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What to do when you're experiencing burnout

It can be reversible

“Rise and grind.”

“I’ll sleep when I am dead!”

“I’m up to my eyeballs in work.”

We’ve all heard (or said) one of these phrases before. And notice how no one (not even you!) bats an eye? It’s all because the ‘hustle’ and staying busy have become the new normal — better yet, an expectation — within workplaces everywhere.

The more we allow for these expectations to be set, the more likely we are to experience burnout. Over-committing yourself to your job, pursuing a side-hustle or part-time job, or even lacking passion for your work can build up to burnout.

What is burnout?

You may be thinking that burnout is just another health-related buzzword. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an “occupational phenomenon,” not a medical condition External Site. Burnout is a syndrome that results when you experience so much stress within your job and can't find a way to successfully manage it.

Burnout stats

experiencing burnout statistics
  • 47 hours. The length of the average workweek for full-time U.S. employees.
  • 1 in 5. The number of people who work 60-plus hours a week.
  • 28 percent. The percentage of people who miss three to six days of work each year due to stress.
  • 662 million. The number of unused vacation days in 2016.
  • $190 billion. Health care costs associated with burnout.
  • 120,000. The number of deaths each year attributed to workplace stress.

The bad news? Burnout can lead to many health issues like insomnia, alcohol or substance abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. According to a recent Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report® External Site, many of these health issues are already impacting the millennial generation at increasing rates. And, millennials will soon become a prominent population within the workforce. 

The good news is that you’re not in this fight against burnout alone. Many of your friends, family members, and coworkers may be experiencing burnout in their jobs too. And, let’s not forget: Burnout is reversible if managed and addressed.

How to know if you’re experiencing burnout.

symptoms of experiencing burnout

Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion External Site that can steal the joy out of your life, career, friendships and family interactions, according to Healthline. Consider the signs of burnout listed below. Are you experiencing one or more of these?

  • Critical or cynical outlook
  • Lack of motivation at work, or trouble getting started
  • Irritable or inpatient with coworkers
  • Energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reduction in efficiency
  • Unexplained headaches, stomach aches, or other physical aliments
  • Lack of satisfaction from achievements

7 ways to recover from burnout once it has started

Now that you know what burnout is, what can you do to manage or avoid it completely? We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips you can try to manage or reverse your burnout.

  1. Start with a little #self-care. We all love to take a seat on the couch with our favorite ice cream in hand and dive into the latest Netflix series, but why not switch it up? We’ve compiled a list of fun and easy ways to make self-care a daily habit in your life. Challenge yourself to try one self-care tactic per week for the next month to see how you feel.
  2. Set boundaries. Know how many commitments you can take on and feel confident saying “no” when you reach your max. When you say yes (even when you’re at capacity), people will continue to come to you to get things done. Tips for setting boundaries at work: Block your calendar for when you plan to arrive at and leave the office for a structured start and stop time. Avoid bringing home your laptop or checking email when you get home, work will always be there in the morning. Have open, honest conversations with your manager to determine your capacity, so they can support you in pushing back on over-committing yourself.
  3. Break up your day. If your job or day-to-day tasks tend to be repetitive, find ways to break up your day to spice it up! Consider going for a short walk every few hours, run errands, go to an exercise class, or enjoy a healthy snack.
  4. Pursue your passions. You might be in a job that pays the bills but doesn’t bring you joy or excitement. Find hobbies and interests you love to do outside of your workday and set aside time each day to do them.
  5. Get with gratitude. We all experience moments of gratitude. Whether it be during the holidays, when you receive good news from a doctor, or crush a presentation at work. A growing amount of research suggests gratitude is an emotional muscle you can strengthen over time to feel increased energy, joy and satisfaction. Plus, there is a whole host of health benefits to expressing gratitude each day.
  6. Seek support and help. Never be afraid to reach out to coworkers, friends, family members or professionals to get the support and advice you need. Always check out the resources available to you (especially at work) — several workplaces have confidential Employee Assistance Programs.
  7. Take a vacation and unplug. A perfect way to avoid burnout may be to take a vacation with your closest friends, family or even solo. And while on vacation, make an effort to unplug as much as possible. Tips to unplug: Set up your out-of-office message, store your phone away or turn it off throughout your vacation (challenge: don’t bring it!), or even delete apps related to work on your devices to avoid the temptation to check in.

Feeling stuck? Know your options.

If you are struggling with burnout, or you suspect that you may also have a mental health condition such as depression, or anxiety, you have options.

  1. Make a visit to your personal doctor. Your personal doctor will be able to help you understand your symptoms and triggers to determine the best treatment options for you — whether it be through therapy, prescription drugs or a combination of the two. If you don’t have a personal doctor, log in or register for myWellmark® Opens New Window to find one near you.
  2. Virtual visits are here for you. As part of your health benefits, you may have access to a licensed therapist — or psychiatrist for more complex issues — to listen and help you find solutions, all from your computer, tablet or smartphone, with Doctor On Demand® External Site.