The beginning of a new year can be filled with excitement and positive change, but a busy lifestyle can still weigh on you, even if you love your job or company. When this happens, you can run into one of the dreaded mental conditions: burnout.
The World Health Organization classifies burnout as a legitimate health condition, saying it's a "phenomenon" characterized by "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."
This condition significantly impacts millennials. As of February 2021, 42% of millennials report feeling burnt out at work. Regardless of age, burnout is a condition that can negatively impact employees and organizations in all industries.
To help you combat bouts of stress, low motivation, or exhaustion, here are 10 ways to fight burnout at work, according to expert sources, data, and advice from fellow HubSpotters.
How to Fight Burnout at Work
1. Get some exercise.
Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with burnout, and exercise is a great way to ease those factors. According to Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Exercise can also shift your mind's focus away from cycles of negative thoughts and stressors. Additionally, Mayo Clinic says exercise can boost confidence. All of these are things that help ward off burnout.
Pro Tip: It's possible to over-exercise, which can lead to exhaustion and cause injuries — so don't overdo it! According to the CDC, 30 minutes of exercise daily, five days a week, is enough for an adult to stay healthy.
2. Eat nutritious meals and foods.
Registered dietician and nutritionist Patricia Bannan says there are four core areas of burnout people should focus on mood, immunity, focus, and sleep. Bannan also says foods containing nutrients can help maintain those areas.
For example, according to Bannan, avocados are a great mood booster because they contain folate for neurotransmitters, magnesium to reduce anxiety, and healthy fats for hormones and brain health.
Bannan also says grapes provide excellent immunity support since they have vitamin K for immune and inflammatory responses.
To boost focus, Bannan suggests olives and olive oil because they contain healthy fats for brain function and memory and vitamin E to protect brain cells. To help with sleep, Bannan says tart cherries provide melatonin and potassium for sleep quality.
Pro Tip: Always consult with your doctor and be aware of any food allergies you may have before introducing new foods into your diet.
3. Plan and prepare.
Once you admit that burnout is a solid possibility in your work life, you can start to take steps towards avoiding it or maintaining a work-life balance.
These steps could involve planning vacations regularly, scheduling non-work hours, or trying stress-relief activities such as meditation.
According to Maggie Butler, our product team manager, the best way to pull yourself out of burnout is to recognize those feelings when they emerge. Then, take preventative measures.
"I think it's impossible to avoid burning out at work, especially if you are passionate and give a lot of energy and time to your career," says Butler. "So why not plan for it? Planning to take time off work and do whatever recharges you is key to keeping burnout at bay."
Pro Tip: If possible, you can also plan designated "quiet" or "focus" days where you won't be available for meetings. In doing so, you can use those days to get more work done before you get burned out or use those days for less intense tasks.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique to ensure that you take breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity strategy where you work in 25-minute intervals with a 5-minute break between intervals. After four intervals, you can take a more extended 15-30 minute break.
The idea behind the technique is that taking regular small breaks and one more extensive break each day will keep you more productive.
However, Head of Creative Project Management Matt Eontasays the Pomodoro Technique can also be a helpful way to avoid immediate work stress or feelings of burnout.
"I found myself being much less productive working from home than I was at the office, so I decided to adopt the Pomodoro Technique," Eonta explains. "It's been a huge help to my productivity, and it's helped me avoid burning out because it's designed to be prolonged periods of deep focus work, followed by short breaks to recharge and reset your mind."
Pro Tip: You can also adjust the intervals and break times to fit your needs and workload better.
5. Protect your eyes.
While Eonta says he goes outside and plays with his dog on breaks, he also aims to prevent eye strain that can add to feelings of exhaustion.
"My eye doctor told me that every 20 minutes, I should try to focus on an object 20 feet away and focus on it for 20 seconds. It helps keep my eyes from burning out from constant fluorescent light and blue-light computer screens." Eonta explains.
Pro Tip: Check the lighting in your workspace and reduce glare. This can mean turning off some or all of your overhead lights and using an adjustable desk lamp. You can turn down the brightness on your computer or place an anti-glare cover over the screen.
6. Try yoga and meditation.
Yoga allows you to release endorphins by working out while also priming your mind for examination. Combining yoga and meditation can help you relax after a long day.
In fact, 60% of people who practice meditation find that it improves their energy, while for 50%, meditation aids in their memory and focus, according to a study by The Good Body.
The benefits of yoga and meditation can also help prevent or manage burnout.
"I didn't realize I was burnt out until I started taking up yoga," says Krystal Wu, a former social media community manager.
"Yoga and meditation have helped me physically and mentally just to do something that betters myself," Wu shares. "It became clear that it was the perfect balance to help me recover from burnout in my day-to-day life and have more peace of mind."
Pro Tip: Practicing yoga or meditation in the morning before you start your tasks can start your day off with mental clarity. You can also do yoga or meditate after work to destress.
7. Take time off when you need it.
Taking time off can be especially difficult if you worry that you'll fall behind. However, time off is crucial to relaxation, resetting your mind, and gaining a solid work-life balance.
"I was one of those people who would rarely take any time off because 'there are so many things to be done,'" says Irina Nica, our product marketing manager.
"Even when I did, I still let some work slip into my day, even if that meant only checking my emails. I'd be lying if I said this way of constantly connecting didn't pay off at all, but overall, I was quite tired most of the time."
Nica explains, "I was probably close to burning out on several occasions. Fortunately, I’ve changed my views on vacation over time, and it’s been great for my productivity."
"I learned to disconnect in the evenings and during weekends," Nica adds. "Now, aside from the regular summer and winter holidays, I take a long weekend trip now and then. That helps me relax and refreshes my perspective."
Pro Tip: Regularly scheduled vacations and days off can give you something to look forward to, which can, in turn, boost your morale at work.
8. Get organized.
Keeping track of assignments, deadlines, meetings, and other responsibilities associated with your job can be daunting and stressful — and that stress can lead to burnout.
Make time to get organized and establish a routine. Make a to-do list with your most pressing tasks at the top and lower priority tasks at the bottom. You can also invest in planners, alarms, and calendars to keep you on track.
Pro Tip: Applications like Notion provide excellent digital tools to help you manage tasks and track the progress of your projects.
9. Lean on your support system.
When dealing with burnout, you may feel tempted to distance yourself from others and face your problems alone.
However, spending time with friends and family can help you feel revitalized. Even venting to a close friend about a bad day at work can help you tackle the next day with a fresh perspective.
Pro Tip: Check to see if your benefits include anything about free or discounted therapy. Speaking to a therapist can help you understand your stress better, identify roadblocks, and cope with stress.
10. Get a goodnight's sleep.
According to the CDC, adults between 18-60 need about seven or more sleep. However, the Sleep Foundation says more than a third of adults in the U.S. (35.2%) report sleeping on average less than seven hours per night.
Sleep helps with emotional regulation, which makes stress easier to manage or let go of. Getting a proper sleep schedule that leaves you well-rested and ready to tackle the day is a great way to avoid burnout.
Pro Tip: Create a nighttime routine that helps you wind down and prepare your body and mind for sleep. Taking a warm shower, drinking hot non-caffeinated tea, and staying off your phone before bed are just some ways to prepare for sleep.
Manage Burnout to Maintain a Happier Work Life
Depending on your industry, burnout may be unavoidable, but it doesn't have to be a hopeless situation that negatively affects your work and personal life.
By taking the above steps, you can combat burnout or at least find a healthy way to manage it.