Conditions

Burnout at Work: Prevention, Coping Skills and Treatment

Burnout is long-term stress that causes emotional exhaustion and depletion of someone’s psychological and physical health. Someone experiencing burnout may feel constantly drained, negative, cynical, and alienated. Feelings of burnout can cause someone to be less productive at work or in their personal life. Unfortunately, many people experience burnout at some point in their lives. […]

therapist william snyder By William Snyder, LPC
Man burnt out at desk

Updated on May 30, 2024

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Burnout is long-term stress that causes emotional exhaustion and depletion of someone’s psychological and physical health. Someone experiencing burnout may feel constantly drained, negative, cynical, and alienated. Feelings of burnout can cause someone to be less productive at work or in their personal life.

Unfortunately, many people experience burnout at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, it’s tied to a person’s home life or job demands and can lead to feelings of physical exhaustion. Sometimes, certain personality traits or behaviors can lead to burnout, such as perfectionism, a lack of social support, or poor self-care. 

It’s important to seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of burnout. Burnout may cause mental health issues and lead to organizational issues due to workplace stress and absenteeism. 

Not sure where to begin? We know if you’re already feeling burnt out, seeking help can seem extremely daunting. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about burnout prevention in the workplace and at home.

Preventing and Treating Burnout at Work

The risk of burnout is high for people who face a lot of stress and external pressure, this includes students, parents, caregivers, and athletes. However, feeling burnt out at work is one of the most common forms. However, it’s possible for organizations, managers, and employees to take steps toward preventing workplace burnout. But what would that look like?

Changing the Work Environment

There are situational factors in the workplace that can improve employee well-being. One example would be job redesigning. A job redesign is when an organization takes steps to restructure duties with an overall goal of reducing stress among employees. For example, changing, rotating, or diversifying work responsibilities can help employees feel that their work is more interesting and rewarding, thereby improving the overall effectiveness of employees. 

Reducing or rotating the level of demands expected of someone can also help manage their stress. For example, if a particular task or client requires extra attention or higher energy levels, employees could rotate their time spent with that task or client with other less stressful tasks so that the same person doesn’t always have to take on the extra responsibility. 

Other changes that can also contribute to an increase in employee well-being include:

Supporting Employees

Improving support systems and personal resources can positively affect employees’ mental health. Some ways companies can support employees include:

To reduce levels of burnout, strengths-based interventions can also be useful. These are strategies that focus on someone’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. First, a company might assess employees’ strengths. Then, professional development training and workshops may be offered to develop employees’ strengths. Finally, the employees’ strengths are matched with their assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Other training programs designed to develop hard and soft skills can be offered to promote psychological well-being and reduce levels of burnout, such as:

Implementing Individual Changes at Work

The concept of “job crafting” involves an employee exercising a higher degree of autonomy to make their own decisions about their job. With job crafting, individual employees can take control of their professional development and how their work is organized. 

Some examples include being proactive about learning new skills and asking for and offering help, giving and receiving feedback, learning to better navigate changes to work responsibilities, and working on time management skills.

Coping Skills for Preventing and Treating Burnout

Many coping skills can prevent and even help manage the effects of burnout. These range from personal coping skills to relaxation strategies and caring for your physical health and fitness. Studies have found that these interventions can reduce the effects of burnout in both the short and long term. 

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a personal coping skill in which someone changes how they see stressful or challenging events. 

Everyone has their own way of interpreting and responding to events. We all have biases, blind spots, and subjective ways of seeing situations. 

In cognitive restructuring, which can be done with the help of a therapist, a person practices seeing a situation in different ways, which can change the way they feel and behave toward that situation.

Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy

Similarly, rational-emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) can help people change how they think about stressful and challenging situations to create more positive emotions. 

Negative thinking can lead to negative emotions that worsen symptoms of burnout, like insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, poor diet, depression, and anxiety. Thinking more positively about certain situations can replace these negative emotions and symptoms with more affirmative ones 

For example, someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves at work may suffer from black-and-white thinking: “If I’m not perfect at my job and make a single mistake, then I’m a failure.” Thinking negatively and catastrophically like this could be replaced with more positive and rational thoughts: 

By retraining how you deal with negative self-talk, you will slowly begin to shift how you address stressful situations and moments where you tend to be overly self-critical.

Keeping a Journal

Keeping a record of your thoughts and feelings in a diary or journal is another personal coping skill that can reduce burnout risks. By keeping track of things that are a source of stress for you and observing the symptoms they bring up for you, you can start to recognize areas of your life that are causing difficulty for you and take steps to address them. 

Keeping a written record can also help you see your progress over time so that you can monitor whether different strategies or changes in behavior are helping to reduce the effects of burnout for you.

Personal Coping Skills

Developing other personal coping skills like conflict resolution, time management, and the ability to set boundaries can also help treat and prevent burnout. These skills help people manage their behaviors and interpersonal relationships to have more effective and less stressful experiences.

Relaxation Strategies

Relaxation is a major part of stress management and can effectively reduce burnout risks and increase wellness. Mindfulness and meditation are popular methods of relaxation that can be learned with a therapist, in workshops, or even using online videos and apps. Sometimes a deep breath goes a long way.

Meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques can reduce the impact of burnout and stress by reducing negative mental and physical symptoms in the body like anxiety and tension. These practices also promote positive effects like increased empathy and concentration.

Having relaxing hobbies away from your burnout or stress source is also important. Spending time on activities and personal interests that are enjoyable to you can help you think and feel more positive. 

Physical Health and Fitness

Taking care of your physical health and fitness through healthy habits like proper sleep, regular exercise, and healthy diet and nutrition is important. These things can help reduce the impact of burnout and promote better mental health overall. When combined with the other types of personal coping skills listed above, a healthy physical lifestyle can greatly improve one’s psychological well-being.

For some people, taking care of physical health may require some type of medication, such as dietary supplements or medications for mental health conditions, like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. It’s best to talk to a healthcare professional who can help assess and treat you properly, especially before considering starting any new medications or supplements.

Social Support for Preventing and Treating Burnout

Social support is important for preventing and treating burnout and can come from relationships at work, in your personal life, or through counseling.

Social Support in the Workplace

Having positive relationships at work is important for treating and preventing burnout. Try to find trusted and supportive co-workers and mentors you can talk to if you are struggling. 

Coworker social support groups can also promote encouragement of relationships that have positive effects on employee wellbeing. Peer support groups can be helpful for information sharing, emotional support, problem-solving, and community creation. They may be created informally by individual employees or formally by the work organization.

Preventing and addressing negative relationships and behaviors of employees can also be important for employee wellbeing. Training can be provided to employees about communication skills and addressing rude, uncourteous, or disrespectful behaviors. Such training can be another way to promote positive relationships between employees, reducing stress and burnout.

Social Support in Personal Relationships

Seeking support from friends, family, or other loved ones can also help to treat and prevent burnout. People with more social support in their work and personal lives may have lower levels of burnout, emotional exhaustion, and loneliness. 

Sometimes, talking to people in your personal life about your challenges and stressors feels easier or safer. Your loved ones may be able to recognize signs of burnout and provide emotional support, connect you to information or resources that can help you, or help out in practical ways that can help manage your stress.

Counseling

Counseling can be an important and effective way to treat and prevent burnout. Different types of therapists can help with burnout, from counselors to nurse practitioners, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists. 

There are also a range of counseling approaches that your therapist may use, depending on their expertise and your individual needs and preferences. Sometimes, finding the best therapist or approach for you takes time.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Burnout

A common therapy approach for burnout is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT works by helping someone identify patterns between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Often, stressful situations will trigger bad thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

Through CBT, an individual works on challenging these cycles of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and reframing them in more positive, helpful, or realistic ways that can reduce stress and burnout. CBT is sometimes used with other approaches like exercise, relaxation, career counseling, or personal development training. 

Many other approaches besides CBT can be used to manage burnout. These therapies may take place one-on-one with your therapist or in a group. 

Reclaiming Balance 

Burnout is a stressful and debilitating experience that can negatively affect your work and personal life. Fortunately, there are many ways that burnout can be prevented and treated.

At work, companies can take steps to improve the environment and support employees. As an employee, there are individual changes you can make as well, such as improving time management and job crafting.

While burnout is often associated with the workplace, other types, such as caregiver burnout, are also possible. Many strategies for dealing with burnout at work can also be applied to other forms of burnout.

Developing coping skills can greatly help prevent and treat burnout. These can include perspective shifting, relaxation, and taking care of your physical health. Seeking out social support at work, in your personal life, and through counseling are effective ways to prevent and treat burnout. 

To find a counselor to help you manage burnout and stress, check out Grow Therapy’s Find a Therapist tool. Read our other articles to learn more about the causes of burnout and recovering from and preventing burnout.

FAQs

  • Job burnout can be prevented and treated by changing and improving the work environment, supporting employees through coaching and support groups, and making individual changes at work, like job crafting and developing better time management skills.

  • Many coping skills can prevent and manage the effects of burnout, from personal coping skills like journaling and time management to relaxation strategies like meditation and taking care of your physical health through sleep, exercise, and nutrition.

  • Social support is important for preventing and treating burnout and can come from counseling, family, friends, your significant others, and even relationships at work, such as colleagues, mentors, or peer support groups.

About the author
therapist william snyder William Snyder, LPC

William Snyder is a licensed professional counselor with over 20 years of experience. He specializes in anxiety, trauma, PTSD, depression, and self-esteem.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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