There’s work-related stress, and then there’s burnout, which affects your professional life and can severely impact your health and well-being. Burnout is a physically and mentally draining work side effect that results in lower productivity, performance, and willingness to work.
Given the 2020 pandemic and work-from-home situation, the signs of burnout are more visible than ever. An Indeed report stated that over 52% of employees feel burned out compared to 43% during pre-pandemic times.
Burnout can happen from both ends — a company burdening its employees with tight deadlines and pressure-building responsibilities, or an employee or freelancer burning themselves out because of less bandwidth but more work.
While it’s not always possible to avoid work and leave your job or freelance business, you can make efforts to identify symptoms, implement proven strategies for dealing with burnout, and draw boundaries at work to prevent it.
That’s precisely what we’ll talk about in this guide, so you can pave your way towards a healthier work environment, where you don’t feel exhausted and burdened but instead creative and energized.
For organizations, taking up strategies mentioned in the guide is the best way to manage your employees, prevent burnout, and ensure their work contributes to both company and employee growth.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
The Symptoms of Burnout
Before you start implementing methods for dealing with burnout, you need to understand the signs that point towards it. Often, it’s easy to overlook these red flags and continue working. However, it’s essential to understand them and take action.
Here are signs that indicate burnout but are often missed:
- Not feeling motivated about your professional goals anymore.
- Feeling frustrated with co-workers or work in general.
- Emotional exhaustion and cloudy decision making
- Lack of energy while working or extremely low productivity.
- Using drugs or alcohol after work to get over the “stress.”
- Change in sleep habits and loss of appetite.
- Unexplained joint pains, headaches, or other physical health issues
If you found yourself nodding or thinking of even one of these points as close to what you’re feeling right now, consider talking to a health professional or psychologist who can help you understand how you’re feeling.
Remember, burnout can significantly impact your personal and professional life. And the only way to get over it is to take action.
5 Strategies To Recover From and Fix Burnout
Since burnout only worsens with time, the best way to address it is by taking up measures to recover from it. Here are five strategies to begin with:
1. Find the Source and Examine Your Options
Simply knowing your work is causing burnout is not enough to understand what changes you should make. You need to find the root causes of this burnout to create an action plan and examine what you can do to fix it.
Here are some causes of burnout:
- Overarching responsibilities and heavy workload.
- A stressful environment at home causing pressure and worry.
- Having a rigorous schedule at work.
- Inability to perform well at work or continual poor performance.
- Lack of resources or poor financial condition
Once you understand the source of your burnout through self-diagnosis or a mental health practitioner, you can start evaluating your options to curb it.
The idea should be to find a collaborative solution that puts an end to your burnout, gives you some time to recover, and offers a smooth transition from a stressful environment to a relaxed one.
2. Engage in a Relaxing Activity
Burnout leads to a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be released. Taking up activities that relax and make you feel at ease can be a great timeout.
This can be as small as getting enough sleep at night or doing some self-care activities and practicing mindfulness at home regularly. Or, you can go as big as taking a vacation with friends or family.
Try to be with people, so you don’t start thinking about your work again and can truly relax.
You can also try doing physical activities like working out, karate, jogging, or soccer, which will help channel your bottled frustration and aggression. Exercise is also good for increasing your heartbeat, which releases dopamine — the feel-good hormone.
This can significantly help you in dealing with burnout and anxiety, giving you a happy high and an energized feeling.
With continued burnout, you could have emotional outbursts and breakdowns, which can worsen burnout and lead to guilt, anxiety, chronic stress, or even depression.
3. Vent to Someone You Trust
The best way to release pent-up feelings is to have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone you trust. This can be a loved one, family member, co-worker, or professional who cares about your health and well-being and wants you to be happy.
Discuss your problems with them, and talk about your work and feelings. You don’t necessarily need to speak to someone who will give you solutions for your issues or critique what you’re feeling — you just need someone who will listen to you and offer a shoulder to lean on.
After talking about your feelings, you will likely feel lighter and relieved, empowering you to manage your stress levels and make smart decisions.
4. Draw Boundaries and Regain Control
When you become a “yes” person and find it difficult to say “no” to things that drain your energy, you experience burnout.
Setting boundaries in your work, personal, and social life can help you allocate energy properly without overcommitting. Often, you don’t have the option to say “no” to responsibilities or tasks at work, but you can always negotiate or discuss timelines or processes, so you don’t stress yourself out in the process.
Similarly, you need to set limits on how you interact and engage with people. Saying yes to go to a party when you’ve had a taxing day can cause burnout, and so can agreeing to do an additional task after work because your boss asked you to.
Rather than saying yes to something, which requires extra commitment and disturbs the equilibrium of your mental or physical space, take a moment and assess what you’re signing up for. Then decide if you should agree to it or give an unapologetic “no.”
It’s not selfish or lazy to prioritize your mental health or well-being. Allocate your energy to things that require immediate attention — if it can be delayed, or is not important, feel free to reject it and not feel guilty.
5. Seek Help From a Professional
Job burnout can happen at different intensities, but once it takes over your personal life, it’s better to get help from a professional.
There’s still a lot of stigma around seeking help and talking to someone who can guide you and your feelings better. However, remember only you can help yourself, and unless you figure out ways of dealing with burnout and its consequences, it’ll keep affecting your life.
How To Prevent Workplace Burnout
Workers can handle burnout using the strategies mentioned above, but since the organization and co-workers also significantly contribute to it, there’s a need to address it in the workplace.
Here are a few ways to ensure burnout doesn’t enter the workplace:
- Create flexible schedules with enough turnaround time for tasks, especially while working from home, so that employees can accommodate distractions. Many organizations started following the four-day workweek concept during the pandemic to give employees enough time to rest and rejuvenate.
- Organize frequent virtual water cooler conversation opportunities or online meetups to encourage small talk and cool off.
- Give more paid leave and encourage employees to take some time off every month.
- Conduct frequent sessions or conversations on the importance of work-life balance and stick to work hours so employees can enjoy their time off.
- Keep an in-house therapist if employees want to seek help regarding any work-related or personal aspect that’s troubling them. This can significantly enhance employee well-being.
Final Thoughts: Dealing With Burnout + 5 Strategies To Manage It
Burnout should not be taken lightly. Instead, you should actively look out for and identify early signs so you can work towards eradicating them in the initial stages.
Even after you’ve taken proper measures to overcome burnout, you might still feel the same. This can happen because the job is over-demanding or your work culture is toxic. In this case, consider looking for alternate employment.
Remember, it’s not worth straining your mental and physical health over a job that doesn’t reward or appreciate your work. Instead, work on yourself and apply to an organization that gives sufficient attention to work-life balance and mental health.