Navigating burnout: Strategies for a healthier you

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Read time: 5 minutes (945 words) 

Let’s just start with the customary (and, in this case, troubling) statistic: More than 8 out of 10 employees are at risk of burnout this year.  

If you or someone you love is one of those eight (and even if not), there’s no better time than National Mental Health Awareness Month to learn more about why burnout happens, how to recognize the symptoms and what you can do to keep burnout from getting the best of you. 

How burnout happens 

Burnout can affect anyone, regardless of profession, age or lifestyle—and it’s not only caused by work, although that’s frequently the main catalyst. 

Typically, burnout is a result of prolonged exposure to stress in your work and/or personal life. A number of factors can contribute to that stress. Excessive work demands; challenges at home (e.g., caretaking pressures, financial issues); lack of social support; feeling unsupported or experiencing unfair treatment at work; and feeling like you have no control over your life—all of these can cause physical and emotional exhaustion. From there, it’s easy to slide into burnout. 

10 signs of burnout 

Life today can be stressful, even on a good day. So, how do you know when you’re in danger of moving from manageable daily stress to burnout? Here are 10 common signs to watch for: 

  1. Exhaustion—Do you feel physically and emotionally drained all the time? Are you so tired you don’t have the energy to complete your daily tasks? 

  1. Cynicism and detachment—Have you developed a negative, indifferent or cynical attitude towards your job, colleagues or personal responsibilities? 

  1. Reduced performance—Are you experiencing a decline in productivity or creativity? Is the quality of your work, both at the office and at home, slipping? 

  1. Lack of motivation—Are you losing interest in your work or daily activities? Are you struggling to find the drive to start or complete tasks—or even to get up in the morning? 

  1. Feeling overwhelmed—Do you feel unable to cope with the demands of your job or personal life? 

  1. Physical symptoms—Are you experiencing headaches, stomachaches or muscle tension related to stress? 

  1. Emotional exhaustion—Do you bounce between feeling emotionally drained and increasingly irritable, sad or anxious? 

  1. Sleep disturbances—Have you noticed changes in your sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping? 

  1. Isolation—Are you withdrawing from social interactions and reducing contact with friends, family and colleagues? 

  1. Substance abuse—Do you find yourself using alcohol, drugs or food to feel better or to make it through the day? 

If one or more of these signs persist over a period of time, you might be experiencing burnout. Consider seeking support from your primary care physician or a mental health professional, who can help you explore strategies to manage your stress and workload. 

Strategies for navigating burnout

Speaking of strategies, here are five general tactics you can use to help cope with burnout, both at work and at home: 

  1. Identify what’s causing stress—Recognize the sources of your stress and develop strategies to manage them. 

  1. Stay connected—Maintain social connections with your friends and loved ones to build a support network. 

  1. Learn to unplug—Disconnect from work emails and messages during your off hours to give yourself time to recharge. 

  1. Set realistic goals—Break tasks into manageable steps and set achievable goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed. 

  1. Seek professional help—Consider speaking to a mental health professional for guidance and support. 

Here are some additional detailed strategies to consider: 

At work 
  1. Find support—Talk to your supervisor or HR about your stress and discuss solutions. 

  1. Set clear boundaries—Prioritize your tasks each day. Learn to say no and avoid overcommitting yourself. 

  1. Take regular breaks—Short breaks throughout the day can help prevent exhaustion and improve productivity. 

  1. Delegate tasks—See if you can share responsibilities with colleagues to lighten your workload. 

  1. Adjust your work environment—Make your workspace more comfortable and inviting to enhance your mood and productivity. 

  1. Practice mindfulness—Engage in mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep-breathing exercises to stay centered. 

  1. Focus on accomplishments—Celebrate your achievements, large and small, to boost your morale. 

At home 
  1. Maintain a healthy work-life balance—Whether you work in an office or at home, establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life. 

  1. Engage in relaxing activities—Make time for hobbies or activities that relax and rejuvenate you. 

  1. Exercise regularly—Physical activity can reduce stress and improve your mood. 

  1. Prioritize sleep—Ensure you get enough rest to recover from the day’s stress. 

  1. Limit screen time—Reduce your exposure to screens before bedtime to improve sleep quality. 

  1. Communicate needs—Share your feelings and needs with family members to get support and understanding. 

  1. Practice self-care—Take time for self-care activities, like reading a book, taking a bath, going for a walk or practicing yoga. 

You can also find free resources for reducing stress and improving your well-being at sites like The Anti-Burnout Club, Psychology Today and other burnout-focused pages.  

Time to get proactive 

Remember, like any physical or emotional recovery, navigating burnout is a process. You didn’t get there in a day, and you won’t get through it in a day. It’s OK to take it one step or strategy at a time. 

The important thing is to be proactive about implementing self-care strategies, to seek out the help you need—and above all, to be patient with yourself as you work through this challenge. 

Here’s to protecting your physical and mental health, and to taking the steps that will help you enjoy life to the absolute fullest!