foreigners are hit hard by the long working hours in China. As a worker, you are expected to work for as long as it takes to get projects completed, often without pay for overtime or any other form of compensation. The strain imposed on you by too many responsibilities and a stressful work environment will quickly make you feel overworked and undervalued, resulting in fatigue. The most common causes of work-related burnouts in China include unclear and overly demanding job expectations, lack of rewards or recognition for good work, no or little control over your job, and working routinely in high-pressure environments. Foreigners may also suffer from burnouts as a result of working too much without time for socializing, relaxing, inadequate sleep, lack of supportive relationships, too many responsibilities without proper help from others, perfectionist tendencies, and the expectation that comes with being many things to many people.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fatigue?

Typically, burnout develops gradually over an extended period. It does not occur overnight, but will overwhelm you at some point if you are not paying attention to the warning signs. In fact, the signs and symptoms of burnout are usually subtle at first, but become worse and worse with time making it difficult to complete routine tasks. The physical signs and symptoms of burnout include feeling drained and tired most of the time, frequent back pain, muscle aches, and headaches, change in sleep habits or appetite, and diminished immunity (feeling sick often).
Emotionally, burnout is characterized by loss of motivation, self-doubt, nagging sense of failure, increasingly negative and cynical outlook, decreased accomplishment and satisfaction, feeling trapped, defeated and helpless, and feeling detached and alone in the world. Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout include procrastinating (taking longer to complete tasks), withdrawing from duties and responsibilities, venting your frustrations on other people, coming late to work, leaving early or skipping work, using drugs and alcohol to cope, and isolating yourself from others. Paying attention to these signs and symptoms can help you to address underlying problems and in avoiding burnout at work.

How Should You Prevent Burnout?

Almost every person has those days when they feel drained, tired, sleepless and less motivated to go to work. But if you are experiencing this every week, then you have to realize that you are close to a major breakdown. Burnout is dangerous because it will not just reduce your competence and productivity at work, but will also contribute to depression, insomnia, high cholesterol, alcohol abuse and a host of health problems. Here are ways of avoiding burnout at work.

Begin each day with a relaxing ritual: Thinking of how to overcome burnout at work? Then, instead of just jumping out of bed and rushing out to work as soon as you wake up, spend some 10-15 minutes engaging in a task that can help you relax. Try meditating for 15 minutes, writing a journal, reading a book that inspires you, or doing gentle exercises. Use these strategies to prevent burnout and you will quickly overcome.

Deal with the underlying problem: If you can identify the cause of your exhaustion, try fixing this. Discuss these issues with your supervisor to change expectations, find solutions or reach a compromise. Scheduling a meeting with your boss to go through your routine tasks can help to reduce the burden of the assignments and prevent burnout.

Take a break from technology when you are working: Trying to engage in too many things at once can sap your momentum. Often, foreigners working in China think they can be on their laptops, phones, social media and emails while working. Unfortunately, this interrupts their productive time and makes them take too long to complete simple tasks. Therefore, to reduce unnecessary pressure at work, you must not let distractions from the internet or technology gadgets get you off your project. They can lead to more stress if you can’t complete your job in time.

Adopt healthy exercising, eating and sleeping habits: Eating right, exercising well and getting plenty of sound sleep will give you the resilience and energy you need to deal with the demands and hassles of working in China. You should also engage in some creative activities to prevent an impending burnout. For example, starting something new, resuming a favorite hobby or starting a fun project can keep you fresh and energized. However, you should only choose creative activities that are not related to your work.

Pat yourself on the back and learn to manage stress: One trait of burnout is feeling devastatingly cynical of your achievements. But if you take some time to recognize the effort you are putting in at work; you will overcome this feeling. Each day, take a few minutes to list down the things you accomplished at work and those you wish to accomplish the next day. This way, you can motivate yourself and stay away from burnout even if no one else appreciates you. Likewise, you should learn to manage your stress to regain your balance each time you feel overwhelmed by stress. Remember, unmitigated stress can lead to burnout.

Set boundaries: Never overstretch yourself. Learn to say “no” to any requests that encroach on your free time. Doing this will free up more time for you every day and allow you to engage in things you love to do. Similarly, you should know when to quit. You could be getting burnout because you are in the wrong job or have outgrown your current job and see no chance of moving up. Therefore, when feeling burnout, assess whether it is time to quit and build an exit strategy from the current job. Remember, it is easier to find a job in China when you are already working than when unemployed. So begin searching for your next job while still on board to avoid quitting in frustration.

Burnout at work is a cause of emotional and physical damage to young foreigners operating in China. Long working hours and inadequate legal protection, China has several work-related issues that can cause burnout in workers. However, many foreigners have learned to use various strategies to prevent burnout and have managed to have successful careers in China. Looking for ways of avoiding burnout at work in China? Start by recognizing the warning signals and then follow the tips provided above to prevent burnout. Remember, avoiding burnout will make your life and work in China rewarding and fulfilling.