What Is Workplace Burnout And How Do You Manage It?

Most of us have experienced burnout at work at one time or another.  At its worst, it can make you dread the very job you once loved.

In fact, that seems to be the absolute worst symptom of burnout—it begins to turn you into someone you don’t recognize.  The job you used to love, you now hate.  Suddenly you are snapping at people you actually love and respect.  You are so tired that you can’t remember basic things.

It can be downright scary to feel like you are turning into a different person, or, even worse, that you are out of control.  Fortunately, more and more is being written about burnout and what you can do about it.

Many people deal with, and successfully manage, work-related stress—it is part of the job. Workplace burnout is something more extreme. These are some of the symptoms people describe when they are dealing with burnout at work:

  • Feeling emotionally drained
  • A vague sense of being mentally unwell
  • No enthusiasm or motivation to get work done
  • Feeling ineffective at their job
  • Frustration and/or cynicism
  • A drop in job performance
  • Irritability and anger towards work and colleagues
  • Feeling alienated from coworkers
  • Exhaustion

The ICD-10, the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Disease, succinctly defines burnout as “a vital state of exhaustion.”  Under the ICD-11, not yet fully adopted, burnout has three symptoms: feeling exhausted; an increased mental disconnect from work, or feeling negative or cynical about it; and reduced effectiveness on the job.    

It’s no surprise many people have experienced burnout at work.  We live in an achievement-oriented culture that praises us for doing more and keeps us connected to our gadgets.  It can also feel impossible to carve out time for the things that help you cope with work stress, which can eventually lead to burnout.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to manage work stress and burnout.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Connect with a friend or mentor – Many people consider this the best thing to do. Burnout, like depression, can get worse when we isolate ourselves from our friends or colleagues.  Getting support from a loved one reminds us we aren’t alone, can get us out of our heads, and gives us perspective.
  • Breathing exercises – Science proves breathing can help calm you down.  Close your eyes and follow the sensation of each inhale and exhale. Or inhale for three counts, and exhale for five counts.  Doing this for even a few minutes can help you reset.
  • Take short breaks – After working for a chunk of time, commit to a short break. Walking around the office, going outside, or breaking for a glass of water is something that can help you get through your work day.
  • Set boundaries – This can be difficult, but consider what you can say “no” to at work.  Start with something small if the task seems daunting.  Also consider what you want to say “yes” to when your no’s create space for something different.
  • Find a hobby that gets you in the “zone” – Hobbies that require focused attention can be a great break from thinking about work.  Running, gardening, sports—and anything else where you feel absorbed by the task—are good options.
  • Take time to pause and reflect – Burnout is a sign that something is off balance.   Sometimes you can relieve burnout by making changes without leaving your job. In other cases, burnout can be a sign that your work is not in alignment with who you are and where you want to go in life. It can be helpful to think about what strategies will truly bring you back into a sense of balance and wholeness.

Do you have signs of workplace burnout and want to talk?  Contact me today so I can help you turn things around.