How to Overcome Job Burnout and Improve Productivity


Have you ever felt like you were rolling a heavy stone up a hill, but before you could even reach the top, it rolled back down? Frustrating, right? This struggle clearly explains the feeling of job burnout. Job burnout is an endless cycle of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can leave you feeling trapped and unfulfilled. 

Job burnout is a growing problem that is affecting individuals across various industries. But the good news is that you can overcome job burnout; this article will help you do that.

This article explores the science behind burnout and equips you with strategies to regain your control. Dive in to understand how to overcome burnout at work!

Understanding the science behind burnout

In 2015, Deloitte found that 77% of professionals have faced workplace burnout. That’s significant because increasing workplace stress impacts both productivity and well-being. 

This situation came to the notice of the World Health Organization (WHO). In its 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases, WHO declared burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”

To begin to understand burnout, one must look at the origin. Burnout stems from various sources brought on by a variety of mechanisms, both psychological and physiological. While these symptoms are generally diverse and case-specific, burnout usually revolves around excessive and extended periods of stress.

Read more: How Burnout Affects Your Cognition 

While burnout isn’t officially classified as a medical diagnosis, it can be linked to several conditions that are harmful to health. Depression is one such condition that finds its way along with burnout.

Therefore, it is important to understand and be aware of the signs of mental exhaustion so that proactive measures can be taken to overcome it. 

The psychological and physiological mechanisms of burnout

With its stress-based origin, burnout comes with a complex and intertwined set of psychological and physiological mechanisms. Chronic stress is the breeding ground for burnout, which disrupts the delicate balance of your hormonal signaling. 

The 3 key hormones that are activated during burnout are serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol. 

When you are experiencing burnout, the “feel-good” hormone serotonin dips, leaving you feeling drained and unmotivated. Dopamine, which acts as the reward hormone, then reduces.

Last, the stress hormone cortisol continues to increase, keeping your body in constant fight-or-flight, leading to a chronic stress state.

This cascade of chemical imbalances impacts the optimism of thoughts and emotions. Doubts about oneself creep in, casting a negative shadow on everything you do. You begin to feel overwhelmed, unable to escape the pressure.

At this point, burnout occurs. You experience decision fatigue, and your sense of self-efficacy crumbles, leaving you questioning your worth.

Read more: The Art of Believing: Nurturing Self-Efficacy for Happiness 

Being in this continuous state of “fight-or-flight” will disturb your sleep cycle, leaving you feeling exhausted and unable to fully recharge. The chronic stress response activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. 

Manifestations of common causes of burnout

Burnout is more than just feeling tired on a Monday. It wears you out and keeps you dragging throughout the next few days. But by understanding their causes and their sneaky manifestations, you can arm yourself to prevent them from stealing your well-being. Here are some factors that could be contributing to burnout:

  • Excessive workload. This is found to be one of the most common reasons for experiencing burnout. If you are handling a heavy workload along with unreasonable deadlines, you can feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. As the workload and demands get harder, it seems to pull you more into this state of mind.
  • Lack of control. Another reason could be a lack of control over your work environment, workload, or decision-making. This lack of control can breed feelings of helplessness, frustration, and resentment, resulting in decreased motivation and difficulty concentrating.
  • Lack of recognition and support. Lastly, if you feel like or see that your efforts are not being recognized for your work, you are likely to lead to burnout. This can make you lose interest, and this lack of recognition can leave you feeling inadequate or worthless. This emotional toll can leave you feeling disinterested in your work, making you feel like your passion is slowly fading.

Another rising issue in today’s hyper-connected world is the “Always-on” culture at workplaces. The term “always-on culture” refers to a work environment where employees are expected to be constantly available and responsive. This expectation extends beyond traditional working hours, blurring the lines between work and personal life. 

This constant pressure to be available creates a sense of never being able to truly switch off, leaving you feeling always on edge and unable to recharge fully. This lack of disconnection from work further affects your personal life, fueling feelings of guilt, isolation, and neglect of personal needs, ultimately contributing to the burnout it’s meant to prevent.

Addressing burnout misconceptions

Burnout is a serious issue that can affect your well-being, but there are several myths and misconceptions about burnout. It’s important to address these misconceptions. Here are some of the most common ones:

Myth 1: Burnout is just laziness or a lack of willpower.

Reality: Many individuals believe that people who experience burnout are lazy or lacking in willpower. In reality, burnout is much more than that. It’s a consequence of chronic stress and not a character flaw. High performers or individuals who enjoy their jobs are also at risk of experiencing burnout. 

Myth 2: Taking a vacation will cure burnout.

Reality: Another common misconception is that just by taking a break, you will overcome burnout. While a break can be helpful, it’s not a guaranteed cure for burnout. Breaks might act as a temporary solution, but understanding the root causes of stress is what solves it. This way, you will be able to make the right decisions and make sustainable changes to your lifestyle for long-term recovery.

Myth 3: There’s nothing you can do to prevent burnout.

Reality: While it is true that you can’t control external stressors, there are some important steps that you can take to manage your stress response and build resilience. For example, you can practice self-care techniques, set boundaries, and seek support. These all help in overcoming burnout at work — but more on this in the next section.

Strategies to overcome job burnout

Early recognition of burnout symptoms is crucial. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out. By actively reducing stress and implementing effective strategies, you can prevent burnout from taking hold. Here are some key strategies to consider in overcoming work burnout:

Identifying personal triggers

This involves introspection and self-awareness to recognize the specific factors or situations in your work environment that contribute to your stress and burnout. Reflect on your work environment and identify these specific situations or tasks that add to your stress levels. These triggers could be anything from the workload to interpersonal relationships, lack of control, and many more.

Implementing effective time management and boundaries

Time management skills are important for a healthy work-life balance and preventing burnout. They involve prioritizing tasks and setting realistic deadlines. Along with time management, establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial. It involves setting specific work hours and sticking to them.

Read more: The Impact of Work-Life Balance on Financial Well-Being and Happiness 

Using stress reduction techniques

Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises can alleviate stress and boost overall well-being. You can also include these techniques in your daily routine to help you reduce stress and improve overall well-being. 

Read more: Reaching a Higher Sense of Self Through Mindfulness 

In conclusion  

Job burnout negatively impacts your life, but it doesn’t have to define you or your skills. By understanding the science behind burnout and employing these practical strategies like identifying personal triggers, implementing boundaries, and actively practicing stress-reducing techniques, you can learn how to overcome burnout.

Like Lena Horne (a legendary artist and activist) once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” This quote rings true for countless individuals struggling with job burnout.

You may feel like you’re carrying an ever-increasing weight without a clear path forward. But remember that you have the power to adjust your grip and find a way to carry your load with greater ease and strength.

If you would like to see more resources on job burnout, check out the Personal Productivity Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Productivity Science Labs today.

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