Stressed out about work? You’re not alone. Long-term, chronic stress at work can lead to burnout, which will affect your performance, productivity, and ability to tackle new challenges and thrive in your career.

A burnout is extreme physical and emotional exhaustion, often resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Here are the top symptoms of burnout in office workers:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; feeling drained
  • Increased dissatisfaction with your career
  • Reduced productivity at work

There are many other possible signs of burnout to watch for. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): “Generally, someone who is stressed tends to be over-reactive and hyperactive, whereas burnout presents more as disengagement and produces a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, with loss of motivation and hope. It can also lead to depression and detachment.” Burnout can affect confidence levels, causing a person to feel like a failure, and it can be accompanied by physical symptoms like back aches and headaches, loss of appetite, and disrupted sleep.

Self-care is critical at this point. If you’re starting to feel the effects of workplace burnout, it’s time to take action and manage it. Here are 5 strategies to help prevent burnout:

Work with purpose: Do you feel that your career has a deeper purpose, other than just earning a paycheque? Most of the time, rediscovering your purpose can go a long way towards helping you avoid burnout and keeping stress at a manageable level. Look at the deeper impact of what you do everyday; how does your work make life better for other people? How could you add more meaning to what you do everyday?

Take a break: As simple as it sounds, take a break! Make sure you’re making time for yourself. Taking short breaks between work can boost your productivity. Have a snack, get up, and stretch! Tip: Try the Pomodoro work/break cycle, set a timer for 25 min and focus on a task, take a 3-min break intermittently, and repeat the cycle 4 times. This technique has been known to boost productivity and help the user stay focused.

Build a comfortable workspace: Burnout is not only mental but physical too. Working at a desk that’s too low or from a chair that’s too high, while your back and neck get stiff from hours of work will only contribute to physical stress on your body. Minimize that stress by organizing your office in a way that allows you to work comfortably and boost productivity.

Set healthy work/life boundaries: Creating a clear distinction between your professional and personal life is important — especially if you’re working from home as a result of the pandemic. Consider ways to break up your day to ensure you’re re-energizing regularly. Take a walk at lunch, or move to the deck for your coffee break for fresh air, to feel the sun and listen to the birds. End your day on time to spend quality time with family and strengthen those relationships.

Start using positive self-talk: Negative words can cause long-term anxiety and stress. This is because your brain releases stress-inducing hormones when it encounters negative talk even if it’s something you tell yourself. Give yourself room to make mistakes (we’re all human). Instead of statements like “I can’t do this,” and “this is impossible,” use questions to turn it into a challenge for yourself. “How can I do this?” “How can I make this possible?”

Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and watch for the early warning signs of career burnout such as feelings of withdrawal, low mood and even helplessness. If you start to see some of these signs, put strategies in gear to get working toward a healthier balanced lifestyle.

This article has been made available to MCC members courtesy of GFIT Wellness in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week. To learn more about GFIT’s Corporate Wellness solution, click here.

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