You might love your work, treasure your coworkers, and feel that you are well on your way to accomplishing your professional goals. But sooner or later, you’ll encounter a staggering case of work burnout when you become so overwhelmed by your work – or numbed to it – that you no longer perform at your best in the workplace.
Work burnout affects everyone. Fortunately, you can learn how to deal with work burnout and get back to your productive self in no time with a few smart strategies.
Identify Your Stressors – Then Deal with Them
Your first step should always be to identify any specific stressors you might be feeling pressure from. Stressors can include many different things, such as:
- Unknowing or overbearing bosses and coworkers
- Family dynamics or problems
- Issues with pay, such as debts or bills (or not getting paid at work fast enough)
- Mental health struggles
- The layout or location of your desk
- And anything else you can think of
“No matter how large or small they are, you need to identify your stressors,” says David Culpepper, MD, Clinical Director of LifeMD. “That requires you to think about your feelings and stress levels in as objective a frame of mind as possible.” Write them down in a journal and determine whether you can eliminate or mitigate them in the near future.
If so, great; now you know what to do next. You should deal with those stressors by:
- Speaking to your boss or coworkers to resolve interpersonal issues
- Resolving problems at home as best you can
- Moving your desk so you can see outside the office
- Seeing a healthcare professional about mental health struggles
- And so on
“Many small stressors can build up over time and create a huge amount of stress that sneaks up on you,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB Sports. “You may not even notice that you are stressed out until someone makes a comment. Therefore, don’t assume that just because something is a minor stressor that it won’t affect your work performance, mood, or mental health.”
“Identify all the stressors you can in a practical, problem-solving mindset. Then tackle them one by one,” says Miles Beckett, CEO and Co-founder of Flossy Dental.
Of course, some stressors are more general – for example, maybe you don’t like your job very much, but you can’t afford to quit it because you have bills and you won’t be able to get a job that pays the same amount quickly.
In those cases, there are other tactics you can rely on to deal with work burnout.
For example, you can practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention to the world around you, ranging from physical stimuli to the things people say to the little details in every day that can bring small sparks of joy.
“For example, maybe you get to walk in nature or in the sunshine on your way to work,” says Sean Doherty, General Manager of Box Genie. “That’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy how the leaves look as the seasons change, or how nice the fresh air smells since you’ll spend the rest of your day in the office or in some other indoor workplace.”
Or maybe you get to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee when you reach the office. In any event, practicing mindfulness means refocusing your attention on the things that matter immediately or the things you can control.
When you practice mindfulness, you stop thinking about the sources of your anxiety or stress, and you feel calmer than usual. Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion says, “Practicing mindfulness is difficult, but it’s well worth it in the end if you learn how to use it consistently.”
Similarly, you might consider trying meditation. “Meditation, with or without yoga, is highly effective at calming the mind, relieving stress, and re-center in your thoughts for increased productivity and better mental health,” says Cesar Cruz, Co-Founder of Sebastian Cruz Couture.
Like mindfulness, meditation can be tricky to get right, especially if you’ve never tried it before. You should consider signing up for a meditation class. The instructor can help guide you through the basics of meditation, such as teaching you how to breathe, how to sit, and how to allow your thoughts to drift (which doesn’t come naturally to many people).
Meditation, when practiced regularly and at the same time each day, can help you deal with work burnout very well. You’ll go back to work feeling refreshed and calmer, and any stress you build up over the course of your day will be mitigated or eliminated thanks to your meditation sessions.
Stress Relief at Home
Work burnout can seriously impact your ability to rest or enjoy recreation. Therefore, you need to practice certain stress relief strategies at home, especially at the end of a long or stressful day.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can enjoy stress relief at home. Here are just a handful:
- Do at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. If you find yourself stressed out after work frequently, or if work burnout is getting to you, save your exercise session for after the workday. Prioritize either cardio or weightlifting or both to burn off cortisol: a well-known stress hormone that can contribute to burnout
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet with lean meats, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables will literally impact how you think and your mood. You are what you eat, so it’s no surprise that unhealthy foods contribute to even more bodily stress
- Enjoy your favorite hobby or restful activity. Carve out a little bit of time each day to watch your favorite show, play a videogame, play an instrument, or do whatever else you find to be relaxing and calming
Get Enough Sleep
There’s another way you can boost your wellness at home after a stressful workday: getting some shut-eye! Unfortunately, many Americans don’t get enough sleep. “You need to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, no matter how stressful your job might be,” says Shaunak Amin, CEO and Co-Founder of SwagMagic.
If you don’t get enough sleep:
- Prepare your bedroom for sleep ahead of time by closing the curtains and turning the temperature down
- Eliminate distractions or install a white noise machine in your bedroom if you find it difficult to go to sleep
- Don’t look at your phone or other electronic device screens for an hour before bed so the blue light they emit doesn’t prevent you from slumbering
Take Some Time Off
Don’t be afraid to take some of the PTO or paid time off you’ve accumulated! From time to time, everyone needs a vacation. “Take time off if you are in the middle of work burnout or if you think you will burn out in the near future,” says Drew Sherman, VP of Marketing at RPM Freight Systems.
Once you explain this situation to your boss, they should be more than willing to give you an opportunity to enjoy a restful vacation, either at home or somewhere else.
Speak to Your Boss
Indeed, speaking to your boss could be another great way to deal with workplace burnout. If you are really feeling stressed or can no longer concentrate at work, explain the situation to your supervisor or manager.
“Any boss worth your loyalty should understand where you are coming from and be willing to take steps to alleviate the problem,” says George Fraguio, Vice President of Bridge Lending at Vaster Capital. “For instance, if you are having an issue with a fellow coworker, speak to your boss and tell them that they are contributing to your work burnout. They should be able to reassign you or come up with some other solution.”
If your boss doesn’t help with work burnout, or if they are the source of the burnout, go to another supervisor or human resources. They can circumvent the traditional hierarchy and help you find the right solution for your needs in no time.
Consider Alternative Employment
If push comes to shove, you could look for a different place of employment. Sometimes, jobs just don’t fit. That’s okay!
But if work burnout is unavoidable, or if it recurs again and again, it could be the universe telling you that you need to find some other place to earn money or practice your profession. “Hit the job boards, go back to school, or take a certificate program. Any of these efforts could help you find employment sooner rather than later,” says Kim Walls, CEO and Co-Founder of Furtuna Skin.
If you can’t get a new job right away, practice the other strategies above to mitigate your workplace stress until you have all your professional ducks in a row. Then turn in your two-week notice and move on – you only have one life, and it’s no good to live most of it miserable at a job you can’t stand.
In the end, dealing with work burnout is a matter of identifying specific stressors, handling them, or taking steps to reduce general stress in your life. If all else fails, you can and should look for a different place of employment. Life is too short to spend most of it stressed out in the workplace!
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