Are you constantly tired and lack motivation at work? Do you feel irritated by your colleagues and feel permanently demoralised and disillusioned? If so, you could be a victim of burnout.

Burnout can be described as a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion caused by long-term stress. But it's not quite the same thing as stress. You may, for instance, experience burnout when your workload increases permanently. But it can also happen if you feel you have no control over your job, if you feel you never get any support or recognition at your workplace, or if you never have enough time to finish your tasks to your satisfaction. 

In terms of your health, some experts believe that suffering from burnout can lead to a depleted immune system, which could make you less resistant to viruses and other illnesses. And while it's typically associated with high-profile career types, the truth is that burnout is increasingly affecting people in all sorts of jobs and from different backgrounds.

Signs you're experiencing burnout

As well as feeling worn out, demoralised and demotivated, there are several signs that you may be suffering from burnout to look out for, including:

  • Dreading going to work and having no interest in your job
  • Finding excuses to not go to work or take days off sick
  • Watching the clock at work, checking to see how soon you can go home
  • Having problems sleeping
  • Suffering frequent minor physical complaints such as headaches, backache and other aches and pains
  • Having feelings of emptiness, or feeling that your work has no meaning

How to tackle burnout

If you don't deal with burnout, it can significantly affect your career, as well as those around you - both at the office and in your personal life. Here are some tips on avoiding burnout, as well as what you should do if you are already suffering from it:

Create more autonomy in your job

If you feel as if you have no control at work, try to find ways to create more autonomy in your job. For instance, talk to your employer about ways in which you could have more control over your daily tasks and projects.

Monitor your self talk

Notice your thoughts and self talk, says life coach Jayne Morris. "Do you keep telling yourself to 'hurry up', 'be the best', or 'make it perfect'?" asks Jayne. "These are common internal drivers that cause us to override our intuition and push ourselves too hard. Change your thoughts by flipping them to the opposite - such as 'slow down' or 'good is good enough'."

Boost your wellbeing

Try to make sure you get some exercise every day, as this could help reduce your stress levels and boost your sense of wellbeing. If you're not sleeping very well, regular exercise can help you get a proper night's sleep too. Try going for a walk during lunchtime, as getting out into the fresh air will also help clear your head.

Speak to your employer

If you feel your employer has heaped more work on you than you can handle, speak to them about redistributing your workload. "For instance, you could ask if there are any projects that are not 100 percent necessary and could be put on hold to free up some of your time and energy for the more important tasks," advises Jayne. "Explain that the impact of this will be increased productivity on the tasks that matter."

Make time to relax

Long-term stress can contribute significantly to burnout, so make sure you take time out to relax as often as possible. You could for instance try meditation or deep breathing exercises, or do whatever helps you to feel calm, like listening to your favourite music or reading a good book. It may also be useful to keep a stress journal, where you write about all the things that regularly stress you out.

For more tips on handling stress, read our articles Getting a handle on stress  and Live well, beat stress. For more advice and information call +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online 24 hours a day.

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