What Is Workplace Burnout & How to Avoid It

Workplace burnout is work-related stress. It usually builds up slowly, over time, in a way that you don’t even notice. It’s more dangerous than it may seem.

But there are effective ways to avoid workplace burnout. Before we get there, let’s take a closer look at what is burnout and the common symptoms and causes of job burnout.

What Does Burnout Mean?

Burnout is a form of emotional and physical exhaustion. It’s usually caused by prolonged stress. It can make you feel emotionally, physically, and mentally drained.

What does burnout feel like? It feels a lot like hopelessness, fatigue, alienation, and agitation, all attacking you together. Eventually, you may start waking up with the “every day at work is a bad day” mindset.

That said, let’s understand what is burnout at work. Put simply, it’s a form of exhaustion that stems from your work. It’s most common among employees feeling overworked, unappreciated, and undervalued. But even a stay-at-home mom or a teenager flipping burgers part-time can suffer from it.

Know the difference between burnout and depression: Burnout problems and the negative thoughts these give rise to tend to revolve around work. Negative thoughts affecting all areas of your life are more likely the result of depression, which may require medical treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Burnout?

Like most conditions, job burnout begins with a few specific symptoms. These tend to get worse over time. Be on the lookout for:

  • Feeling drained both emotionally and physically
  • Frequent headaches and/or muscle pain
  • Sense of alienation and isolation from work
  • Lowered immunity and poor sleep
  • Lack of motivation and withdrawal from responsibilities
  • Feeling helpless and defeated
  • Reduced concentration resulting in poor performance at work
  • Irritable and impatient behavior with coworkers
  • Self-doubt and a growing sense of failure
  • Cynical and negative outlook towards work

What Causes Burnout?

Your work environment and job are mostly to blame for burnout. But other factors, such as your lifestyle and personality traits, can also cause overwhelming stress and result in burnout. Let’s take a closer look at the different reasons for burnout.

Work-Related Causes

Do you work relentlessly and find little time for socializing? Do you feel like your work is often unappreciated and undervalued? Or perhaps your work environment is chaotic and high-pressure? If you answer yes to any of these questions, the cause of your burnout is most certainly work-related.

man in a shirt multitasking at work on different devices

Lifestyle Causes

Your lifestyle can also cause burnout. This is especially true for those who lack work-life balance or cannot disconnect from work. Being the sole caretaker for your family with tons of responsibilities can also result in burnout. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and couch-potato lifestyle are some other causes you should look into.

Personality Causes

Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel like nothing is ever good enough, no matter how hard you try? Are you hyper-competitive? Well, your personality traits may be the cause of your burnout. Maybe you also have a pessimistic view of yourself and your work. Or maybe you’re a control freak ready to break down if even the smallest of things doesn't go according to plan.

How to Avoid Burnout?

Workplace stress may be unavoidable. But you can still avoid workplace burnout. Start by adding healthy fruits and vegetables to your diet. Also, make time for a proper workout, and rest well.

The following small but essential steps will make you feel more recharged at work every day.

  • Keep physically fit – Run regularly, go to the gym, or do a home bodyweight workout after work. But even if you don’t have the time for these, you can still get up from your desk and stretch your legs a bit every hour or so.
  • Eat a balanced diet – Ensure that your diet includes fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds. And don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Fully unplug during weekends – Your weekends should be about you and your personal life. Spend time with your friends and family, watch TV, play games, and do whatever it is that makes you happy. Don’t think about work until Monday.
  • Find a hobby – Maybe you always wanted to expand your stamp collection but never found the time to? Or maybe you enjoy gardening? Find an interesting hobby you can come back home to.
  • Rest well – Your body needs proper rest to renew itself. To rest well, avoid caffeine before bedtime, put aside your smartphone, and read a book. You’ll see the difference.

What to Do When You Are Burned Out?

If you think you already suffer from burnout that’s alright. Recognizing that you have burnout is the first step in the right direction. Here are some of the best strategies for managing burnout.

  • Seek support – Reach out to your partner, family, and friends. Open up about your stress and you will feel lighter.
  • Talk to your workmates – Discuss your concerns with your colleagues, manager, or boss. Often, they will be able to provide support.
  • Examine your feelings – See what’s causing the burnout. Is it resentment and frustration at not being recognized? Or is it your own dissatisfaction with your job? Once you understand the root of these feelings, you can take effective steps to reverse them.
  • Build healthy work relationships – Be more sociable with your teammates. That way, you’ll develop a sense of belonging. This will also make it easier to ask for help.

coworkers at a desk looking at a computer and laughing

  • Find balance in life – Strike the right balance in your life by keeping work to work. When you shut down that computer at the end of the day, switch to relaxation mode.
  • Practice mindfulness – Focus on your breathing. Every time you start feeling a sense of overwhelming pressure, breathe in and slowly breathe out. Small steps of mindfulness can create a world of difference.

Beat the Burnout

Continual stress doesn’t have to get to you. You can beat it without fighting it, by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting a good night’s sleep.

Going on long, peaceful walks, reading, and taking care of your plants are other ways to deal with job burnout. Also, make sure you disengage from work the moment you leave the office (or switch off your computer if you work from home).

And remember, your well-being is in your own hands!