5 Tips to Prevent Burnout and Cope When You Can’t Cope

By Stacy Mosel, LMSW

December 15, 2021

Burnout Prevention

People sometimes throw around the term burnout to refer to when they feel tired or overwhelmed from day-to-day stress. While you might indeed feel stressed and worn down at times, burnout is a syndrome with an official diagnosis in the ICD-11, the International Classification of Diseases.

What does burnout mean, and how can you know if you’re really “burned out?” More importantly, how can you prevent burnout from affecting your mental and physical wellbeing, and how can you cope if you just can’t cope anymore?

What Is Burnout?

According to the ICD-11, burnout is a syndrome that can occur due to excessive and unmanageable workplace stress. You might experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling exhausted and depleted
  • Feeling increasingly negative or increasingly distant from your job
  • Feeling ineffective and a lack of accomplishment at work

People who experience burnout might display mental and physical health symptoms, especially if they ignore their stress for long periods. That’s why it’s crucial to prevent burnout from occurring or address it as soon as you notice that you feel increasingly unable to cope. So what steps can you take to help yourself?

Identify and Confront Stressors

The American Stress Institute advises identifying and confronting your stressors as soon as you can. That means sitting down and being honest with yourself about how you feel. If at all possible, take some time off from work so you can have a distraction-free, quiet environment in which to give these ideas some thought.

Do you feel like you don’t have a say in your day-to-day tasks, or do you have a coworker who’s driving you up the wall? Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough time to complete your assignments, or you’re just plain overloaded.

Make a list of your concerns. Be as specific as you can and try to identify the exact reasons you feel burned out. Then write down your symptoms, which can include anything that you think might be related to your stress, such as being unable to sleep, feeling anxious or tense, getting unexplained headaches or stomachaches, or fighting with your spouse for no apparent reason.

Think About What You Need

Identify what you need to solve the problem. Then write down your needs below your list of concerns/stressors.

 

Maybe it’s a flexible work schedule or more time to complete assignments—at least in the short term until things improve. Perhaps you need to move your office away from the annoying colleague or create better boundaries with others. It could also be something as simple as taking more frequent breaks, not taking work home with you, or staying away from social media sites related to working when you’re not working. Or maybe it’s time for a job or career change.

Talk to Your Supervisor

Many people fear discussing their concerns or symptoms with their higher-ups, but it’s vital to take your symptoms seriously. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, organizational consultant Ron Carucci points out that it’s in your employer's best interest to address your symptoms because you obviously won’t be productive if you’re not able to function.

You might start by saying, “I wouldn’t mention this if it wasn’t affecting my work,” or, “It’s not easy for me to talk about this, but…” and then calmly explain the concerns you’ve written down on your list. Start from the “I” standpoint, such as “I feel…” instead of “This job is making me feel…,” and talk about the things you feel you need to improve the situation.

If you feel like your employer won’t hear you, you could also consult your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or your union rep, if these options are available to you.

Manage Your Stress

Stress can be insidious, and we often don’t notice the signs until we’re struggling to drag ourselves through the day. This is why it’s critical to have a daily stress management routine that works for your needs.

That might mean engaging in mindfulness meditation—which you can even do at your desk in as little as 5 minutes—going to an after-work yoga class, meeting up with friends, or spending time in nature. Additionally, you may wish to check out these TED talks specifically designed for people struggling with burnout.

Commit to Wellness

Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are important for maintaining wellness and resilience. But when you’re dealing with burnout, you might feel like you just don’t have the motivation to stick with your usual wellness plan.

That’s where the ScriptSave® WellRx Grocery Guidance App can step in. Download our free app to obtain inspiration and helpful tips that can help you stay on track with your health and wellness goals.

When the Going Gets Tough

If you’re still struggling despite your best efforts to address the problem, it might be time to consult a professional. Burnout can take a serious toll on your health, so it’s important to nip things in the bud as soon as possible. Seeking help is a sign of strength and indicates that you put your health and wellbeing first.

You can start by talking to your doctor, who can evaluate your symptoms and help you decide the next steps to take. You could also search for qualified mental health providers in your area using a free online directory.

Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and substance abuse specialist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a Master of Social Work degree in 2002. She has extensive training in child and family therapy and in the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Currently, she is focusing on writing in the fields of mental health and addictions, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist, and assistant director of a child and family services agency.

References:

https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases

https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/129180281

https://www.stress.org/burnout-is-now-an-official-medical-condition

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642

https://hbr.org/2021/01/how-to-tell-your-boss-youre-burned-out

https://www.healthline.com/health/eap-counselor

https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/meditation-classes/5-minute-meditations-you-can-do-anytime-anywhere/

https://www.ted.com/playlists/245/talksforwhenyoufeel_totall

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185781

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