How to Deal With Burnout: A Proven Plan for Overcoming It (and Coming Back Stronger Than Before)
By Laura Garnett
You’re tired. Utterly exhausted all of the time. You can’t seem to get anything done at work, you feel quite disengaged from the work you do, and you’ve noticed that colleagues are starting to avoid you in order to escape your cloud of negativity.
These are all telltale signs of being burnt out. You’re not alone. As recently as 2018, a study found that 40% of U.S. adult workers were so burnt out at their jobs that they considered quitting. Burnout is so common, in fact, that the World Health Organization listed it as an occupational syndrome on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
And for good reason, too. Stanford University medical professionals found that stress and burnout at work can be a matter of life and death because they can cause serious errors.
Being burnt out is not a feeling you should simply accept and get over. But you can’t just up and quit when it happens (well, at least not all the time). While you can’t control external factors that may contribute to it—the pace of work, your manager’s behavior, the number of vacation days you’re allotted—there is one thing you can control: yourself.
You have more power than you think over your reactions to stressful situations, and you’re also more than capable of being proactive when you notice that a work environment is less than ideal. I know—it’s overwhelming. So, here are some key steps that can help get you back on a healthy track in four weeks or less:
- Slow down: You need to be conscious of the root cause of the biggest stressor. When you’re going fast, it’s easy to blame the first external cause you see.
- Pay attention to those moments that you are most exhausted or most stressed, what just happened? Notice not only the external environment but also what’s happening in your head. What are some of the negative messages that you’re telling yourself that could be the root cause? Write these down. At the end of 2 weeks, look for patterns. You may be surprised at how often your own negative mental chatter is causing your angst. When you discover this, celebrate because you can re-wire these negative messages by creating more positive ones that have the reverse effect—they make you feel calm, confident, and clear.
- While you are building consciousness of your symptoms root cause, sit down and create a list of everything on your plate. Prioritize them from most important to least important.
- Figure out if you can delegate the low priority tasks or find a way to put them off. Take the high priority tasks and analyze them. Are you the best person to tackle them? Is what is needed to accomplish these. Something that you’re naturally good at? This task alone could highlight a fit problem with some of your work – which could also be causing the added stress. Once you figure out which tasks really fit you and which ones don’t, discuss this with your manager or team. Figure out if there is a way to re-think how this work is going to get done in a way that is most efficient. The work should be aligned with someone who is naturally good at what is needed to accomplish it.
- Pay attention to how you feel on a daily basis. When are you most exhausted or feeling the burnout? Or is it constant? If it comes in peaks and valleys what is also happening when you experience the peaks. Take notes on this.
- Make well-being a priority i.e. rest and exercise as much as you can. If you’re not getting enough of each, make sure for a month that you prioritize this. Guaranteed, this will make a difference immediately.
- After 2 weeks of doing all of the above, review your notes. What did you learn and how can you re-think your approach for the next 2 weeks? Just building awareness, discovering the root cause of your burnout, and then re-prioritizing your work, while prioritizing your well-being will get you out of the burnout mode. If not, try the above steps for another 2 weeks.
If you’re feeling burned out and need some extra support, check out my book, The Genius Habit, for advice on crafting a career that works for you.