Burnout hurts. It not only hurts the employee, but also the employer. You are exhausted, overwhelmed and cynical. It is the complete opposite end of the spectrum from employee engagement. Burnout happens when the demand of your job outweighs the resources you are given. This can be caused by a heavy workload, intense pressure and unclear expectations.

Research shows that burnout has 3 dimensions:

  1. Emotional exhaustion – you feel used up, emotionally and physically, to the point of lack of concentration, you’re easily upset or angered and will tend to get sick more often. 
  2. Depersonalization – when you feel alienated from or cynicism towards the people you have to work with. 
  3. Reduced personal accomplishment – your belief in yourself is compromised – capacity to perform is limited; unfortunately, this is often misinterpreted as an uncooperative low performer.

The cost of burnout is severe. It can lead to depression, anxiety, increased drug or alcohol use, marital or family conflict and diminished career prospects.  Overall, you suffer from a serious lack of motivation. If you find that you’re counting down the days until Friday on every commute it is time to take action.  

Some signs that you are getting burnout at work include:

  • You feel depleted when leaving the office
  • You begin to disregard how you treat coworkers and/or customers
  • You explain how your day was with “fine” or “okay”
  • You dread every Monday morning
  • You have inconsistent sleeping patterns
  • You rarely feel like you are progressing
  • You frequently fantasize about quitting your job

Luckily, you do not have to fall victim to these signs and let burnout control your life. You can recover from this deep hole. It may be a slow process, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The first step to combating burnout is to acknowledge that you’re experiencing it. To continue healing, you can:

Reduce interactions with job stressors

Take a few moments to reflect on what is creating the most stress in your job and create a plan on how to reduce the amount of time spent on these stressors. If you find there are certain people who cause issues, limit how much time you interact with them. If you find it’s a specific task that overwhelms you, then strategize a way to transition that project to another team member or ask for assistance in tackling it. It is important to acknowledge that there are some things in your job that you won’t be able to change. With those, you need to create a mental strategy on how you are going to overcome these challenges without sacrificing your mental or physical well being. There is no job that is worth your health, your sanity or your soul.

Leave your work… at work

This is a common struggle for many working Americans. People do not end their workdays at 5pm. Instead, they work late or bring their work home every night, which is no surprise why 25% of workers view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives (American Institute of Stress). In order to combat burnout, you need to commit to disconnecting from work at night and on the weekends. Only make yourself available at certain times in order to not become consumed by your work outside of traditional working hours. Set specific times to check your email and return missed calls. Here is your challenge: if you take a day off, truly take it off. Unplug from work and make sure it’s well-known in your company that you will be unreachable. Then, list the person who they can contact instead. You will be glad you did this.

Take relaxation seriously

Ask yourself these questions: what relaxes me and what makes me happy. Really think about what you enjoy and what brings quality to your life. Now take those answers and incorporate these activities into your daily routine. Maybe you decide to take up yoga, read more books, go on more walks or take up a new hobby. Whatever it is, make it something to look forward to in your day. Make sure you designate a certain time for relaxation every day and stick to it. If you need to add a 30 minute relaxation time block into your calendar, then so be it!

Lean on your support system

As tempting as it is to withdraw from others, challenge yourself to reach out to your special people. This is the time when you really need your support system. Open up to them about your struggles, internalizing your emotions isn’t healthy. These conversations do not have to turn into a pity party! They are intended as an opportunity to receive good advice from those who may have experience in a similar situation. Always remember: opening up about your burnout does not make you a burden to others.

Practice positive thinking

As part of human nature, it is easy to overanalyze the negatives that life throws at you. You sit and stew over what bad things have happened for minutes, hours or even days. In order to combat burnout, keep the negative thoughts out. You can’t dwell on the failures of life. Instead, adopt the mantra that no one is perfect and you simply cannot succeed at everything. Reward yourself for successes and build your confidence with positive thinking. Celebrating accomplishments, large and small, can help you rediscover joy and meaning in your work and personal life. Take it one step further by thinking about something you’re thankful for when you wake up and then think of one good thing that happened that day before you go to bed. Once you change your mindset, you can create change in other aspects of your life.

As a last resort, establish your breaking point

Maybe you have tried all the ways to overcome burnout at work but nothing has changed. You still feel unmotivated and miserable. For many, this is the point where you need to reassess if your current company or position is the right fit for you. It may be time to look for another opportunity. It’s okay to admit to yourself that there could be a better job out there at a different company. According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 16% of U.S. employees would consider leaving their current organization for a new job where the level of workplace stress would be manageable. If it is the end of your time at your current company, begin to build an exit strategy. It is much easier to find a job when you’re already working. Then as you begin to job search again, you can organize your current job responsibilities to begin a transition out.

There’s nothing to feel ashamed about if you’re experiencing any of these signs of burnout. More than half of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time. When you feel the burnout stress beginning to rise, watch any of these 11 TED Talks and remember… it gets better.


By: Rebecca Clausen