Get Out of Burnout

How much of our lives do we spend at work? It’s one of those constants in life that we can never really be able to sidestep, and statistically, the average person will spend around 100,000 hours working in their lifetime. That means that we will have spent almost eleven and a half years’ worth of time just at work while we’re alive. To put it mildly, that’s a lot of time. Some of us jump for joy when we get to work, and some of us groan—often times it really depends on the day—and Your Clear Next Step was founded to help make your workday even better, so that those eleven years’ worth of hours aren’t as taxing. However, we know there are rough days, weeks – even months – and one of the most arduous things in the working world is burnout. 

Burnout happens when we’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands. A 2022 study conducted by Asana across 10,000 employees in seven countries, found that 74% of them experienced burnout that year. While getting our work done is important, I’ve been encouraged by my peers at Your Clear Next Step to prioritize my health, because if my health suffers, so too, does the quality of my work, and I won't be able to help out those around me. So, even if it takes us away from work for a time, I believe it’s better to avoid burnout than to suffer from it. There are all sorts of ways to try to accomplish this, so I wanted to share some of my own burnout experiences, as well as the ways that I’ve learned to prevent and deal with it to help people avoid it altogether. 


Recognize the Symptoms 

If you don’t see it in yourself, learn to recognize when those around you notice it in you. 

Burnout, while not medically diagnosable, is defined as a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress, and in many cases, it’s related to one’s job. It often manifests in symptoms within our minds, like feeling: 

  • Consistently drained. 
  • Like we cannot cope with our workload. 
  • Sadness, Anger, Irritability, Frustration, or a Lack of Care. 

But it can also cause: 

  • Insomnia 
  • Heart Disease 
  • Type-2 Diabetes 
  • A weakened Immune System 
  • High Blood Pressure 

I can’t speak to having experienced all these symptoms when I have felt burnt out in the past, but I can certainly attest to several of them. I don't feel burnt out at the moment, thankfully, but as someone who has dealt with it before, and as a caring individual and a part of a team, I can recognize when others around me are experiencing it. That hurts, and I always want to step up and help them out if I can. No one should have to deal with those symptoms, especially the more serious ones.


Learn to Refuel/Recharge 

In other words, breaks are not a bad thing! 

One of the strategies that I often employ is one that I take directly from my peers’ recommendation at Your Clear Next Step: Take breaks! We’ve shared blogs about this before, and I very much believe in the truth of this: a healthy work-life balance leads to our best work. Working at our desks all day every day, day in and day out, can eventually lead to burnout - especially when you consider factors outside of work. I went through a breakup soon after starting at Your Clear Next Step, and to say my ability to work decreased would be the understatement of the century. My motivation cratered, my creativity dried up, and it was hard to focus on anything. I was straining myself to make sure that I was still meeting expectations, but when we're a part of a team, if we aren't performing at our best, we'll still be dragging others down. 

My coworkers and supervisors understood what I was going through, and that I can’t just leave that behind when I go to work, despite the fact that my faltering was affecting them too. What mattered to them was that I took care of myself, so if I needed some time off, I could have it. I was able to recognize if I felt stressed or like I was pushing myself too far, and I would step away from my desk to take a walk, make lunch, refill my water, or just take some time to think and center myself. Doing this often helped me collect myself and refocus on what I needed to do, allowing me to come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle what was before me, and make sure that the work my team and I were doing could stay on course. 


Stop and Consider the Journey 

How much of what I’m doing do I truly need to do? What do I need to take with me, so I don’t burn out? 

Something else that I’ve learned to do when faced with burnout is to consider what I’m doing and just how necessary it is. Am I doing the things I need to do? Is everything that I’m doing really needed, right now? I can think of two times this has come up for me. At one time during college, I had five classes. A standard amount, sure, but I was also working a part-time night job to make money, so my nights were often late. One of my classes was a morning class, and even though it was not after a shift at work, it became abundantly clear to me that I had bitten off more than I could chew, and my courseload and lack of sleep was hitting me hard by week two. 

However, this class was an elective course, and not one on a topic I was particularly engaged with. But if I dropped the class, I would lose out on semester hours. So, I weighed my options: Did I want to take this course, saving myself the need to take another class later, but ensuring that I would be a sleep-deprived zombie for the whole semester, or drop the class and take another one later. I eventually chose to drop the class, and it worked out for the best. I got solid grades across the board, and still did not struggle with course loads for the remainder of my time in college. 

The second time was more recently. There was a week at Your Clear Next Step where I felt at the top of my game, and so in the round of meetings that came at the beginning of my week, I accepted several tasks on top of the work that I was already doing. But I did not anticipate that one of the things I was working on would end up taking as long as it did. Suddenly, I had too much on my plate, and deadlines came up fast. I paused then, looking at everything I needed to do. I ordered it by priority, figured out the order that would be best to complete it in, and then tried to imagine how long it would take. I realized that yes, I could get it all done, but it would require working non-stop, without getting up for the breaks we need to avoid burning out. 

Rather than doing that, I reached out to some of my peers and asked them for help with what I was doing. Your Clear Next Step has a culture of reliability, openness, and positivity, and my colleagues were more than happy to help me with my work because I trusted them enough to open up to them. This delegation worked well, as everything was accomplished on time, without anyone ending up feeling overwhelmed, as we came together to get it all done. We don’t have to do everything alone, working in groups can help ease the burden on any one person, because everyone is essential to the work that we do. 


Self-Care Does Matter 

Secure your own mask before helping someone else – if you die from lack of oxygen, you can’t help the guy next to you. Always pay attention to those airline safety videos, they have useful tips! 

When I asked for assistance with my outstanding tasks, I checked to make sure they did not have an extraordinary amount of work themselves that I would only be adding onto. Even if I manage to avoid the pain, the effect is spoiled when someone feels that burn anyways. A part of taking care of our health is to not burn out at the expense of others—or to have others burn out for us. If we’re secure in our own workspace, we’re in the most optimal position to help others. Conversely, if we are burned out, we're less able to help others. In that situation, if we try to take on their responsibilities, the worst case scenario is that both of us could burn out, and then we’re falling doubly behind.

Open communication between peers can help pre-emptively prevent this. If we consistently speak about our work and ourselves, we’ll clarify our burdens and issues before anyone ever must ask us for something. If they need help, they will remember: “Oh, Benen said he’s dealing with a lot of backed up emails right now, maybe it would be best if I tried to ask someone else for help.” 


Just because we need to get work done, doesn’t mean we should have to exhaust ourselves to do it. I believe that, and I hope that what I have shared here has helped you to see my perspective, and maybe given you a few ideas as to how you can avoid burnout yourself. Just like everything else, this is not a universal truth, of course, so please feel free to reach out and share any other ideas you have about burnout! We would love to hear from you! 



Topics: Business Skills & Business Acumen, Communication & Collaboration

Benen Witkop

About the Author

Benen Witkop

Benen Witkop is a content writer for Your Clear Next Step and an aspiring author. A recent graduate from the University of Iowa with a BA in Creative Writing and Screenwriting, he works hard every day to make sure his writing is better than it was yesterday to help make your next workday even better than today’s!

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