6 Steps to help you avoid burnout

Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed at work?
Read up on our 6 steps to avoid burnout.

What is burnout?
Burnout is defined as a state of mental and physical fatigue created by long periods of stress. Burnout can leave people feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and can even result in a mental or physical collapse. Burnout is often related to work or school but can relate to other pressures such as family issues.

Why is burnout dangerous?
Burnout can have harmful effects on both our physical and mental health if it is not dealt with properly. According to various studies, those who go through the symptoms of chronic burnout are up to 35% more likely to experience depression and coronary heart disease.  

How can burnout be avoided?

1) Recognise the symptoms early

In order to avoid the major symptoms of burnout, it is important to recognise when you are starting to struggle. You might be experiencing the first signs of burnout if:

  • You feel fatigued and drained all the time
  • You’re finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate
  • You’re feeling detached from yourself and your work
  • You’re experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches
If you have been feeling these symptoms for an extended amount of time, you may be experiencing burnout. Acknowledging that you need to take action is the most important step to preventing the full effects of burnout.

2) Identify what is causing your burnout

Burnout happens for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common reasons include:
  • An overwhelming workload
  • Lack of control
  • Feeling under pressure
  • Working too much with few breaks
  • Lack of support

Burnout can occur because of a combination of the above but can also stem from more complex issues. It is important to target the main causes of your burnout so you can deal with the problem directly from the source.

3) Reach out for help

One of the most effective ways to deal with burnout is to reach out for some help. This could be from your work colleagues, your boss, your family and friends or a counsellor.

Burnout is often caused by having too many things to deal with at once and feeling like you must deal with these things alone. Sharing the burden with others can help to lift some weight from your shoulders and relieve some stress.

Reaching out for help is also a key step in dealing with the root causes of burnout. If you’re struggling with a heavy workload or feeling under pressure, talking to your boss about sharing some responsibilities can help them to understand that you are unhappy and can help them to help you to work more effectively.

4) Engage in self-care

When experiencing burnout, people often disengage from themselves and experience a lack of energy. Self-care can help you to replenish this energy and start to feel a bit better about yourself. Self-care includes a number of different things, including:

  • Taking enough breaks and ensuring you get enough sleep each night
  • Engaging in activities that you enjoy, giving your mind a rest from what is causing you stress
  • Spending time with friends and family and talking about your struggles
  • Fuelling your body by nourishing it with healthy meals
  • Taking care of your health by exercising regularly
  • Taking time to rest and relax and fully ‘switch off’ from work
  • Practicing mindfulness (take a look at this course)

5) Set clear boundaries and learn when to say no

It is important to know how to set boundaries to avoid feeling burnt out in the first place. For example, if you are already feeling overwhelmed at work and you are given another task that you won’t be able to complete in time, it is okay to say no or ask to share the responsibility with someone else.
Setting boundaries not only helps you to manage your workload, but it also helps you to produce better quality work when you are not stressed and rushing to complete multiple deadlines at once.

Want to learn more about communication in the workplace? Take a look at our Communication Barriers in the Workplace Course.

6) Find time to disengage

It is essential to give your mind a break by fully disengaging from whatever is causing your burnout. For example, if you are starting to feel burnt out from work, take a weekend where you do not engage with anything work-related.
It may be tempting to check work emails or catch up with work over the weekend to stay on top of things. However, burnout is a result of built-up stress, so it is necessary to take time out for that stress to diffuse.
This way, when you return to work, you will have a fresh perspective and will be able to more effectively complete work as you have had valuable time to rest and recover.

If you’re finding it impossible to take a break without falling behind, see the above point about setting boundaries and saying no.

We hope this post provided you with some more information about the symptoms of burnout and how it can be avoided. To understand more about taking care of your mental health at work, take a look at our online course on Dealing with Stress, Anxiety & Depression in the Workplace.

Melamed, S., Shirom, A., Toker, S., Berlliner, S., & Shapira, I. (2006). Burnout and risk of cardiovascular disease: Evidence, possible causal paths, and promising research directions. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 327-353