Almost all of us have turned to a coworker or friend at some point in our careers and whispered, I just can't take it anymore. That feeling? It's probably best described as work burnout, a common phenomenon in today's overworked office environment that boils down to feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and uninspired on the job. Or, as Monster's career expert Vicki Salemi puts it: "You've reached the breaking point at work—you're just so done."
Unfortunately, work burnout can extend beyond your nine to five—it can cause you to neglect your wellbeing too. Symptoms of work burnout can be anything from developing an unhealthy lifestyle habit—think: eating junk food or skipping the gym—to insomnia, self-doubt, and even ignoring your family, says Jill Jacinto, millennial career expert and associate director of communications for WORKS.
"This isn't merely an issue of someone working long hours," Jacinto says. "It's an issue in which a professional is working in a bad workplace atmosphere, coupled with stress as well as anxiety."
But you don't have to let work burnout bum you out any longer. If you're feeling the first signs of work burnout, you still have time to nip it in the bud. Here's how.
6 ways to beat work burnout
6 ways to beat work burnout
1. Take a day off—or more. You can keep your fading work fire from burning all that way out by taking a vacation day. "You need a detox from the intensity of work," Salemi explains, "so now more than ever is the time to use your personal time off." Use the day to unplug from technology and indulge in rejuvenating activities such as mediation, yoga, or even a massage. And when you return to work, "you also need to take extreme care of yourself, like going to bed an hour early every night," she says.
2. Be social. It might seem counterintuitive to focus on friends and family when you feel like you're slipping behind on the job. But, "setting up family-time is exactly what you need to do," says Jacinto. After all, these are the people who can help you understand why you might be burning out to begin with—and they're certainly the people who can help you feel better. "Do your best to not let your office life overflow into the quality time you spend with your friends and family," Jacinto encourages.
3. Add something new to your routine. You've probably tried to spice up your sex life at some point—so why not try to spice up your work life too? Salemi says it can be as simple as committing to taking your full lunch hour away from your desk. As she commiserates, "When I worked in corporate recruiting and was burned out by an exploding inbox, I made sure to do things during lunchtime that got my mind off things, like going to the local drugstore to peruse magazines or making a mental list of new movies I wanted to see and more. You need to take a break, get fresh air, and realize there is more to life than the avalanche of work you're buried under."
4. Sweat it out. We know there are immense benefits to exercising each day—and one of them could reflect in your work. "Whether it's walking to the office, taking the stairs, or setting up walking meetings, you can slowly transform your mood [with exercise]," says Jacinto. Additionally, she recommends fighting work burnout with healthy meals. "Eating right will help give you fuel to master your day," she says.
5. Talk to your boss. It's an intimidating prospect to admit to your boss that you're just not that into the job anymore. But think of it this way: Chances are, if you're feeling burnt out, you're not giving your boss your best work, and your boss needs to know why so that she can be a part of the solution rather than (unknowingly) adding to the problem. "Explain that you're on the brink of burnout and you're concerned it's affecting your health," suggests Salemi, who adds that your boss could help by delegating excess work and setting goals that will get you back on track.
6. Cut back. If your boss doesn't present any viable solutions—or if you can't bring yourself to chat with her in the first place—it's time to assess your work situation yourself. "See what changes you can make to improve your ability to do the best work," says Jacinto. For example, "is there a particular manager who is always barking orders and essentially has a black cloud following them? Chances are their mood is being passed onto you—and in that case, can you ask human resources for a transfer? Or are you overloaded with projects at the moment? Perhaps delegating a project to another team or your assistant will help you focus and distress."