Sure, everybody’s had those weeks where you just want to get home from work and flop onto the sofa until your headache subsides. But if that’s happening every week — well, you’ve got a lot of company, for one thing, but it shouldn’t be like that. Yes, we’re all working harder and getting little (or nothing) extra for our efforts, but on-the-job burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable.
That probably comes as new to many Americans. New research from jobs site Monster.com finds that a staggering four in five workers experience burnout in their jobs. Among millennials, the figure is even higher: 86% report feeling burned out at work. That’s not surprising, given how tough it’s been for millenials to land jobs at all.
Burnout is different than regular bad-day stress, and it can be dangerous, say the experts at the Mayo Clinic. “Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work,” its website says. It warns that burnout can contribute to insomnia, depression, alcohol abuse, high cholesterol and a host of other health problems.
If the Monster data is any indication, odds are your chronic stress might be work burnout, especially if you’re a young adult. Here are some ways to send burnout packing.
Stop trying to do it all right now. Studies have shown that multitasking isn’t the productivity silver bullet it’s cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes trying to focus too much stuff at once can actually sap your momentum. “Try to block off time to focus and have uninterrupted productive time to get your work done,” says Joanie Courtney, Monster’s senior vice president of careers and employment. “Don’t let office or Internet distractions take you off task because they can lead to increased stress if you can’t get your work done.”
Take a break. Be sure to build in time for both physical and mental breaks. “Burnout is the result of a reduction in motivation from overwork. If you’re feeling this way, you have to budget in some time to take a break,” Courtney says. This is especially the case if your job involves repetitive tasks. A study published in the scientific journal Cognition finds that people who take breaks can “recharge” their concentration and return to a task with renewed focus. Flip through a magazine, read up on a favorite hobby or take a walk around the block.
Tackle fixable problems. If you can identify a source of burnout — say, a grueling commute or feeling like you’re not getting feedback you need — try to fix it. “Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Perhaps you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions,” the Mayo Clinic suggests. For instance, if you’re spending three hours a day behind the wheel of your car, maybe you could work from home one day a week. If you feel like you’re not getting the training or guidance you need, try to schedule a standing meeting with your boss to go over your assignments.
Pat yourself on the back. One hallmark of burnout is feeling overwhelmingly cynical and not deriving any satisfaction from your achievements. If that sounds like you, make it a point to take the time to recognize the effort you’re putting in at work, says Heidi Golledge, CEO and co-founder of CareerBliss.com. “Each night, make a list of things you accomplished today and what you want to accomplish tomorrow,” she suggests. Even if you’re burnt out because no one else appreciates what you do, take a few minutes to be your own cheerleader.
Realize when you’d be better off leaving. As the song goes, know when to fold ‘em. “It’s OK to admit to yourself that there could be a better job out there,” Courtney says. You might be in the wrong job, or you might have outgrown your job and not have any chance to move up. If this is the case, “Begin to build an exit strategy from your job, and find a job that will meet your work needs,” she says. It’s easier to find a job when you’re already working, so start your new job search while you’re still on board rather than quitting in frustration.