Work burnout is more than just feeling tired at work after a 15-hour shift or surviving a challenging week when everything went wrong.

Burnout is defined as a state of a prolonged period of chronic stress and is typically accompanied by a few defining symptoms, such as physical and mental exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced functioning abilities.

Burnout at work is an occupational hazard that can affect anyone working in any field. It usually occurs when you are mentally and physically exhausted from work, overworked and stressed. You may unintentionally skip meals, deprive yourself of sleep just to work and turn down social activities with your family and friends.

While no one knows exactly what causes burnout, researchers say that certain personality traits, including perfectionism and conscientiousness, may make some people more vulnerable to it.

Other risk factors include high demands placed on employees, low control over their jobs, and little support from supervisors.

Although some people only experience occasional burnout, others may suffer from chronic burnout. It affects both men and women equally, though women often experience it earlier than men in their careers. While burnout is not technically a mental health issue, it could be a trigger for depression or anxiety if left unchecked.

Mental health in the workplace is important and should be a key priority by both employees and business leaders.

signs of burnout
signs of burnout

classic symptoms of burnout

When a person is burned out at work, it affects both their physical and mental well-being. Signs of burnout usually emerge slowly and can worsen if not addressed promptly. It takes time to recover from long-term stress, so the earlier you recognise the warning signs and the burnout symptoms, the faster you can regain control of your mental health.

The following are some of the most common signs of burnout:

1. exhaustion

You feel like you have been running all day long and there’s nothing left inside you. Your energy levels are depleted and you don’t want to do anything. Even though you feel exhausted, you may still face problems sleeping at night as you can’t stop thinking about work. With no sleep and no rest, the vicious cycle of being exhausted at work continues.

Mental and physical exhaustion are two of the clearest signs of feeling burnout. If you are feeling tired of work all the time, and experiencing a significant loss of energy to do simple things you used to have no problem doing, you might be experiencing early stages of burnout fatigue.

Chronic workplace stress can be emotionally and mentally draining, which can leave you feeling irritated, frustrated, anxious, disgusted, and even depressed at work. Having a toxic workplace with colleagues that makes your work life even harder could magnify your job stress and mental fatigue.

2. lack of motivation

If you are simply clearing your to-do list instead of finding new and more efficient ways to get things done, you may have lost your motivation at work.

While most of the time, this may indicate that you are no longer engaged at the workplace and need to find a new job to reignite your passion, it could also mean that you may be starting to have a bleak outlook on your life.

You’ll know the difference when you notice how it is impacting your personal life. Instead of looking forward to the end of the workday so that you can get out of the office and have fun with your friends, you’ll lose interest in everything around you with persistent feelings of hopelessness. You may even stop caring about your career, friends and family and just want to spend time alone every night.

If your friends and co-workers have expressed concern about your lack of interest during dinner or at work, it might be time to re-evaluate your stress levels and how well you’re coping with them.

lack of motivation at work could impact personal life
lack of motivation at work could impact personal life

3. reduced job performance

Have you ever felt like you were falling short of your monthly goals? Do you feel like constantly behind deadlines? Or perhaps your boss commented on the quality of your recent work? But at the same time, you simply don’t care about how you are performing?

These symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from workplace burnout, which caused you to underperform at work. People who are burned out often have negative feelings about their jobs, which can affect their job performance. Work fatigue and a loss of motivation often translate to exhaustion at work and lower interest in the tasks at hand.

If you recognise some of these signs, you may take steps to get yourself out of this situation.

4 ways to recover from burnout

Burnout is one of those things that will not go away on its own. You will need to take some steps for burnout recovery. Before your burnout gets completely out of hand, make sure you're taking care of yourself. 

Here's how we can improve our mental and physical health as well as relieve burnout:

1. sleep and exercise more

Exhaustion can exacerbate your burnout and lead to serious mental and physical fatigue. Most adults need at least six hours of sleep every night to function properly. If you are not getting that, it’s about time you let your body get the rest it needs. And we are not just talking about a single sleep marathon to compensate for what you’ve lost. It’s all about striking a better balance between work and rest, and not accumulating sleep debt. 

Many studies have also shown various benefits of exercise on mental health. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that reduce stress and boost your mood. Having healthy sleep habits and a regular exercise routine are essential to improving your physical and mental well-being. 

Even though it may sound impossible for you to take time off from work, it is still important for you to make time for your body. You only have a body and an overwhelming workload is just not worth you hurting yourself. 

2. take a break

Work burnout usually stems from work-related stress, so naturally, the best way on how to deal with burnout at work  is to step away from work and go on a genuine break.

Take breaks throughout your workday. When you're working hard, take a break every hour or so to stretch your legs and get fresh air. Leave your electronic devices behind and take a walk around the block. You'll find yourself refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes next.

Job stress is often associated with how you observe your work-life balance. Plan a vacation after a big project so that you can rest properly and spend time with your loved ones. Switch on your out-of-office email template and get on the plane or train to where you want to go. Be it a beach destination or shopping therapy, give yourself some breathing space and completely disconnect from your work during this period.

To resist the temptation to check your emails and messages during your break, you can do a proper handover with the team and assign responsibilities for them to cover for you while you’re away. Take your foot off the pedal and give yourself a break - you deserve it.

You can also take this work time off to assess yourself if you still want to stay in a workplace while your mental wellness is at stake. You can take advantage of this break to review and update your resume and start considering new opportunities.

3. disrupt your daily routine

Interrupt the humdrum of your daily routine by doing something different, anything at all. It could be as simple as reading a book, watching a comedy series or attending a concert.

Do something out of the ordinary to break up the monotony and keep things fresh and interesting for yourself. This will allow your brain to concentrate on something new for a change and offer a brief break from your regular obligations. You may even be able to gain some new perspectives by doing something different and apply the newfound learning to your work.

keep work fresh by doing something different
keep work fresh by doing something different

4. seek support from others

Something that tends to happen to people suffering from burnout is isolation, as they are too often emotionally and mentally exhausted to keep up with their social relations.

However, it is worth noting that isolating yourself from your support system is extremely detrimental to your mental well-being. Find time to reconnect with friends and make an effort to join your colleagues for lunch instead of eating alone at your desk. Their support may be exactly what you need for your burnout recovery.

If you are experiencing burnout symptoms that interfere with how you lead your life, it is important to seek professional help. Working with a healthcare and medical professional like a therapist can help you manage and reduce your symptoms as safely as possible.

a new environment may be what it takes 

Taking a break from work or even trying to sleep after a long day can be very stressful for people who are dealing with burnout. Sometimes, it is easier to just walk away from the negativity for good, especially if your work is not being recognised by your team or employer.

Consider what will make you happier in the long run. For example, what type of bosses would you prefer to work with? How big should the team size be? What projects do you enjoy working on? More importantly, do you have enough time for yourself outside of work?

Speak with our specialist recruiters about what you want in your next job, and you can start fresh again. Connect with us if you want to start over in a new job with a new and supportive team of competent experts. Alternatively, you can visit our latest job listings and apply for a new job that might be a better job fit for you.

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