How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed: A Guide on Dealing with Burnout
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed every now and then. If it’s persistent though, it could lead to burnout. Read on to learn more about burnout and how you can prevent it.
Overwhelmed No More: Everything You Need to Know to Understand and Cope with Burnout
What Is Burnout?
The World Health Organization describes burnout as a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Individuals who are burned out may feel cynical and hostile towards their work.
Burnout isn’t just a psychological burden, but an organizational one as well. Multiple studies show that burnout contributes to poorer performance.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is a normal component of modern life. Short-term stress can give us the push we need to improve performance. But when these feelings last longer than a few days and you don’t manage them, then it can lead to burnout.
What Causes Burnout?
Individuals who experience high levels of chronic stress are at greater risk for burnout. Especially if their workplace has the following characteristics:
- Excessive workload
- Low levels of autonomy for employees
- Lack of work recognition
- Lack of peer and supervisor support
- Unfair policies and practices
- Unmeaningful work
Employees can feel overwhelmed when they have to constantly render longer hours to try to meet tight deadlines. It’s emotionally draining when you constantly feel like you’re failing because of unrealistic demands.
What Are the Signs of Burnout?
Burnout can manifest itself in different ways. It can have an impact on your physical health, emotional well-being, and even your behavior.
Physical symptoms include:
- Constant lack of energy
- Lower immunity (ex: employee gets sick a lot)
- Poor eating and sleeping habits
- Constant headaches
- Frequent muscle pain
Emotional symptoms include:
- Persistent distress and guilt
- Cynical or pessimistic outlook
- Feelings of failure
- Feelings of self-doubt
- Sense of helplessness
- Detachment from peers
- Lack of motivation
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Inability to deliver
- Isolating from social interactions
- Disproportionate reactions (ex: yelling at colleagues, outbursts, panic)
- Arriving at work late or leaving early
- Drinking more alcohol
- Eating more food
- Declining work opportunities
Some psychologists liken burnout to depression because they share similar symptoms. Unlike depression though, burnout usually results from a toxic work environment. If employee burnout is common in an organization, then it’s probably a red flag.
If these symptoms seem familiar, then it’s time to find a new way of operating. Below are a few things you can try if you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.
7 Ways to Cope with Burnout
1. Take a Break
If you’re overwhelmed with work or emotions, take a break.. It’s hard to get anything done when negative emotions take over. So it’s more productive to take a break and step back.
If it’s possible, take some time to unplug from work. Use those small pockets of time to find your calm. That way, when you’re recharged, you can focus on the task at hand and get the job done.
Tip: If you really want to unplug, try spending some time in outdoor settings. A change in scenery can do wonders for your mental health. You never know where you’re going to get that elusive moment of peace.
2. Identify Stressors
Burnout is the result of chronic stress. So if you want to manage it, you need to identify those stressors. There’s a level of complexity in everyone’s work experience.
For some, the cause of burnout may be a toxic work environment. For others, it may only involve certain tasks or people.
If you want to address your work stress in a meaningful way, then it’s important to understand what triggers it. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- When do you usually feel overwhelmed?
- Does it usually involve a task or a specific person?
- Are there situations that make you uncomfortable?
- If your burnout is new, did you experience any major changes?
- Were there any recent policy changes that had an impact on you?
Your answers to these questions can help you identify your triggers. Once you identify them, you can try to find ways to avoid them.
Even if you can’t completely avoid stress triggers, it’s still important that you’re aware of them. That way, you can prepare and they won’t catch you off guard.
Tip: Equip yourself with self-soothing techniques like meditation. These techniques can come in handy as you prepare for stressful situations.
3. Get Support
If you feel like you’re drowning in work and stress, reach out and let people help you out. Consider reaching out to the following people:
- Close friends
- Family members
- Mental health professionals
Your supervisors and co-workers may be able to address the source of your burnout. For example, if you’re feeling overworked, you can ask your supervisor if it’s possible to delegate certain tasks to co-workers.
Outside of work, you can seek support from family or friends. Even if they can’t address your problems directly, they can help you relieve some stress.
Simply talking and verbalizing your frustrations can help let off some steam. You can also do this with co-workers. You may not only be the only one feeling burnt out at work.
Learning about your co-workers’ struggles may help provide some perspective. It’s helpful to have a good support system at work.
Apart from your co-workers, friends, and family, you can also consider seeking help from a professional therapist. Therapy can allow you to talk through your issues and build better coping mechanisms.
4. Set Boundaries
Sometimes, people get burned out because they simply can’t say no. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries isn’t just about clocking in and out of work. It’s also about how you spend your hours at work.
If you want to dedicate time to a specific task or project, communicate this to your supervisors and co-workers. That way, they can adjust their expectations about your availability.
When you’re off the clock, try to take your mind off of work. It helps if you carve out specific hours of leisure.
5. Ditch Perfection and Prioritize
It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you set unrealistic expectations for yourself. If you’re aiming for perfection, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and frustration.
On top of that, you’re more likely to procrastinate if your goals seem unattainable. If you’re handling projects or tasks at work, try to break down your big assumptions before you begin.
Stay in the real world and set realistic targets. That way, you can prioritize feasible strategies.
There’s a lot of anxiety in trying to get everything perfect. It usually feels better to get the job done.
6. Prioritize Physical Health
Burnout can seem like a purely psychological issue from the onset, but it can also have an impact on your body. Stress can negatively impact your activity level and eating patterns.
To help prevent this, it’s important to prioritize your physical health. Here are some basic health recommendations:
- Exercise regularly – adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Studies show that regular exercise can improve mood and contribute to emotional resilience.
- Eat a balanced diet – try not to go beyond your calorie needs. Fill your meals with vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats. Stress can alter your nutritional needs, so it’s important to fill your meals with vitamins and minerals.
- Improve sleep quality – adults should get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can make you more sensitive to stress.
Tip: If you don’t know how to jumpstart your diet or exercise routine, YouTube and Instagram offer a lot of free resources.
7. Consider More Drastic Changes
Unlike other mental health conditions, burnout is a specific response to chronic external stressors. If your stressors are limited to a set of tasks or certain people, there are ways you can cope with them.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If the root cause of these stressors is the company’s culture, then it may be difficult to solve on your own.
If you think that your coping mechanisms aren’t enough, then perhaps it’s time to consider a more drastic change. Unfortunately, prioritizing employee mental health isn’t a standard feature in all companies.
So, if it’s possible, try to find an organization that values work-life balance and their employees’ well-being. Otherwise, you may find yourself burned out again.
Everyone deals with stress, but burnout is not inevitable. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout so that you can make meaningful changes that can help you cope and build resilience.
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