In Culture, Work Life

In a time when many workers feel the pressure to log unmanageable hours and never take their foot off the figurative gas, it’s too easy to experience burnout at work.

You may know the feeling of dreading going to work each day, staring at your computer hoping your work will do itself and feeling hopeless when you enter the office. It may follow a particularly stressful or difficult period of time at work.

If you’ve experienced those feelings, they may be caused by burnout. Exhaustion, frustration and anxiety at work are all potential signs of burnout, too. If you’re continually stressed with no end in sight, that’s another burnout red flag.

stressed at work

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is a variation of work-related stress that is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Burnout at work can be caused by a lack of managerial support, unrealistic or unclear expectations, chaos in the workplace or even a particularly stressful and painstaking project. When burnout is bad enough, it can manifest physical symptoms such as stomach pain, headaches and muscle tightness.

5 Signs of Burnout

1. You dread going into the office each day.

Some people just don’t like their job. If that’s the case, you likely aren’t experiencing burnout but may need to re-evaluate your career options.

If you once enjoyed your job but have suddenly experienced a change in which you no longer enjoy what you’re doing and have negative feelings when arriving at work each day, that may be a sign of burnout. Feeling anxiety or frustration outside the norm at work is also a sign.

2. You’re constantly exhausted.

If you get home each day and can’t wait to get into bed, despite the clock indicating it’s not nearly bedtime, you may want to ask yourself what’s going on. Should you be as emotionally and mentally tired as you are? If the answer is no, burnout may be the cause.

3. You’re not motivated.

Were you once an overachiever, looking to please your colleagues and go above and beyond? If you’re no longer feeling motivated, ask yourself why. Have you pushed yourself too far and now are feeling burnout as a result, or is there another cause?

4. You’re making careless mistakes.

If your work is suffering and you’re finding you’re making mistakes you never before made, that could be another sign of burnout. We all make mistakes from time to time, but when the mistakes become abnormal, that’s when you want to investigate the root of the issue and figure out if the cause is burnout.

5. You stop taking care of yourself.

If exercise was once important to you, but you’re no longer going to fitness classes or have stopped using your home fitness equipment (treadmills aren’t just supposed to be clothes hangers, after all), there could be many causes. One of them could be burnout. The same goes for healthy eating–or lack thereof.

If you’re experiencing any of these things, they could be burnout, but you also should consult with a medical professional before taking action.

5 Things to Do About Burnout

1. Realizing you are burned out is the first step toward doing something about it.

Take some time to yourself to relax, recharge and evaluate your priorities. Once you’re rested, you may realize you’re ready to jump back into work with a renewed sense of purpose. Don’t be afraid to let your supervisor at work or your human relations contact know about what’s going on and that you’re addressing it head-on.


2. Make exercising a priority.

Working out can make you healthier, happier and give you more energy. In fact, those are just a few of the plentiful benefits of exercise. Another benefit of physical activity is decreased anxiety, as a 2013 study found. Decreasing stress is another great benefit of exercise, as consistent findings have shown “people report feeling calmer after a 20- to 30-minute bout of aerobic exercise, and the calming effect can last for several hours after exercise,” according to the American College of Sports Medicine. That’s because “being physically active improves the way the body handles stress because of changes in the hormone responses, and that exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviors.”

If you’re stating a new fitness routine, start at home. Working out at home eliminates the excuse of not being able to get to the gym and allows for you to use any free time you have for bettering your mind and body. If you want to be able to run and get your mind off work, consider getting a treadmill for your home. Fill up your water bottle and sweat it out after work.

3. Unplug from work.

When you finish for the day at work, disconnect from your email and even from social media. Taking time away from electronic devices can do your mind some good. Go on a walk, read a book (we’re not talking about an e-book), play an instrument, catch up with a friend. Do whatever you enjoy doing that doesn’t include an electronic device.


4. Catch up on sleep.

When you’re looking to rebound from burnout, it’s important to rest up to effectively recharge. That means getting to bed at a reasonable hour and giving your alarm some wiggle room in the morning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults ages 18-60 receive seven or more hours of sleep each night, while adults 61-64 should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep and those 65 and older should seek seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

5. Check-in with your body and assess your needs.

You know your body and you’ll know when you’re ready to crank up your energy levels and get back to your regular capabilities at work. Keep in mind that a massage chair may aid in your recovery efforts–and help to keep you less stressed moving forward. Whether or not a massage is in your future, talking to a friend or family member can also help. Hearing a loved one’s opinion can give you a different perspective as you get over your burnout and look to get back to your normal routine. Ask for help if you need it. 

Burnout isn’t fun, but it’s not abnormal in the 21st century. Recognizing these red flags and acting on them will help you manage your work-related stress and get back on the path to enjoying your job.

About the Author

Lauren Silver is a Marketing Coordinator for Abt Electronics, the largest independent retailer of consumer electronics and major appliances. Lauren oversees all content creation from their Glenview, Illinois Headquarters. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, and cooking for her family.

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