First, Take Care of Your Body
This sounds cliché, but it can be the hardest part when you’re burned out. How much alcohol have you been drinking? When was the last time you exercised? When did you eat your lunch away from both the computer and your phone? Before you can mentally recover, you have to get the physical part down. Eat the healthy food, move around a bit, put the phone down, and get more sleep. Not doing this first step will undo all of the others.
Figure Out Why, So You Don’t Repeat This Next Time
There are around six main reasons that burnout usually happens, across all careers and levels of education:
- Is it a heavy workload, where you can never catch up? Sisyphean tasks make anyone miserable.
- Perhaps it’s a lack of control, and you feel like you don’t have any voice in how you’re treated.
- Maybe you feel the rewards don’t match the work and you’re being exploited.
- If your work has a hostile environment, it’s not surprising that you’re burned out.
- Maybe there’s a lack of community and everyone backstabs and fights each other, without any support or sense of teamwork.
- Perhaps you’re working against your own values, and your job requires you to kill puppies or evict little old ladies.
Whatever it is, you need to pinpoint everything that’s making you miserable so there is zero chance of you feeling like this again.
Imagine a Better Future
What kind of work would make you engaged and enthusiastic? What are the things that a great workplace should have? Now that you know what is making you miserable, what kind of workplace would eradicate that issue?
Fix the Problem
Some issues, like working against your core values, require you to make a career change. Others, like a heavy workload, require you to ask for more help at work. Can you transfer to another team or justify hiring an assistant? What if you were able to work from home or have some flex time? Are your issues something that your current position can adapt to? Or do you need a new position?
Perhaps you know that you have to change careers but can’t afford to walk out on your current one. Take some time to brush up your resume, get your interview outfits together, and at the end of another awful day be sure to write down all the things that happened. Write it down! First, you probably need to vent, but secondly, you can extract some useful specifics about what you need to avoid at your next job. Write down all the stories that you can use in an interview for ‘how you do well under pressure and other likely interview questions. Use your remaining time for future interview fodder.
Check here for tips on changing careers.
Return to What Used to Make You Happy
Burning out can make anyone one-dimensional, with just work or work-plus-other duties eating up all our time. Even adding in the gym as “taking care of ourselves” can become just another responsibility. Go hang out with some friends or family that you enjoy seeing. Do something that made you content before you took that job. Take some time to do things you want to do, not things you have to do. Make sure it’s not destructive or escapist behavior, but an interest that you enjoyed before you got burned out. The idea is to remember what it feels like to not be burned out, so escapist behavior won’t help.
Take Every Vacation Day
Much like the first tip to take care of yourself, this sounds simple. This might be the hardest part for anyone who’s been working themselves into this situation. If you can afford it, take some time off. You need rest to recharge.
Whether you change your schedule, your boss, your department, or your industry, please remember to take care of yourself first. Your work isn’t worth sacrificing your health and happiness.