Does the stress from work leave you feeling exhausted? Have your thoughts about your job become increasingly negative? Is it a struggle to get things done? If so, you might officially be burned out.
The World Health Organization designated burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” earlier this year and included it in its classification of diseases. So that stress you’re feeling at work could be a real problem that needs to be managed.
And you’re certainly not alone if you do feel this way, says career strategist Elizabeth Koraca. She explains she hears from clients all of the time that they are burnt out. So what do you do to avoid getting to this point or to deal with burnout if you’re facing it now? Here are six ways to deal with workplace stress that’s affecting your ability to do your job.
1. Pinpoint the cause of your burnout
When you’re experiencing burnout, it’s usually because there’s so much going on in your life, Koraca says. “It’s go, go, go all the time,” she notes. So the first thing you need to do is pause for a moment to pinpoint the cause of your burnout.
Identify what is generating the most stress for you, and write down what the problem area is, Koraca explains. This will help you figure out whether there are things you can do on your own to alleviate that source of stress – or whether you need to talk with your manager about ways to restructure your day or workload.
2. Have systems in place to deal with stress
Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until you’re feeling burned out to deal with workplace stress, says David Trotter, a launch coach and host of the Inspiration Rising podcast. You should have systems in place to avoid becoming overwhelmed. “It’s an ongoing process of caring for your mind, body and soul,” he notes.
For example, Trotter recommended identifying the time of day when you are most productive. Do the tasks that require the most attention during those hours. If you wait until your mind isn’t as agile to do the mental heavy lifting, you’ll burn out faster, he explains.
3. Put yourself first
You might be feeling burned out because you’re putting everyone else’s needs before your own. So it might be time to start putting yourself first, Koraca says. To do that, write down your goals – things you want to accomplish within a specific time period.
“You can keep it very simple,” she explains. “Think about what you want in your life now.” Then create an action plan to reach your goals and set reminders on your phone or the calendar on your desk to check in on your progress.
Also, take time to do things for yourself, Trotter notes. It can be taking a walk, meditating or going to the movies with your family – whatever helps you feel rejuvenated. “The key is you can’t wait until you’re overwhelmed,” he says. Be intentional with your self-care by including it in your schedule.
4. Set boundaries for yourself
Learning to say “no” can be a great way to avoid burnout. It’s important to set boundaries for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed, Koraca says.
If you have your own goals, you can say “yes” to the things that align with your priorities at work or in your personal life and politely decline the requests to do things that aren’t the best use of your time. Of course, that doesn’t mean telling your boss you can’t work late because you have a yoga class to attend. But if there’s not an urgent deadline to meet, you might suggest that you tackle the task first thing the next morning instead.
5. Take your vacation days
More than half of Americans don’t use all of the vacation time that is offered to them by their employers, according to research by the U.S. Travel Association. If you’re among them, you should take advantage of all the vacation days you have to avoid burnout, Koraca says. “Studies do show that not only do you feel better, your productivity in the office is better,” she explains. “It’s really a win-win for everyone in the long run.”
Not only should you make taking a vacation a priority, but also you should make sure you’re using that time to unplug and recharge. That means limiting how often you check your work email while on vacation, Koraca notes. And if you have to do work while you’re off, make sure you reserve time each day to unwind.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Your burnout might be the result of trying to do everything on your own. If that’s the case, recognize that it’s OK to ask for help. “Just because we ask for help doesn’t mean we’re not doing a good job,” Koraca says. Talk to your manager at work about whether you can delegate some of your tasks to others so you can do more of what you love, she advises.
You also might need to seek help for dealing with your burnout from a counselor, career coach or family doctor. If conversations with your manager or with a professional don’t help resolve your stress at work, it might be time to look for a new job. “If it’s really that bad, you need to start creating a strategy to get out of that situation,” Koraca notes.
Let people in your network you know that you’re looking for a new job. However, stay in your current position until you can find a new one – unless the situation is intolerable, Koraca says. “It’s always easier to find a job when you have a job,” she explains. “You have more negotiating power.”
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Cameron Huddleston is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. She also is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about personal finance for more than 17 years. You can learn more about her at CameronHuddleston.com. Opinions are those of the author or the person interviewed.