burnout stress overwhelm

How to Handle Burnout When You Can’t Quit Your Job

If you’ve read my burnout story, you know I had an “aha moment” when I realized how deeply unfulfilling my job had become. You also know that I didn’t quit that job…because I couldn’t. I certainly harbored a zillion fantasies about winning the lottery and telling my boss where to stick it, but sadly that never came to pass. And that job became a daily gauntlet I had to run just to get my bills paid. It was exhausting, and I wish I had had a few more tricks up my sleeve at the time to handle it. If that sounds familiar, read on, because I’m sharing the strategies I’ve learned over the past few years to handle burnout when you’re deep in it. 

What is Burnout Anyway? 

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that stems from extended periods of stress. Typically, the term refers to on-the-job stress, but you can experience burnout in your personal life as well (more on that later).

Unfortunately, burnout sneaks up on you like that extra shot of espresso in your morning latte. Everything seems to be going along fine and dandy until your heart’s racing at a million miles per hour, and you can’t figure out whether you want to conquer the world or just cry in the bathroom. It’s that beast borne of endless to-do lists and the relentless pursuit of ‘having it all,’ where your spirit feels like it’s been through a paper shredder. There you are, feeling like an empty vessel, detached from the very tasks that once lit a fire in your belly, questioning whether your efforts amount to anything at all.

Burnout Hits Women Hard

burnout stress overwhelm

Let’s talk about the women in the room, shall we? We all know there are so many expectations thrust upon us. We’re supposed to be top-notch professionals, nurturing caregivers, and Instagram-worthy homemakers all rolled into one. It’s a never-ending circus act of balancing work deadlines with family dinners and somehow also finding the time to maintain some semblance of personal sanity. Add to that the silent burden of emotional labor – the invisible backpack of worries and to-dos women carry that often goes unnoticed. It’s no wonder the weight of these combined pressures can press down like a ton of bricks, leaving us feeling utterly defeated. That Barbie speech went viral for a reason

What are the Symptoms of Burnout?

Burnout is a bit of a sly fox, disguising itself as mere fatigue when in reality, it’s a soul-sucking vampire. Here are the most common symptoms to look out for: 

  • Emotional Exhaustion: Feeling drained, fatigued, and overwhelmed by emotional demands, leading to a lack of energy and a feeling of being emotionally depleted.
  • Detachment and Cynicism: Developing a sense of detachment from one’s job or daily activities, often accompanied by a cynical or negative outlook towards work and the people involved.
  • Reduced Professional Efficacy: Experiencing a decline in feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work, leading to decreased productivity and effectiveness.
  • Physical Symptoms: Manifesting physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disturbances due to prolonged stress.
  • Decreased Satisfaction: Feeling dissatisfied with one’s accomplishments, leading to a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of achievement.
  • Irritability and Impatience: Experiencing increased irritability and impatience with colleagues, clients, or family members.
  • Lack of Motivation: Losing motivation and passion for work or activities that used to be enjoyable.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Facing difficulties with concentration, attention, and memory, often leading to decreased problem-solving ability and creativity.
  • Emotional Volatility: Exhibiting emotional instability, such as mood swings, anxiety, or depression.
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawing from responsibilities, social interactions, and activities one used to find engaging.

Whoa, that’s a lot. That’s why recognizing these symptoms early on is crucial for addressing burnout and implementing strategies to mitigate its effects.

And it’s time to get real about the toll this takes on women. Studies are piling up about the disproportionate hit women take in the burnout department. And it’s not just a little hiccup in their stride. It’s a full-on derailment, affecting not just their health with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and a whole cocktail of stress-related ailments but also their career trajectories and personal lives. Relationships strain, professional growth stumbles, and their lives start to fray at the edges. It’s a high price to pay for playing the game by rules that were never designed with them in mind.

So, What Can You Do About Burnout? 

burnout stress overwhelm

So, here’s the deal: recognizing and tackling burnout isn’t just about taking a bubble bath and calling it a day. It’s about peeling back the layers of this complex web of stress and expectation and getting real about what you need to feel better. Realizing you’re on the express train to Burnout City allows you to hit the brakes, step off, and figure out a more scenic route. It’s about finding a way to navigate life that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re constantly running on empty. Because beating burnout means crafting a life that feels as good on the inside as it may look on the outside.

Steps to Ease Burnout

Burnout takes some time to build up, and it can’t be solved right away. But there are some clear, actionable steps you can take to start feeling better. 

1. Self-Assessment and Acknowledgment: Begin by recognizing the signs of burnout in yourself. Remember, this isn’t about self-blame but about acknowledging your current state. Keep a journal to note down your feelings and the stressors affecting you. It’s a way to understand your emotional and physical responses without judgment.

2. Setting Boundaries: It’s crucial to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Communicate your limits to colleagues, friends, and family to manage expectations. This might involve setting specific work hours, turning off email notifications post-work, or dedicating some uninterrupted time to family, friends, or yourself.

3. Prioritizing Self-Care: If you’re suffering from burnout, self-care is non-negotiable. Incorporate activities that boost your physical, mental, and emotional health. This could be regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, or hobbies that relax and fulfill you. Remember, self-care is not selfish; it’s essential.

4. Seeking Support: Don’t go at it alone. Reach out to your support network of friends, family, or mentors. If the burden feels too heavy, professional help from a therapist or counselor can be invaluable. It’s a sign of strength to ask for support when you need it.

5. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques: Mindfulness can anchor you in the present and alleviate stress. Explore practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. There are numerous apps and online resources for beginners to guide you through these practices.

6. Reevaluating and Adjusting Goals: Take a step back to assess your personal and professional goals. Are they aligned with your values and current capabilities? It’s okay to adjust your aspirations to reflect your current reality. Celebrate small achievements; every step forward is progress.

How to Get Started When You Can’t Even

By taking these steps, you’re not just addressing burnout; you’re setting the foundation for a more balanced, fulfilling life. Set aside time to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. A simple, 15-minute morning routine can incorporate many of these strategies and set you up to handle your workday better. 

And don’t stress about trying to de-stress. That defeats the point. You don’t have to try all these strategies at once. Why not commit to trying one or two this week, just to see how it feels? The road to burnout is a personal one, and the road back will be as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the right mix of strategies that bring you some relief. 

We’re All Feeling Crispy These Days

As we wrap up our discussion on burnout, it’s crucial to remember the value of recognizing and tackling it head-on. This isn’t just about safeguarding our health or finding moments of joy; it’s a profound journey towards self-understanding and resilience. You’re not navigating this path alone—many have walked it before, each with unique insights and strategies for coping.

I encourage you to share your experiences and tips in the comments. This exchange can build a community of support, where advice and personal stories act as guides and companions. Through sharing, we can all learn from each other and reinforce the idea that in the face of burnout, we’re part of a collective, understanding journey.

Additional Resources

Each of these resources can provide you with a deeper understanding of burnout and actionable steps to take towards recovery and prevention. They offer a mix of clinical advice, psychological insights, and practical tips to address both the symptoms and underlying causes of burnout.

  • HelpGuide.org: Provides a comprehensive overview of burnout, including symptoms, causes, and a variety of strategies to deal with it.
  • PositivePsychology.com: Offers a range of exercises and treatments to recover from burnout, including breathing and self-awareness exercises.
  • Mayo Clinic: Discusses the factors contributing to job burnout and offers practical advice for addressing it.
  • Psychology Today: Provides strategies to recover from burnout by creating a better job match, delegating tasks, and diversifying your time to include activities you enjoy.
  • Psychology Tools: Explores the causes of burnout, including work environment and personality factors, and discusses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as an effective treatment.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Emphasizes the importance of self-care for mental health, offering tips and examples.

Please remember, I am not a doctor (I don’t even play one on TV). This article is not a substitute for medical advice. I’m just sharing information from my own experience of burnout to help others. Please seek professional help if you think you may need it. Therapy can be a game-changer! 

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  1. Yes, burnout resonates deeply with me, having experienced its toll firsthand during my tenure at a previous job, and these strategies offer valuable insights for navigating its challenges. Thanks!

    1. I fl like i am teetering onnrhe edge of burnout … this was good one for m ro s this week.

  2. The way you explain being burnout is perfect and gives a raw honesty that I can definitely relate to. This is incredibly helpful to those seeking support and needing methods for self-care.

  3. This is such a helpful post – as someone who is feeling burnt out themselves, I appreciate the steps to ease burnout and the additional resources. You have great information and you’ve written this so very clearly – such great value!

      1. I agree with this so much! Working 40 hours a week is absolute insanity and not what we are meant to be doing. Thank you for the beautifully written post

  4. Great post! Love the way you have structured the message & created space for support. I would have loved this about 5 years ago when I was knee deep in burnout craziness. Thankyou for sharing 🙏🏼

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