No one relishes the thought of heading back to work after a chilled out weekend or fun-filled holiday, but if the buzz of your alarm clock fills you with dread each morning, there might be more to it than the usual back-to-work blues.
Aside from the physical and emotional exhaustion it brings, workplace burnout can leave you feeling cynical and detached from a job you once loved, and will eventually impact everything from your performance and productivity to your workplace relationships.
Stress plays a big role in job burnout, and a recent Stanford and Harvard study suggests that workplace stress may be as bad for you as secondhand smoke, which is pretty stressful in itself.
And, while a whopping 80 percent of workers are stressed out, research shows that younger workers are more prone to stress than their older counterparts. They’re also more likely to have been told by a health care provider that they have depression or an anxiety disorder.
If you feel like you might be headed for a burnout, here are a few ways to manage your stress more effectively and find a solution to the underlying problem.
3 Ways to Cope with Workplace Burnout
Take time to rest and digest
No, we’re not talking about taking time to digest your lunch, although that’s never a bad idea. As Stanford psychologist Emma Seppala explains, when you’re focused on something pressing or important at work, your body goes into a state of high alert or what is also called the ‘fight or flight response.’
Once the danger, or in this case challenge, has passed, your body needs time to come off the adrenaline and relax, which is where the ‘rest and digest’ comes in. In order to strike a good balance, Seppala suggests alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity tasks at work.
So after your mad rush to meet a deadline or give an important presentation at work, you can activate your ‘rest and digest’ response by switching to a less demanding activity such as answering emails or filling out a few forms. This will give your mind a chance to relax and process things before you move on to the next high-intensity task.
Communicate with your employer
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload or just don’t feel as motivated as when you first started, it’s a good idea to communicate with your employer about it. It’s in every employer’s best interest to make sure that employees are happy and thriving, so most bosses will be more than willing to discuss potential solutions to the problem.
For instance, if motivation is down, perhaps taking on new responsibilities, moving to a new department or working towards a promotion would help you feel more fulfilled at work.
Or if you’re struggling with a heavy workload, a more flexible schedule or work-from-home opportunities might help you achieve a better work/life balance, and research even shows that companies offering flexible scheduling and time off have more productive employees.
Don’t bring work home with you
When you’re struggling with workplace burnout, it’s important not to bring your work worries home with you. Start by making a point of not checking your email once you get home. If there’s an emergency or crisis that needs your immediate attention, your boss or colleagues will find a way to reach you at home, but most of the time it really can wait until tomorrow.
If you find it difficult to unplug once you get home, try to make plans that require a bit more focus. Research shows that approach-oriented goals, which require you to take action, are easier to achieve than avoidance goals, such as trying not to think about work or check your email.
So although reclining on the couch with a glass of wine can be nice, if your mind is constantly wandering back to work issues while you do this, it won’t be very relaxing at all. Activities like cooking an elaborate meal from scratch or taking a spinning class, on the other hand, will take your mind off work and force you to focus on the moment you’re in.