You shouldn't ignore burnout, the real feeling of being overwhelmed and extra tired. It can cause depression, physical problems, and hurt your productivity at work.
Burnout is more than feeling extra tired after a busy period in your life. Sometimes what doctors call “vital exhaustion,” burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion from having too much to do and excessive stress.
If your job is the source of your burnout, you aren’t alone. More than 60 percent of U.S. workers report they are stressed, according to the American Institute of Stress. About 26 percent say they are suffering from symptoms of burnout.
But it’s not only work that can leave you with feeling “fried.” Caretakers for the elderly and sick family members and others juggling too many personal responsibilities can suffer from burnout, too.
If you don’t learn how to recover from burnout, odds are you’ll feel even worse over time. Dozens of studies have linked burnout to an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks, muscle aches and pains, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders, the American Psychological Association points out.
When your job is your main cause of burnout, take a serious assessment of your work situation to see if it’s time to look for another position — or to find a way you can make your current job less stressful. If you feel your job isn’t a good match for your personality and talents, set up a meeting with your manager to discuss potential opportunities in other areas of the organization.
One study found a lack of control and flexibility in jobs often contributes to burnout. Sociologist Phyllis Moen, PhD, and Erin L. Kelly, PhD, looked at a work flexibility program that included shifting work schedules to allow some employees to work from home. The results showed the workers who had more flexible work schedules reduced their level of burnout and increased their job satisfaction and productivity.
While it’s not always possible to change your work schedule or work at home, you can still talk to your manager about those possibilities if you are suffering from burnout. An increasing number of companies are willing to consider flexible schedules.
“Crucially, these workers are also more efficient and more productive on the job. In other words, workplace flexibility is beneficial — not detrimental — to organizations," Moen said.
No matter what’s going on in your workplace, how to recover from burnout involves making a commitment to healthy self-help strategies. For example, although regular exercise is a well-known stressbuster, it’s easy to skip when you feel burned out. But even a daily walk can help you sleep better, increase your fitness level, and boost energy.
Being mindful of healthy eating is important, too. Grabbing fast food or calorie-laden snacks when you are hungry and stressed for time can make symptoms of burnout worse. Instead, keep healthy snacks, like fresh fruit and nuts, handy.
When faced with the physical and mental exhaustion of burnout, some people use excessive caffeine, alcohol, and both prescription and recreational drugs to cope. If you are having problems with substance abuse, or with other health or emotional symptoms, talk to your doctor or a counselor about how to recover from burnout.
July 27, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN