Feeling Burned Out? These Tips Can Help
Strategies to Help You Recover From Burnout
Most people spend the majority of their waking time at work. If you dislike your job or feel consistently overwhelmed or hopeless about your role, you may be at risk for burnout. Burnout can take a negative toll on your physical and mental health.
We talked with Melissa Wilkes Donahue, director of the CONCERN Employee Assistance Program for Baptist Memorial Health Care, to help you understand what burnout is, why it’s dangerous and how you can get your happiness back on track.
What does burnout look like?
People who experience burnout feel exhausted on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, back pain and rashes. Many people adopt a cynical attitude about things they use to enjoy.
“People demonstrate warning signs when they are stressed to their breaking point,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Humans have a habit of trying to persevere or push through it. You may not be socializing. You may be sleeping more or less than normal. Are you irritable? Are you snapping at people? If so, you could be showing signs of burnout.”
People who experience burnout feel hopeless about their situation. Working too much, lack of supportive relationships and a high-achieving personality may contribute to burnout. A gradual process, burnout doesn’t happen overnight.
“You might feel no motivation to complete your work,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Chronic workplace stress and lack of sleep result in burnout that makes it difficult to focus on and prioritize tasks.”
Connect With Others
To combat burnout, look for ways to boost your relationships with supportive friends and family.
“Burnout is like getting your tires stuck in mud,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Sometimes you can hit the gas and release yourself, but that’s not always the case. You might need someone to pull you out. Find a friend you can trust. Talking with others can help us get more connected with ourselves.”
Wilkes Donahue recommends counseling for people dealing with burnout.
“You need one or two people you can vent to,” said Wilkes Donahue. “They will tell you the truth and help you course correct. However, sometimes those people may not be enough. It’s OK to attend counseling sessions to talk to a mental health professional.”
The CONCERN Employee Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling to employees and anyone living with that employee. CONCERN also provides on-site crisis response, conflict resolution training, workplace assistance and employee trainings.
“There’s no downside to accessing counseling as a tool to help you get through your burnout,” said Wilkes Donahue. “Counseling is your team huddle. It’s where you make a game plan to figure out how you’re going to start living—not just existing.”
Find Value at Work
Whether you feel overwhelmed at work or bored and unfulfilled, you can find the clarity and energy to eliminate burnout by reframing your perspective. Wilkes Donahue recommends looking for value as a way to change your attitude.
“Be intentional with your thoughts,” said Wilkes Donahue. “You may have had a bad day. Maybe you don’t like your job anymore. Don’t let your thoughts paint your career with a bad brush. If you can’t find a new job right now, focus on how you currently help other people at work, such as collaborating with coworkers or serving clients.”
People who experience burnout can choose to keep a gratitude journal to write down things they’re thankful for each day. A vacation or leave of absence may also help you recharge and remember the elements of your job that you enjoy.
Slow Down, Rest and Reflect
Lack of sleep worsens burnout. When you’re tired, you can’t think rationally in stressful situations. Sleep also plays a critical role in how you manage your self-care.
“When you don’t allow yourself to get enough sleep, you start each day with a deficit,” said Wilkes Donahue. “You haven’t checked your self-care box. Slow down—give yourself time to relax, catch up on sleep, meditate and reflect on what fulfills you and makes you happy.”
Consider managing your time by planning tasks. Lists make responsibilities more manageable. Give yourself time to achieve work-related goals—but don’t forget to carve out time to exercise, enjoy a meal with loved ones or read a book.
“Don’t feel guilty taking that time for yourself,” said Wilkes Donahue. “You can’t say yes to everything. Do things you want and need to do. When you do, you’ll find a sense of purpose.”
Learn more about the CONCERN Employee Assistance Program, and view the full range of mental health services for employees. Meet counseling staff by visiting the Meet Our EAP Counselors page.