10 Tips For Beating Burnout At Work

If you’ve ever felt stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed in your professional life, you’re not alone. Burnout at work is a common experience, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of industry, role, or profession. When you’re in a state of burnout, it can feel like you’re running on a never-ending hamster wheel that you can’t escape, no matter how well you manage your time and resources. Between demanding projects, back-to-back meetings, and endless emails, beating burnout at work can feel impossible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as a condition induced by “chronic workplace stress.” You may feel a combination of exhaustion, cynicism toward your job, and even “reduced professional efficacy,” according to WHO — meaning, your performance and engagement at work start to decline. Do you feel like every task is overwhelming? Or that you’d rather quit your job altogether than tackle your infinite to-do list? Maybe it’s been hard to focus recently, or your work no longer feels interesting like it once did. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected from your coworkers — or even a little bitter and resentful toward your managers. If so, it may be a sign that burnout is rearing its ugly head.

Burnout certainly isn’t fun, but there is hope. (And no, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job to feel better — although recent movements like “The Great Resignation” have reminded us that you totally can, and there’s more to life than work!) Managing burnout starts with going back to the basics. So if stress is getting the best of you lately, here are ten practical tips for beating burnout at work.

Pay attention to your body.

When you’re in a state of burnout, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of pushing your body to its max limit. If you’re reading this, chances are, your body has already gone overboard — perhaps multiple times. Yikes! Often, your body sends clear cues that it needs rest and rejuvenation, and it’s our job to listen to those signals.

When was the last time you checked in with yourself? If you haven’t already, take a moment now and notice how you’re feeling physically. Are you holding tension anywhere? Relax the shoulders and take a deep breath. If you need a screen break, close your eyes for 60 seconds or go for a walk outside. Stretch if you’re feeling tense or sore. If you can’t stop yawning today, maybe it’s a signal to skip happy hour with your coworkers and go to bed early tonight. Simply listening to your body’s signals and responding accordingly can be a powerful practice.

Set clear boundaries.

When dealing with burnout, boundary-setting is crucial. This week, challenge yourself to not take work home with you. If you need to vent to your partner about your long day during dinner, by all means — but then, set your phone on “do not disturb” and enjoy quality time without your boss pinging you. Boundaries can be set at work, too — block out time on your schedule when you need to, and don’t be afraid to set an “away” message when you need time to focus and get serious work done. It can feel taboo at first, but setting clear boundaries will help you personally and professionally. Plus, it’ll increase the sustainability of your workload in the long run.

Take your lunch break.

Speaking of boundaries, please take your lunch break! Yes…step away from your computer, grab lunch somewhere, or pack lunch and eat in the park. It’s super common for folks to work through their lunch break. Have you ever thought to yourself, Just a few more minutes…I can totally eat while I work on XYZ! Sure, you might feel productive in the moment, but taking a break and nourishing yourself is key for establishing (and maintaining) mental clarity.

Carve out time for breaks during the workday.

Similar to taking your lunch break, make time for intentional breaks throughout the work day. Set an alarm to do a lap around the office, or put in your headphones and listen to a song. Take a bathroom break. Grab some coffee or tea. Burnout often causes brain fog which can make it incredibly difficult to focus, so make sure you’re giving yourself time to “check out” from work. It’ll do wonders for your mental and emotional health, and a little goes a long way!

Have a chat with your manager.

Sometimes, the underlying reason for burnout is actually your workload. We’re often told that the more we pile on our plates, the more we’ll seem adaptable and successful in the workplace. “No job is too small,” right? Chances are, if you tend to say “yes” to everything, you’ve felt it backfire once or twice. While it’s great to volunteer for projects at work and say “yes” to things that excite you, if your workload is too heavy right now, you’re at high risk of burning out — and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although it can seem intimidating, don’t be afraid to talk to your manager. Check in about your bandwidth, and don’t be afraid to say that you need more hands on deck, or that in order for you to realistically complete a project, the timeline will need to be extended. Honor your energy and your workload, and your body (and manager!) will thank you for it.

Ask for help.

Being ambitious at work is a good thing, but sometimes, we owe it to ourselves to ask for help. No matter how much of a go-getter you are, we all need a hand sometimes, so know that there’s no shame in asking. That said, it’s totally normal to feel uncomfortable about asking for support in a professional setting — you may be worried that others will judge you, or that your boss will think you “can’t handle it.” Usually, though, others don’t even realize how much you have on your plate. If you’re feeling burned out, it could be a wake-up call to check in with your priorities, delegate a few tasks, or have a colleague step in for support.

Make time to disconnect.

If you’ve ever experienced burnout, it can feel impossible to disconnect from work in general. Maybe Slack is constantly going off on your phone, or your smartwatch starts buzzing with emails when you’re simply trying to enjoy movie night with the kids. Whether it’s setting an alarm to sign off each day, going on “do not disturb” mode, leaving your phone in another room, or even scheduling a screen “lock” or passcode for yourself, try to disconnect from work-related tech as much as you can. Your ability to disconnect will depend on your industry (i.e., your situation may look different if you work in a hospital, for instance), but usually, many emails and work tasks aren’t the emergencies we make them out to be. Rest your eyes from blue light, spend time in nature, spend time with people you love, and make sure you’re balancing work with other non-work-related activities.

Cultivate hobbies outside of work.

In the spirit of disconnecting, remember to carve out time for non-work hobbies! Whether it’s sports, singing, painting, gardening, going to a fitness class, baking cookies with friends, or otherwise, research shows that engaging in things you love can boost your long-term psychological health and well-being. If you’re burned out, you may feel like your energy is totally depleted (or like there’s no time for fun). However, sprinkling hobbies throughout your weekly schedule can actually help boost your energy and ultimately make you happier — even if work itself feels stressful.

Lean on your support system.

Community is everything, especially if you’re going through something challenging like burnout. Remember that we’re not meant to exist in isolation from each other. People need other people! The next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, lean on your support system, whether it’s a mentor at work, your parents, friends, or even a coach, counselor, or therapist. You are not alone in your experience, and seeking help and support is crucial in the healing process.

Treat yourself.

Why wait until the weekend to reward yourself after a long work week? If you’re struggling with burnout, find little ways to treat yourself during the work week. Whether it’s getting a massage, booking a spa treatment, or snagging tickets to a concert you’ve always dreamed of attending, remember that there’s more to life than work, and you deserve to enjoy it!

Burnout can feel insurmountable, but with these tangible tips, you’ll be on your way to a better work-life balance and a deeper sense of long-term well-being.

Tianna Soto is a keynote speaker, journalist, and mental health educator with a Masters in Clinical & Counseling Psychology. To learn more about her speaking programs and offerings, visit https://evergreenspeakers.com/speaker/tianna-soto/