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Employee Assistance Program EAP Blog

11 Tips for Avoiding Burnout

Posted by Daniel Feerst on

Job burnout—chances are you’ve heard these words before. You may have heard friends or co-workers complain of it or it may be something you’re worried about experiencing yourself.

But what is burnout?

Most people equate job burnout to being overworked, but that is only one factor that can create this miserable condition. The truth is that workplace burnout has many causes which, in combination, serve as agents of destruction, slowly chipping away at an employee’s energy, morale, happiness and creative spirit.

Job burnout is not stress, not all generic stress management training can prevent it. It takes more. Stress is temporary and can sometimes lead to positive outcomes. Burnout is a chronic condition of mental and physical exhaustion that slowly accumulates over time and leaves you feeling hopeless and unmotivated. There is nothing good or positive about it.

Factors that Lead to Burnout

Burnout doesn’t just strike professionals in high powered, lucrative career paths. Anyone can be at risk. Here are the six primary workplace conditions that are most likely to lead to job burnout. Read them and see if you recognize yourself in any of these situations.

  • Lack of control: The less self-directed you are at work, the more likely you are to experience burnout. Employees who feel as though they are not in control of their careers, their methods or the result of their efforts are a high risk for job burnout.
  • Values conflict: This is a disconnect between your core values and those of the organization that employs you. It can also include a disconnect with the company culture or other employees.
  • Insufficient reward: When you do not feel valued by your co-workers, boss or organization, job burnout is more likely. Although compensation is a factor, well-paid employees may still feel undervalued in a system that doesn’t offer individual incentives or public praise.
  • Work overload: This is not just about quantity of work or the number of hours necessary to get the job done. Any work that is overwhelming, stressful, complex or given to unyielding deadlines may lead to burnout.
  • Unfairness: A culture in which raises, promotions, praise or other rewards seem to be arbitrary or prone to favoritism, or one where rules are enforced selectively, is fertile ground for burnout.
  • Poor communication: Uncommunicated expectations, fuzzy goals, poor or non-existent feedback, and a lack of common cause are job burnout contributors.

Burnout is something everyone should be concerned about and it is not something to be taken lightly. It is a debilitating condition that reaches, tentacle-like, into every part of the sufferers’ daily life and slowly strangles the joy from it.

How do I know if I’m burned out?

The top symptoms of job burnout are feelings of cynicism and detachment. In short, work no longer feels meaningful and your efforts don’t seem to matter. Here are other common symptoms of burnout.


  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Social Isolation
  • Loss of passion
  • Boredom


  • Decreased effectiveness
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased errors
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased tardiness/absenteeism


  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Illness
  • Depression
  • Alcohol/Drug abuse

When you become burned out, you are no longer the best version of you—or even a passing version it. You’ve become a shadow of who you once were, with all the light and energy sucked out of you. Indeed, the word burnout describes a husk or shell of what once was. The outside may look the same, but the inside has been badly damaged.

Tips for Avoiding Burnout

Burnout robs you of your happiness, passion, and potential, replacing them with hopelessness. That’s why it is critical that you not only recognize its symptoms, but also learn how to combat and overcome it.

  • 1.Take burnout seriously: Recognize what job burnout costs its victims in health, career prospects, personal development, relationships and personal growth.
  • 2.Re-shape your job duties: Part of burnout is a feeling of being “stuck” in a ceaseless routine that feels meaningless. One way to avoid this is to work with your boss to craft your job into something that better fits your strengths, values and aspirations.
  • 3.Re-energize: Burnout isn’t just an on-the-job problem. It bleeds into every part of your life. The upside of this is that burnout can also be addressed outside of work. Finding a new hobby or rekindling a lost one is a great way to refresh and refuel your exhausted emotions.
  • 4.Take care of yourself: Your mom drilled this into you because it matters—and even more so when you’re an adult. Get good sleep, eat right and exercise a few times a week. A healthy body feeds a healthy mind and spirit.
  • 5.Keep learning: Stagnation not only leads to boredom, it creates stress by limiting your opportunities. Leveling up your skill set will stave off the daily grind by presenting new challenges and experiences.
  • 6.Stop comparing yourself to others: Be in competition with the person you were yesterday and try to improve a little bit each day.
  • 7.Start each day with inspirational reading: Remember—a big part of burnout is a lack of purpose. If you’re unable to find that through your work, you can compensate by finding one internally.
  • 8.Have a mission statement: What do you want out of your life and career? Why? What are your values? What are your responsibilities? Reconnecting with the things that are important to you will revive your spirit and open the door to fresh insights and opportunities.
  • 9.Have down time, not just from work, but everyone: The modern lifestyle is both connected and on-the-go. This leads to considerable stress. Avoid being overwhelmed by work and personal demands by scheduling alone time each week. Make it a priority. Put it right on your calendar. Even an hour per week can make a big difference!
  • 10.Take time to socialize: Spending a few minutes each day getting to know your co-workers won’t kill your productivity and it might just build relationships that improve your output and make your day more pleasant.
  • 11.Don’t beat yourself up over defeats: You’re only human. Everyone makes mistakes and has setbacks. The only failure is to not get back up again. Almost all victories are a consequence of perseverance. So long as you’re still trying, you’ll be okay.

You are the first line of defense against burnout. If you’re feeling like you’re stuck running circles on a hamster wheel, take the measure of your mental, physical and emotional state and put every available resource toward getting “unstuck” Others have done it and so can you. It’s never too late to take a step in the right direction.

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