How To Deal With Burnout at a Job You Actually Like, According to a Burnout Expert

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When you’re stuck in a tough spot at work–you’re *this close* to burnout, you’re wondering whether your job is the right fit, your office culture could use a serious upgrade–who do you turn to? Your mentor, who has years of experience you can rely on? Your mom, who always keeps your best interests in mind? Or your BFF, who is dependable for a killer pep talk? Put all three perspectives in a blender, and you’ve got Good@Work, Well+Good’s career advice column. See All

Question:

How do you deal with burnout at a job you like?

Answer:

So many people believe that burnout equates to a negative job environment; however, it is possible to feel burned out at a job you like. (PS: Congratulations on finding a position that you love–that’s a big deal!)

When it comes to managing burnout, the late Dr. Maya Angelou summed it up well when she said, “Know better. Do better.” It’s true that each experience with burnout can look different and manifest differently, but understanding how you feel when you experience it is key to knowing when and how to react. By first being in tune with your feelings about a certain situation, you can then decide on the nuanced ways to deal with it.

So, regarding how to handle burnout at a job you like, quitting and looking for a new role may not be the smartest course of action. What can you do in this case? Below, find three tips for relieving burnout at a job you like, and also help equip you with tools and support resources to manage the symptoms, should instances of similar burnout occur in the future.

3 tips to deal with burnout in a job you like

1. Understand your situation

By definition, burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion brought on by excessive or prolonged stress. Self-awareness is fundamental for managing it; however, we’re so used to responding with to the question of how we are doing with words like “fine,” “good,” and “okay” that understanding how you feel can be harder than you’d expect.

To start getting real with yourself about how you actually feel, consider journaling. It’s a great way to start, and using a tool like the feelings wheel to help orient you is a great resource when you’re at a loss for words.

Personally, I like to ease into new routines, so I’m a big fan of doing a weekly feelings audit. To practice a feelings audit of your own, block 20 minutes each week to reflect on how you are feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally. At the end of the month, review your notes from the prior weeks to note any surprises or trends.

And if you’re physically exhausted? Try creating a sleep schedule, regularly moving, or taking stock of your nutrition plan. If your exhaustion comes from a mental place, try improving your work-life boundaries by adding in regular breaks and bringing in more fun and creative activities. Mindfulness, community, and therapy are great ways to bring relief to emotional exhaustion.

2. Use your benefits

Raise your hand if you like things that help you feel better. Keep it raised if you want access to those things even more when they are free. (I bet your hand is raised. Am I right?)

Benefits are part of your compensation package, and not using them leaves big money on the table, and also a huge opportunity to ease symptoms of burnout with various forms of support and relief.

Well, keep in mind that your benefits are part of your compensation package, and not using them leaves big money on the table, and also a huge opportunity to ease symptoms of burnout with various forms of support and relief. And to be sure, plenty of employees don’t make full use of all benefits available to them.

Some companies are getting creative, hiring entire teams dedicated to identifying new and cool offerings to provide as part of their benefits packages. Some examples extend beyond traditional medical coverage and time off to mental wellness apps, fitness products, massages, and financial stipends for various experiences and ventures. Each company is different, so be your own best advocate and familiarize yourself with your company’s policies. Getting in touch with a member of your company’s human resources team is a great place to start.

3. Fill your free time for freedom

As a victim of hustle culture myself, it was hard for me to recognize the power of rest. Ultimately, my therapist had to put me on a timeout from my grind so I could take a step away and gain perspective. The resulting foundational understanding about burnout and the need for rest gave way to why I started Hooky Wellness, my consulting organization focused on relieving burnout–yep, even burnout at a job you like.

Taking breaks is a foundational part of managing burnout, but sometimes, actually doing it can be easier said than done. So often, I hear about a company leader sending emails while on vacation or individuals coming back from their paid time off feeling more exhausted than when they left.

Mental wellness has never been as essential, but unfortunately, the past year and a half of pandemic life–marked largely by social isolation, disrupted routines, and collective grief–has largely drained our energy, only accelerating burnout. But you can work to help protect yourself against this.

Time off can improve work performance; rest helps your brain recover; and even playing games can give you a boost of creativity. So be sure to use all of your wellness days, mental health days, and PTO. Visit a museum, take a road trip, or even use the day to sleep in a little bit longer. Using your free time for something other than work goes a long way and is a lot more fun.

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