Feeling burned out at work? There’s a coping method for that.
If you’re dreading going to work, hatching your escape plan, or are simply too overwhelmed to even think about the future, you could be experiencing job burnout.
And you wouldn’t be alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, 79% of employees reported experiencing work-related stress in that month.
While burnout can start at work, it can also seep into other parts of your life and affect your energy, motivation, and overall quality of life. Burnout is also common with caregiving for children or elderly parents.
There are steps you can take to cope with job burnout.
Mental health experts shared 11 actionable ideas that might help you overcome burnout. Consider trying some of these strategies to see which ones work for you.
1. Rediscover your values
It’s easy to put work at the center of identity and self-worth. That’s why returning to your personal core values is critical.
“Our values drive behavior and impact our thought processes and decision-making,” explains Jason Phillips, a licensed therapist.
By figuring out your values, you can create better boundaries and build your version of work-life balance by zeroing in on what’s most important to you.
If you’re unsure where to start, here’s a list of values you can explore.
2. Take a solo retreat
Want to get away? Consider a retreat, suggests Phillips. “A solo retreat can be helpful to reconnect with yourself without distractions from others,” says Phillips. “This also allows you to live on your own terms and be transparent about what you need.”
A wellness retreat could be a transformative experience. But even a night away in a local city, a day trip to a local botanical garden, or a personal picnic in a nearby park can give you some space to think about your needs.
3. Prioritize yourself over work
If you’re burned out, it may be time to shift your priorities. “Work is important and vital — but so are you,” says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist in New York. “Think about who you are outside of an employee. Know your mental and physical needs and then prioritize them.”
If you thrive personally when you have time for morning coffee with your partner or a weekday sports league, schedule those into your calendar and take the appointment with yourself as seriously as a work meeting.
4. Talk to your supervisor
If you’re feeling burned out at work, you could start at the source. “Rather than fearing or avoiding your supervisor, see them as an important person in helping to bring about positive change,” offers Alpert. “Most supervisors I know realize that a happy and content employee is a productive one.”
“Approach your supervisor with that mindset, and enlist their help in making your work more desirable,” he suggests.
5. Find an accountability partner
“Sometimes we don’t realize we’re burned out until we’re deep into it, and having another person checking in on us helps us maintain a plan for care,” says Anjali Gowda Ferguson, a clinical psychologist based in Richmond, Virginia. “Make a plan with a friend or colleague to check in on each other’s rest and self-care.”
If you have a shared self-care activity such as hiking or yoga, set up a weekly friend date.
6. Give yourself 10 minutes
“When burnout is high, it can become difficult to recognize that other parts of yourself and your life exist,” explains Kailey Hockridge, a licensed professional clinical counselor based in Los Angeles.
“By finding even 10 minutes per day to engage in conversations you enjoy, meaningful movement that brings you peace, or activities you find interesting, you can start to bring the focus back to all the other parts of who you are and decrease the weight of burnout,” Hockridge says.
7. Join online support groups
“My favorite strategy for pulling yourself out of burnout is joining online groups,” says Jody Dianna, a licensed clinical social worker serving in the Tennessee area. “Online groups can be ideal for meeting needs in your life that have gone unmet for far too long.”
Dianna suggests finding a private group of like-minded people. There are several options for online support groups, depending on the type of format and interaction you prefer.
8. Try learning a new skill
While it could seem like learning something new is just another thing to add to your list, it could help alleviate your burnout.
“Learning a new skill can combat the feeling that nothing will change, which could be the boost you need to recover and find your happiness again,” says Dianna.
Better yet, reclaim a past hobby that you’ve long felt you don’t have time for such as painting or singing — and try to make it a priority. Local community college classes can also be an affordable way to spark your intellectual creativity.
9. Give acupuncture a try
“Most people have adrenal fatigue or failure from burnout,” explains Amy Babish, a coach, psychotherapist, and somatic expert in Washington. “Acupuncture is effective for balancing out your system.”
10. Make some action lists
“Make a list of all your warning signs of burnout, from the earliest indicators to the surefire signs,” suggests Megan Kelly, a licensed mental health counselor in Indiana. “For each sign, come up with a solid, measurable action you can take to counteract the burnout.”
Consider making a list of things that bring you peace, and have that list handy when burnout signs pop up.
11. Consider a change
You can start slowly by working on your resume, casually looking for jobs, and then gradually begin hyping yourself up to prepare for change.
“If leaving [your job] isn’t an option, you may wish to consider ways to structurally change your schedule or seek out a position within your company with lower demands,” suggests Kelly.
The three stages of burnout are:
- burnout watch
- burnout warning
- full burnout
“Burnout typically starts slowly with a slight increase in stress, more worry than usual, and small physical changes in sleep and appetite,” states Samantha Newton, a licensed clinical social worker based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Newton calls this the “burnout watch” stage — much like a hurricane — where the threat is close but not there yet.
Burnout warning is the next stage.
“The anxiety over going to work or dealing with the stressor is higher and happening more frequently,” Newton says. “You often feel more dread when thinking about work and have trouble finding the energy to do things you used to enjoy.”
This may also be when your health begins to decline and people start to notice.
The final stage, or full burnout, is all-consuming. “You feel like you’ve lost yourself and the issue causing your burnout has taken over your thoughts and feelings,” Newton says. “At this stage, you’re more withdrawn and recognize that you’re in an emotional and physical crisis.”
Burnout looks different for everyone, and both the stages and severity can vary. But there are several common signs you can look out for, including:
If you’re burned out, know that this feeling doesn’t have to last forever. You can begin by noticing the signs, spotting triggers, and trying various coping methods to see which ones work well for you.
Above all else, show yourself some self-compassion.
If you find yourself having difficulty managing burnout on your own, consider reaching out to a healthcare or mental health professional who can help you.
“Burnout is common, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be sidelined in our mental health,” says Hockridge. If therapy feels right to you, you can use check out Psych Central’s hub on finding mental health support.