How to prevent feelings of burnout in the workplace

Feeling drained, helpless and detached from your job? You may be suffering from workplace burnout. Here’s how to prevent symptoms from occurring

The World Health Organisation recognised burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ in 2019, which is known as a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. But with 77% of people facing burnout in their careers, it’s important to recognise the early signs and to address them accordingly. 

Spot early signs

There are three stages of burnout, according to a study by Szigethy: 

  • Stage one: Mild symptoms
    • Mental fatigue at the end of the day
    • Dread the next day
    • Physical aches or pains
    • Feel like you are falling behind in work
    • Feeling unappreciated, frustrated, or tense
  • Stage two: Longer lasting symptoms
    • Irritability, aggression, anxiety, depression, substance abuse
    • Feeling bored, apathetic, or frustrated
    • Feel ruled by a schedule
    • Disillusionment about the job
  • Stage three: Severe
    • Chronic symptoms
    • Health disorders 
    • High job turnover

Although it’s important to recognise symptoms at every stage, noticing the initial signs of burnout, and actively trying to relieve symptoms has been shown to counter feelings and prevent the issue from worsening.

Create healthy habits 

Feelings of burnout can often drain you of motivation and leave you feeling flat. However, studies have shown that these feelings can be reduced by maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. One study highlighted how exercise has potential to be an effective burnout intervention after just four weeks. Similarly, a second study found that maintaining a diet of healthy foods was associated with lower levels of burnout symptoms, with particular emphasis on the importance of a diverse and balanced diet to promote work wellbeing.

Find activities that work for you

Although research states that numerous activities are great for helping with burnout, other studies have highlighted the importance of finding and participating in activities that you enjoy. For example, this study found that enjoyable leisure activities are associated with psychosocial and physical measures relevant for health and wellbeing. So if exercise isn’t your cup of tea, try finding a hobby that suits you to relieve the feelings of burnout, such as painting, learning a language or baking. 

Self reflection 

Along with spotting and understanding the different signs of burnout, it is important to take time to self reflect and tend to your own needs. Understanding what is triggering, or is likely to trigger symptoms of burnout, will provide you with the opportunity to reshift your focus. Reflecting on your schedule will allow you to realign goals and expectations for yourself, while evaluating a typical weekly schedule to reduce or eliminate unnecessary items.

Build a network

Although we all feel burnout from time to time, it can feel very overwhelming and isolating – that’s why it’s important to build two types of networks: a professional network and a personal network. Professional networks will not only provide you with a number of connections in the workplace for you to turn to for support when feelings of burnout occur, but it will also allow you to report feelings, to ensure you get the support you deserve. On the other hand, personal networks will provide you with an external support system that will help to provide you with the much-needed relief from work. 

 

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