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Burnt out at work? Here’s how to deal with job burnout

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7 mins

We live in a time of great stress in the workplace. We are putting in longer hours, constantly being given more responsibility, and taking less personal time off than ever before. When this takes a toll on both your professional and personal life and you can’t effectively perform your roles, it’s commonly referred to as job burnout.

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is work-related stress that manifests itself physically and emotionally. Physical symptoms can include a change of appetite, disruption of sleep patterns, and memory impairment. Emotional symptoms can include overwhelming sadness (depression), feelings of despair, and emotional detachment. The quantity of work produced is diminished and the quality of work suffers. Job burnout is real and people are hurting because of it.

Job burnout statistics

The prevalence of job burnout in America is growing. According to a marketplace survey on burnout by Deloitte, 77% of professionals surveyed have experienced burnout in their current job. The biggest drivers of employee burnout cited by Deloitte were lack of support or recognition from leadership, unrealistic deadlines or results expectations, and consistently working long hours or on weekends.

In a similar study conducted by Gallup, of 7,500 full-time employees surveyed, 23% of workers said they felt burnt out more often than not. An additional 44% reported feeling burnt out sometimes. These numbers signify that two-thirds of workers are actively dealing with burnout at their jobs.

Signs of job burnout

Have you ever sat down at your desk in the morning and were unable to get started working because you felt completely overwhelmed? Was that preceded by a sense of dread and fear about going to work when you woke up and were driving to the office? Did you feel hopeless? If so, you may very well be suffering from job burnout.

You may feel like you are suffering from burnout at work. How can you know for sure? Here are five signs that indicate you are in fact a victim of job burnout.

1. No excitement over work anymore

The enthusiasm you once felt for your job and what it entailed is gone. It has been replaced by feelings of ambivalence or distress.

2. Effort is lacking

You don’t have it within you to give it your all like you once did. You know you no longer care; you just can’t do anything about it.

3. Performance levels are suffering

You notice it. Management notices it. But you’re caught in a downward spiral and you just can’t muster up the energy to do something about it. And it’s getting worse.

4. You are exhausted

You never feel like you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you feel like you’re going to fall asleep when you’re driving to work, and you can hardly keep your eyes open at your workspace. You are running on fumes and can’t escape the feeling of heaviness you carry with you all of the time.

5. You’re ailing physically

You’re continually popping aspirin for headaches, you’re catching more colds, you have experienced chest pain; even your intestines are in an uproar.

Dealing with burnout

Here are five things you can do to recover from burnout at work or prevent yourself from becoming another statistic of those afflicted with it.

1. Enjoy some time-off

In 2018, 55% of American workers reported that they did not use all of their paid vacation time. When you’re putting in 10-12 hour days and not turning your mind off at night, something’s going to give sooner or later.

Taking a break to rest and getting away for a long weekend may be just what the doctor ordered. You’ll come back rested and refreshed and you’ll have a better perspective on things. Just don’t wait too long in between rest periods. You don’t want to get to the breaking point before you use some of your well-deserved vacation days.

2. Talk it out

Sometimes we just need to vent. Ideally, have it be someone outside of work for confidentiality reasons. You don’t want things you said out of frustration getting back to your manager, nor do you want to bring your co-workers down. Close friends or family members are often very understanding and can lend you a caring ear.

Don’t be afraid to visit with a professional counselor. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers free short-term counseling. If you need to continue with counseling sessions to work things out, your major medical plan very likely has benefits for that.

3. Get physical

Cardiovascular exercise has been found to increase well-being and decrease psychological distress and emotional exhaustion. It’s a great stress reliever and can help you deal with existing burnout or prevent you from getting to the point of having it.

Feel like you just don’t have enough time to fit a workout into your schedule? How about taking a brisk walk around your office building or the surrounding area? 15-30 minutes of walking will alleviate tension you’ve built up and give you the energy to face and conquer the tasks waiting for you when you get back to the office.

Walk with a co-worker if you can. Try not to talk about work, just enjoy having someone being with you while you speak positively about your day. You can talk about what you did the night before, or are going to do that evening. Don’t go through life alone. Spending time with friends can be relaxing, comforting, and stress relieving.

4. Have a talk with the boss

There’s a good possibility if you’re struggling with burnout, or are on the verge of it, that your manager knows it already. Often times the quality and timeliness of our work isn’t up to par, and our countenance is a dead giveaway that we’re not feeling our best.

A good manager will take the time to talk with you about what may be causing your feelings of distress and can come up with some remedies to get you back to normal. He/she can offer suggestions like:

  • Use some vacation days to get away and get refreshed
  • Take a spa day and get a good massage
  • Work a four-day week for the next four weeks and enjoy some three-day weekends

5. Rest up

When we’re at the point of physical and mental exhaustion we don’t think right and we make poor decisions. This only leads to more poor decisions and a worsening work-life balance, which can easily lead to job burnout.

Get a good eight hours sleep each night. Burning the midnight oil and getting into the office early will take its toll over time. When you’re rested, you’re in a better place to take on the day and the quality of your work is what you want it to be. Getting a nap in on the weekend is also a big help and a well-deserved indulgence.

Bottom line

Life is too short to wear yourself down to the point of having job burnout. Be good to yourself to recover from it, or prevent it. By doing these five things you can feel good and produce excellent results at the same time.

Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published April 13, 2020
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