Signs of Burnout and Ways to Cope

Stress at work is commonplace, but burnout is a deeper experience. Even when you have a career you love, you can face a challenging burnout period. How do you tell if you have normal workplace stress or if it is affecting you at a much more profound level than you realize?

More than just the reaction to a tough day or week, burnout involves a negative perception of work that goes on for a long period of time with few to no positive feelings about your job or projects. You may also experience physical symptoms.

An updated 2019 definition of burnout by the World Health Organization classifies it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Symptoms include:

  • A sense of exhaustion or depletion;
  • Mental distance from or negativity or cynicism about work; and
  • Decreased effectiveness at work.

Vacation Is Just a Band-Aid

While vacations are important, a recent article in The Muse says that “instead of merely pressing pause and removing yourself from your situation for the time being, you need to do something to actively change it.” While these seem like daunting steps, the author cites renowned researcher Alice Domar Ph.D., Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, who notes that active change “really boils down to these two things:”

  1. Change your attitude.
  2. Change your workload.

“Research suggests that perfectionism is closely linked with burnout,” according to the article. “So recognizing and then removing some of these self-imposed pressures can help you breathe a little easier at work (and hopefully feel a little less stressed on a daily basis).”

This can involve recognizing negative thought patterns, stopping the thoughts before they unfold, and getting “away from all-or-nothing thinking.” The author shares tips from Domar for managing and discussing workload priorities and includes a guide to having such conversations in professional settings. She also notes Domar’s advice to overcome the instinct to say “yes” to new requests when you know you need to say “no” or “not now.”

For more of these helpful recommendations, please read “Five Telltale Signs You’re Burnt Out at Work (and What to Do About Them).”