What is Burnout, and 4 Tips to Combat It

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You’ve probably heard of the word “burnout” before, maybe in an article or on an infographic or from a coworker. But what exactly is burnout? And how can you prevent or fight it?

The World Health Organization defines burnout as a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” In other words, burnout causes you to feel drained and exhausted: mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s more than just one stressful day at work—it’s a snowball that keeps building from repeated, excessive, and prolonged stress. A new 2021 Visier survey reports that a shocking 89% workers have felt burnout in this past year, and a 2021 Indeed report shows that 67% of workers think the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened burnout. Frontline workers have been holding down the fort for over a year now, and lockdowns combined with new work-from-home procedures have taken their toll on all of us.

That all sounds pretty stressful and overwhelming, doesn’t it? But the good news is: as we start to learn more and more about burnout, we’re also discovering new and effective ways to combat it. 

So, where do we start? It may be helpful to think about battling burnout as a broad 3-step strategy: the 3 “R” Approach is a great place to start. The first R is “recognize,” or keeping an eye out for the warning signs of burnout—for example, feeling chronically fatigued, overworked, or unproductive. The second R is “reverse,” which is undoing the damage through stress management and support, and the third R is “resilience,” or building up your adaptability to stress through healthy, preventative measures. Keep reading for 4 of our tips on how to start approaching your second and third Rs! 

(If you want to read more about the 3 “R” Approach, you can start here and here.)

1. Reach out to your supervisor to discuss specific concerns.

If you can, try and offer potential solutions; the goal here is to work together to manage and adjust expectations of your workload. Some of the root causes of work-related burnout include unclear roles, feeling a lack of control, and unbalanced workload. Working to reach a compromise on some of these factors with your supervisor is a great place to start on tackling burnout.

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2. Try out a new relaxing hobby, such as meditation or yoga.

Alternatively, try getting some regular exercise: physical activity, even if it’s just a short walk around your neighborhood, can help take your mind off work and give you space to breathe. Studies have shown that these interventions can have positive effects on easing stress, anxiety, and depression.

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3. Make sure to get enough sleep each night.

It may be tempting to stay up late, whether it’s to catch-up on work or reclaim some free time for yourself, but healthy sleep habits are crucial to restoring and maintaining your mental, emotional, and physical health. If you overwork yourself and rack up sleep debt (the hours of sleep you should be getting versus what you actually get), you’re more at risk for burnout. Do your best to give yourself enough time to reset in between days and prevent sleep debt accumulation.

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4. Last but not least, lean on your support systems.

If you feel unmotivated from lack of recognition and social support, or unrewarded for your hard work, it’s easy to feel drained and eventually burned out. Feeling isolated at work and in your personal life not only adds extra stress, but also comes with increased health risks. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family, and loved ones; it’s incredible what a few kind words can do to provide relief.

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Once you start incorporating the 3 “R” Approach and taking the first few steps to fighting burnout, you’ll find that it becomes easier to manage with time. Progress can be slow, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone: tens of thousands of others are combating burnout as well. Whenever you can, don’t forget to support and uplift others too—at Hylite, we strongly believe that a little positivity goes a long way.