Dealing with Work Burnout (Signs, Symptoms & Solutions)

We’ve all had a bad day at work. But when you start having one bad day after another and find yourself quick to anger, tired, and constantly overwhelmed, you may be experiencing work burnout. You’re not alone. 

A gallop survey found 76% of workers feel burned out sometimes, and 28% are experiencing work burnout ‘very often’ or ‘always’ at work.

Whether your boss wants to accept it or not, work burnout is a thing, and, clearly, signs of burnout are trending upward.

What is work burnout?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is a syndrome resulting from unmanaged chronic workplace stress.

Throw in a pandemic and it gets worse. The pressure is on. With essential workers clocking overtime and more people working from home, the ‘always on’ work culture is in full effect causing work-related stress, anxiety, and cynicism.

There are many different causes of work burnout. Here are a few:

  • Unclear job expectations
  • Lack of control over your schedule or workload
  • Stressful workplace dynamics
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Working too much 

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Signs and symptoms of work burnout

Work burnout is characterized by exhaustion, negativity, or cynicism about your job and a general feeling of a lack of accomplishment. But it’s not always obvious. Burnout can creep up on us and manifest in different ways for different people. Here are some of the most common signs of work burnout. 

  • Your performance is going downhill. Probably because your ‘care and effort levels’ are skidding right along with your performance.
  • You feel exhausted all the time. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you get or how much coffee drink, you just can’t seem to perk yourself up. Exhaustion could be caused by a range of things like depression, poor diet, lack of exercise, bad sleeping patterns, or physical illness. Feeling tired isn’t always burnout but if you’re experiencing consistent work stress, it could be.
  • You’re struggling to get excited about anything. When people are overworked, passion goes out the window. If you couldn’t care less about the things that once gave you joy … work burnout.
  • You aren’t putting in the effort anymore. When you don’t feel excited about anything it can lead to a serious case of apathy. You might still do the work, but the bare minimum is all you have the energy for. 
  • You’ve become more cynical or critical at work. While it’s therapeutic to complain once in a while, cynicism and negativity are common signs of work burnout. 

Short and long-term fixes for work burnout

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If left unchecked, burnout can elevate fast. Even if you take a break from work, you’re just returning to the source of the burnout afterward. 

You might not be able to cure burnout today, but you can take steps to ease the stress while you work on those long-term solutions. 

Short-term solutions

1. Turn to others

One way to tackle burnout includes seeking support from others, such as family, friends, or even colleagues. If your job runs an employee assistance program, look into it. If the source of your stress is to do with workplace processes, then working with management on solutions is one way to tackle it. 

2. Embrace healthy habits

While it doesn’t address the root cause of burnout, learning how to manage stress is so important in staying sane. There are plenty of different activities and habits you can start to deal with stress. There’s exercise, spending time in nature, getting enough sleep, yoga, meditation. Anything that gets your head out of your everyday work life is great. But let’s go beyond that…

3. Address anxiety today

A major cause of burnout is an underlying anxiety that bubbles below the surface and pops its ugly head out when things get tough. So, do you feel overwhelmed and anxious? Admitting that is a great first start, but what are you going to do about it?

Ramit’s approach to anxiety is about knowing when to let things go. It’s also about not waiting for inspiration to strike or waiting to “be in a better/more productive mood” to tackle your problems. 

Instead, it’s about taking real action, building systems to deal with anxiety. You probably already know what you need to do. But just focus on one or two things, and practice them daily. However, you decide to tackle anxiety, be consistent with it. Do it even on the bad days, no, especially on the bad days.

Long-term solutions

The problem with short-term solutions is that they often don’t really solve the root problem. It’s just patching up a hole in a sinking ship. Temporary relief is great, but to really treat burnout, long-term solutions are in order. If you are burnt out at work, you really only have two options: improve your current job or find a new one. 

Option 1: Improve your current job

A few ways you can ease burnout and improve your job include:

  • Negotiate a higher salary – We have a ton of resources on how to do this, including scripts you can use.
  • Negotiate for perks – If the work-life balance is the problem, negotiating for more vacation time, remote work, or flexible hours could help with the burnout. 
  • Ask for a transfer – If you can switch up your job role or even get a transfer to another department, this could help ease burnout due to lack of job satisfaction.

Option 2: Find a new job

If the above doesn’t work or your boss won’t work with you, it could be time to move on and make a career change. We know, scary stuff! But, it’s ultimately worth it if you can’t find happiness where you are now. 

Now, don’t just walk into another job without some careful thought first. If things don’t work out in your current job, that’s a great learning experience. What went wrong? Was it the environment, the work itself, the boss? Try to pinpoint what you hated and use that to fuel your search for your dream job

However, finding your dream job is not easy, but Ramit always has your back. Check out our Dream Job program to learn more about how you can systematically find a job that makes you excited to go to work every Monday. 

For those dealing with work-related anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout, the Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a handy hotline you can call for times of crisis. Visit SAMHSA. 

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.