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What to Do When You’re Feeling Burned Out

Stress, overwork and overwhelm can make us experience burnout. If you're feeling burned out right now, here are 6 action steps you can take.

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Lady on train feeling burned out.
Abbie Bernet @Unspash

We experience burnout when we’re physically and mentally exhausted, overworked, feel tired all the time and lose our motivation and enjoyment of our work.

If you’re feeling burned out at work right now, these 6 action steps can help turn things around for you.

Have you noticed yourself feeling busier, feeling overwhelmed, being stretched further and feel more tired and exhausted than ever before?

If so, you may be experiencing burnout or be at risk of burnout.

If you’re feeling burned out at work know that you’re not alone. Gallup recently surveyed more than 7,500 full-time employees about burnout. 23 percent of those workers said they felt burned out more often than not. An additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes.

A BBC article described burnout as “having three elements: feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment from one’s job and poorer performance at work.”

Verywellmind defines burnout as “a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced professional ability.”

As a business coach specialising in working with overwhelmed entrepreneurs part of my job is to help my clients overcome burnout.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout causes people to feel exhausted, fatigued, unable to cope and overwhelmed with everything they have going on.  Burnout often happens through overwork and affects people mentally, physically and emotionally and can lead to constant stress and an ability to think or act clearly.

Being burned out can cause lack of motivation, a feeling of being disengaged, loss of self-esteem, emotional detachment and being pessimistic about your future.

Calmer details the 5 stages of burnout as “honeymoon phase, onset of stress, chronic stress, burnout and habitual burnout.”

How to get back on track when you’re feeling burned out

Here are 6 steps to take when you’re feeling burned out at work.

1. Focus on your wellbeing

People often get burned out at work when they don’t make themselves a priority.  Working longer hours, taking on more commitments and impending deadlines can make anyone feel stressed and detached.

Instead of stepping back to rejuvenate and gain more energy, people take on more and more work and responsibility.  This may be achievable in the short term.

But in the long-term it can create fatigue, feelings of being exhausted all the time and can impact your health and mindset.

When you take on too much and feel tired all the time, you lose clarity, motivation and focus, which impacts your confidence and sense of well-being.  To stop feeling exhausted all the time, be kinder to yourself and treat yourself as a priority, not second best.

Take more time to yourself and reconnect with the people that matter most. Re-visit your goals to clarify what’s most important to you.

2. Identify the causes of feeling burned out

If you’re feeling burned out at work, it’s essential to identify the things that are causing burnout before you can create an action plan to overcome it.

Identifying obstacles is always the first step in overcoming them.  Start by examining how you’re currently spending your time.  Write down how much time you’re spending in the office and on what activities.

This simple act of tracking your time will help you identify what’s working and not working.  Write down, or use time tracking software, to lay out all of your activities in 30-minute intervals.

Against each activity identify whether you love doing that work, find it ok, or hate doing it.

By doing this you’ll understand how many hours you’re actually working and whether the activities you’re doing bring you stress or energy.

This gives you the framework to explore how you can eliminate some of the work that causes you stress and more of the work that gives you energy. 

3. Minimise causes of stress at work

We all have different activities, routines or people that create stress at work.  To stop burnout, understand what your stressors or stress triggers are so you can eliminate them or reduce their influence.

Some of these stressors may be habitual patters, certain people or situations.  You may struggle with procrastination, which causes stress as you give yourself tight deadlines to work towards.

You may constantly multi-task which creates a feeling of overwhelm and having too much to do.

Your to-do list might be too long, which can cause guilt and anxiety if you haven’t completed it each day.

You may be a perfectionist spending endless hours polishing or tweaking your work to make it perfect.

Spend some time recognising what’s causing you to feel stressed so you can take action.  This may be eliminating or delegating certain activities, so you don’t feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. 

4. Improve boundaries between work and home

A great way to increase your sense of control and reduce your stress is by setting boundaries between work and home.  If you find yourself working all hours, and then bringing work home with you, it’s bound to cause some level of stress.

To reduce feeling burned out at work, set a time to unplug from work so you can rejuvenate and have more time with family and friends.  This may include finishing work early on some days or committing to not working from home a few nights each week.

You might choose to turn off email notifications when you get home or stay away from anything business related a few evenings a week.

The key is to leave work both physically and mentally so you can rejuvenate and recharge yourself and stop feeling burned out.

5. Improve your time management skills

The first thing you may notice if you feel burned out is being tired all the time.  This feeling of exhaustion may come from working longer hours, not taking any breaks, or constantly switching between tasks.

A key component that leads to burnout is how you spend your time.  Avoiding burnout starts with taking control of, and actively managing your time.  Rather than working harder, start working smarter.

Spend more time working on your most important and less time on activities that could be done by someone else.

Take more time away from work to rejuvenate.  Schedule free time away from work.

If you haven’t had a vacation for a long time, take a vacation and fully unplug.   

6. Improve your sleep

Lack of sleep or reduced sleep quality can cause mental fatigue that contributes towards feeling burned out at work.

If you find yourself feeling exhausted or tired all the time, make a commitment to improve your sleep quality.  Getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night will help you get more energy back and help you feel more motivated and productive.

If you are struggling to get that amount of sleep each night, try going to bed an hour earlier or get up an hour later. 

Summing Up

When you’re feeling burned out at work it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.

Use these 6 tips to help you overcome burnout, reduce stress and regain your balance.

This article was originally published on the Lucemi Consulting blog.

About the Author

Mark Pettit is a strategic business coach and the Founder of business coaching company Lucemi Consulting.

Want to free up more of your time? Get exclusive articles, tips and tools by signing up to the Time For What Matters newsletter.

Read also: Overwhelmed at work? 10 strategies to beat stress

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