Overcoming burnout might seem impossible but these 5 tips will help you see the big picture.

By: Kennedy Kao

We have all heard of burnout before, but it’s easy to ignore it when it happens to us. Even with mental health support being prioritized in modern-day workplaces, there is the persistent feeling that if we work harder, we can overcome our distress. Unfortunately, this invariably adds more weight to the situation.

It can be hard to recognize burnout as its symptoms are similar to other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. While it is commonly thought that burnout is linked to depression and anxiety, it has been shown that burnout is its own construct. It is also complicated to differentiate burnout from ordinary, everyday stress. Therefore, identifying signs of burnout is necessary to distinguish it from other clinical conditions and our regular afflictions.

Signs of work burnout include: 

  • Forgetfulness 
  • Lack of motivation to get work done
  • Irritability, especially towards co-workers
  • Unexplained muscle soreness, pain, and fatigue
  • Increased alcohol or drug use. 
  • Insomnia 

There are ways to practice a better work-life balance if we work smarter and not harder. Here are 5 tips to help guide you through burnout.

1. Admit You Have Burnout

The most difficult part of overcoming burnout is admitting you have it in the first place. We can usually sense that we are stressed, but as mentioned, it is easier to ignore our afflictions and “grind it out.” Remind yourself that putting your head down and ignoring your problems will not help in the long run. It helps to speak it into existence: telling someone you are burnt out can bait you to take your situation seriously. 

Monique Valcour writes about three components that makeup burnout: Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Inefficacy. If you are experiencing these three symptoms, it is okay to admit you need assistance or even a change in lifestyle. Be serious about your admission; don’t play it off as a joke or something you’ll fix later. 

2. Find the Root Cause of Your Burnout

Think about the three categories of Exhaustion, Cynicism, and Inefficacy. Where do you feel your stress is located? If it’s exhaustion, then limiting your workload should be your number one priority. If it’s cynicism, then perhaps engaging with more positive-minded people is the best way to proceed. 

Give yourself time to analyze your situation. Truthfully evaluate what is bothersome and your priorities. It helps to put your thoughts on paper or to talk things out with a friend. 

3. Set and Accept Boundaries

We tend to think we can do everything at once. Again, this is where honesty comes into play. It’s unrealistic to manage everything by yourself—so reach out to people for assistance! Practice delegating tasks and offloading the heavy load you’ve been carrying. 

If you have been assigned too many tasks, and delegation isn’t a choice, be honest with your management team. Explain your situation and that your mental health is at risk. If your mental health isn’t being properly considered, don’t be afraid to consider bigger moves. There might be another job opportunity waiting in the wings for you—one that is less stressful. 

Be open to change— it is only through change that we can overcome burnout. 

4. Start with the Basics

Sleep. Exercise. Healthy diet. Hydration. Think like a caveman here. When burnout symptoms pop up, we have to revert to the basics. A healthy foundation is crucial to tackling life’s difficult challenges. This is especially the case when experiencing burnout; rest and relaxation are tools for recovery!

Some ways to incorporate healthy living habits in your work environment are: 

  • Taking more scheduled breaks
  • Scheduling group exercise activities
  • Allowing sunlight in your workspace
  • Prioritizing deep breathing and meditation exercises
  • Eating healthier snacks 
  • Listening to music while working

5. Seek Support

Open up to people. Think of who you can trust and talk about your feelings. If you need professional guidance, seek a therapist. A therapist can help you identify the root causes of your burnout and devise strategies to navigate through your problems. . 

While it can be easy to withdraw from people when stressed, it’s important to lean on your support system. Hanging out with friends and family can remind you of the simplicities in life and how good it feels to have a little fun once in a while. So call up a friend and ask if they want to grab a coffee, for old times’ sake!

Overcoming Burnout is Tough—but Doable! 

There’s a lot of work involved when confronting burnout. But burnout can be managed, and these 5 ways to overcome burnout can help you get closer to your optimal work-life balance. We all need to work, but we must do our best to make it a rewarding and positive experience. 

Good luck and remember: your mental health is a priority.