Burnout Has Officially Been Recognized as a Legitimate Syndrome—Here Are 3 Ways to Spot It

Between all the meetings, deadlines and your never-ending to-do list, work has started to feel pretty overwhelming lately. In fact, your productivity has hit an all-time low…and your stress level is at an all-time high. At first, you blame it on a few busy weeks at work and stay hopeful that things will turn around. But could it be more serious than that? Burnout is now officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon.” (Yikes.)The group defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

But how can you tell whether you’re just having a tough month or if you’re careening toward complete burnout? According to a study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, there are a few key warning signs to pay attention to. Luckily, if you act fast, you should be able to turn things around and get back to loving (or hey, at least tolerating) your day job again.

How to Make Work Friends (the Right Way)

woman having trouble getting out of bed

You Can Barely Drag Yourself Out Of Bed

It’s a vicious cycle—you might be feeling stressed due to lack of sleep and, in turn, sleep fewer hours because you’re stressed about your job. But the longer you spend on the merry-go-round of sleep deprivation, the more likely you are to experience a dip in productivity and changes in your mood, both in and out of work. 

Turn it around: First, get as much sleep as possible. That’s an order. If you can, bike or walk at least partway to work to get your heart pumping before the day begins. Make it a habit to eat a nutritious breakfast, even if it’s just at your desk. Finally, turn off your phone and computer at least an hour before bed, so you won’t feel tempted to stay up late reading work emails.

burnt out at work

You Feel Detached From Your Day-to-day Workload

Your boss assigned you an ambitious, high-stakes project that gives you the opportunity to show the company how amazing you are. Five years ago, you would have jumped at the chance to take it on, but now, you’re feeling numb, cynical and resentful about the whole thing.

Turn it around: Pinpoint exactly what it is about your work that’s causing you stress and frustration. Is there anything you can outsource or, better yet, skip completely? Is there a more junior member of the team who might be thrilled to have your mentorship (and might not mind filling out a couple of TPS reports while she’s at it)? Look for creative solutions to move those less desirable tasks off your plate, and watch your stress level drop.

woman feeling useless at work

You Don’t Think What You Do At Work Even Matters

Unless you’re saving lives on a daily basis, it’s totally normal to have this thought once in a while: Is what I’m doing with my life really making a difference? Especially when you spend an hour of each day listening to Sally complain about someone swiping her Diet Coke from the fridge and Jacob mansplain Game of Thrones.

Turn it around: First, remember why you chose this job in the first place. Is it still the right fit for you? Could you feel more fulfilled at another company, or maybe even pursuing another career? If the answer to any of these questions is “maybe,” give it some more thought, peruse job listings and explore other options. Otherwise, focus on the smaller picture—did you make the days of your co-workers, customers or clients better, simply by being your positive, caring self? Then your work matters.

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.