Work Burnout

How to Avoid Burnout at Work


Jul 7, 2023

What is burnout at work?

Often referred to as occupational burnout, burnout is common through a build-up of work stress. It is the feeling of constant exhaustion, which can manifest both physically and mentally.

What causes burnout at work?

Occupational burnout can have several different causes depending on the industry and field of work you are in, the role you have, and your position in the company. However, here are a few of the possible causes to your work burnout:

  • Lack of support – sometimes feeling isolated at work, or even in your personal life, can add to the pressures and stress of going into work every day. You may feel as though you are not getting enough emotional or work-related support and so this could be triggering the pressure and stress.
  • Unbalanced work/life – your work and personal life should be in a state of equilibrium, however the demands from work sometimes mean this ratio becomes uneven. This unbalance may be created when you have too much work to complete within work hours, so you end up staying later. For more information on how to achieve the perfect work/life balance, read our guide.
  • Vague or unclear expectations – some jobs, naturally come with an intense environment and pressure. Although the expectations can be clear in the sense of needing to “get the job done”, it can be difficult when there are unclear instructions on the tasks or you're not trained appropriately to complete the task at hand without further guidance, which can stimulate stress and fear.
  • Lack of resources – frustration and burnout can be experienced when you are trying your best to work but the resources aren’t available for you to thrive, such a lack of staff.
  • Lack of control – especially when working with clients, demands and deadlines are necessary and often something you can’t control. As a result, the overwhelming deadlines can pile on top of each other and feel quite overwhelming.

Now we know some of the causes of work burnout, how can you tell whether you are experiencing it or not? Let’s go through some of the warning signs.

Signs of burnout

Symptoms of burnout at work can be both physical and mental. Let’s break down the different symptoms that you may experience if you are feeling work burnout.

Mental burnout symptoms:

If you are experiencing mental burnout, you may find yourself experiencing the following:

  • Feeling more emotional/tearful
  • Agitated
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Loss of hope
  • Emotional numbness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Development of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression

Physical work burnout:

If you are experiencing physical burnout, you may find yourself facing the following:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Frequent illness
  • Changes in appetite (i.e., overeating, eating little to nothing)
  • Oversleeping/insomnia/ feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling drained
  • Stomach aches/ stomach issues
  • Reduced performance at work

Going through burnout can cause physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion which can be harmful for your body. Because of this, it’s important to ensure that are aware of the warning signs so that you can prevent symptoms from worsening.

More severely, constant burnout could lead to even more serious conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and general weakening of your immune system, making you prone to other illnesses. Outside of health, burnout also decreases work efficiency so ensuring you manage your work burnout effectively is important all round.

So, let’s go through some ways in which you can avoid occupational burnout.

How to deal with work burnout

1. Set and maintain your boundaries.

It is important you set boundaries for yourself. Overexerting yourself with work tasks could be the main contributor towards work burnout. You are the only one who fully knows your limits start to notice you’re experiencing the symptoms discussed above, you know you are close to your limit. As a result, those limits are your boundaries, and it’s important to have a discussion with your manager about work expectations and realistic deadlines. This can reduce your stress levels but also allow your manager to help support you in the tasks you do - whether it being extra resources, rescheduling deadlines or helping to delegate tasks to your colleagues.

2. Socialise.

Often when you are overwhelmed and exhausted, the last thing you want to do is to socialise. If you’re struggling to juggle work pressure, tasks, and deadlines, it can be easy to fall into the mindset of “I need to be alone” or “I don’t have time for anything else”. Little by little, this mindset could cause you to distance yourself from friends and family when you need them most.

And so, it brings us to our second tip - try and socialise, especially at work. When you are working all day, going for lunch with colleagues or just sitting and chatting to them about something completely random can refresh your mind. Similarly, making plans with your friends and family can give you something to look forward to when work is proving difficult.

Research has found that social support increases the release of the hormone, oxytocin, the hormone responsible for reducing anxiety. Therefore, creating your own social circle which provides support could be a useful factor in reducing stress.

3. Take regular breaks.

It can be easy to get caught up in the mindset of needing to constantly work when you are overloaded with tasks. However, research shows that quickly recovering both physically and mentally from an intense environment (i.e., working on a high demanding task) after taking regular breaks. Breaks could revitalise energy levels, enhance productivity (which can allow you to work through your workload quicker) and improve decision-making.

Breaks also help with reducing tiredness, which reduces the need for long recovery at the end of the day. Overall, by taking regular microbreaks (no more than 10 minutes), you can easily boost your well-being and thus enhance your overall performance.

But what type of breaks are the most effective? Your answer is physical breaks and exposure to natural environments. In simple terms – go for a walk. The Stress Recovery theory proposed that being exposed to nature, such as near water, trees, etc, can help you recover from stressful states of mind.

 What if I can’t take a break?

If you are limited on time and you can’t do the above, let’s go through a few things you can do:

Deep breathing

The 10 for 10 rule of inhaling is as simple as it sounds – breathe in for 10 seconds through your nose and exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds. This form of desk meditation through deep breathing is suggested to increase relaxation, reduce high blood pressure,  and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. As a result, it could help to reduce your stress levels to be able to become more productive in your work and feel more comfortable mentally and physically.

Work on another task

This tip is especially helpful when you have multiple high priority tasks at work. Refocusing onto another task/subject can reduce the stress you feel and gives you a mental break from the high intense concentration on the task you were already working on. This also enables you to multitask and work through your priorities in your work.

Self care

There are many ways in which you can recharge your mental and emotional battery through ensuring the basics:

  • Good quality sleep
  • Eating healthily
  • Meditating
  • Journaling
  • Exercising

 5. Professional help

You might want to consider speaking to a professional licensed therapist to help work through your occupational burnout. After feeling mentally and physically drained, it can be difficult to make yourself motivated. Take the first step with Head Agenda, where we can help you recover from the anxiety and depression you may have developed through work burnout.

For more information, visit our anxiety and depression services pages.

Alternatively, interested in getting the help and support now? Contact us today by clicking the button below.

Disclaimer: This article has been designed for entertainment and informational purposes; it is not personalised medical advice. This guide may be a useful read to generate some ideas, however, please take advice from a medical professional.

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