Published on November 29, 2022

woman laying her head on desk

Feeling Burned Out? Here’s What to Do

Overbooked calendars. Constant pings on your cell phone. Added responsibilities. Changing technology. Add all that to the internal pressure you feel to appear like you’ve got it all together. While some people thrive on a high level of busyness, others begin to suffer from what’s generally called “burnout.”

According to surveys by the American Psychological Association, job burnout among American workers is on the rise. In 2021, nearly three in five employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of energy, interest and motivation; mental and emotional weariness; and physical fatigue.

“It’s tempting to think it wouldn’t happen to me – that I’m a resilient person. Yet the environment we live in and the stressors that create pressure for us impact the strongest among us,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, Avera psychiatrist and Vice President of Avera’s Behavioral Health Service Line.

“Leaders may see the need for work-life balance for our employees, but we don’t follow it ourselves,” Stanley said. “Rather, we just keep adding more to our shoulders.”

Why? Maybe it’s our competitive nature. Or worries about shifting economics. Or maybe it’s a sense of pride in community presence, reputation and employability.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Inability to relax and poor sleep. “Sleep is paramount for your body and mind to restore and recover and be ready for whatever you’ll face the next day,” Stanley said.
  • Feelings of cynicism – that what you’re doing doesn’t matter.
  • Emotional numbing – you don’t feel excited, enthused, happy or even sad.
  • Irritability and anger.
  • Loss of enjoyment. “You feel like all you do is to go to work, go home, try to sleep and then go back to work,” Stanley said. “Life doesn’t have any balance to it.”

Tips to Overcome Burnout

Make self-care a priority.

Set aside time for restorative sleep and rest. Eat healthy, unprocessed and whole foods. “Exercise is an absolutely great way to get in your own head and give yourself the gift of physical renewal,” Stanley said.

Separate work life from home life.

One great technique is the “Mister Rogers procedure.” Mister Rogers came in the door of his neighborhood home, took off his suit jacket and dress shoes, and put on his sweater and sneakers. “These rituals were moving him from his work environment to his home environment. This can include any pattern or habit that tells yourself, ‘I’m relaxed now,’” Stanley said.

The majority of professionals carry their work responsibility with them 24/7 through their cell phones, laptops, tablets or in their minds.

Change your internal dialogue.

Statistics show that 70% of the time, when remembering an event, people remember the negative aspects rather than the positive.

Keep a gratitude journal to help reframe your thinking.

Try mindfulness. “That’s the ability to just be present, to just feel and without judgment evaluate where you’re at in the moment,” Stanley said.

Be less critical of yourself. “A good place to start is to try and not say anything to yourself internally that you wouldn’t say to a stranger on the street,” he said. “At least be as kind to yourself as you’d be to a stranger.”

Grant yourself time to think.

“We’re so often skipping over the surface – we rarely get into deep thinking,” Stanley said. He recommends setting aside time at work when you can actually focus on the problems you’re trying to solve.

“If you’re always jumping from one thing to the next, you can never delve into that solution-oriented deep thought that gives us a sense of completion and closure.”

If these steps don’t help to resolve your burnout, help is available. Check into your company’s Employee Assistance Program, which may include free counseling sessions or learning sessions as part of your benefits. Or, learn more at Avera.org/BehavioralHealth.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.