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Burnout: 10 ways of Overcoming Work related Stress

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James works in a new generation bank. To beat the traffic, he has to leave home by 5.30am daily.  He does not get home till 11pm every week day. Despite putting in his best, he consistently failed to meet his monthly targets, attracting queries during performance appraisals.  Recently, a major client threatened to close his bank account if his application for a multi-million dollar loan falls through.  In the past month, he constantly felt tired and no longer had zest for work. To pace himself, he procrastinated which resulted in  missing  deadlines and further problems with his bosses.  Although, he valued his work-his main source of income- this was not enough to motivate him.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Has your desire for work declined lately? Are you often tired? Do you increasingly avoid work related responsibilities?

If your answer is ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, you may be experiencing a condition called “BURNOUT”.   This is defined as a chronic state of emotional and physical exhaustion. Features of burnout include tiredness, fatigue, headache, back pain, muscle ache, changes in appetite or sleep habits. This may be accompanied by loss of motivation, poor sleep, difficulty in concentrating, forgetfulness, low mood, increasing worries and irritability.

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How do feel during vacation or days off work? Do you become restless or irritable? Do you itch to return to work? That may point to the predominant role work plays in your life.  While being passionate about your work is encouraged, inability to set clear boundaries between work and private lives may make you vulnerable. If you experience relief on returning to work after a period of vacation, that could suggest you have what has been termed “holiday neurosis” which occurs when work dominates your life-a prelude to burnout.

Are some professionals more at risk of burnout? Yes. Emotionally demanding and stressful occupations that often involve long hours, large workloads and emotional involvement   with people contribute to burnout. These include health care, law enforcement, retail industry, teaching etc.  So, doctors, nurses, full-time housewives, police officers, bankers, teachers and other professionals need to be on the lookout for burnout. Are you emotionally sensitive to the needs of others? Are you sympathetic or compassionate? If so, you may be susceptible to burnout.


If it persists, it could have a long lasting negative impact on your happiness,   relationships and health.

So what is the way out? Follow these 10 steps to deal with burnout:

1. Reconsider your priorities

Ask yourself. What is the single most important thing in your life? What’s next? It’s important that you list all your priorities and arrange them in the right order. Next, determine if your current activities and time are invested in proportion to your priorities.

2.Take charge of your life

Work hard to overcome helplessness. Take charge and accept responsibility for your feelings and behavior. This prevents mounting frustration and resignation into a state of helplessness.

3.Keep it simple

 You will need to simplify your lifestyle to reduce stress and secure time for the pursuit of your own priorities.  Are you heavily indebted? Then find ways to reduce or eliminate your debt.

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4. Be assertive

In order to shed excess work load that may be contributing to the stressful state, you will need to set boundaries. Knowing how to say “NO’ to certain requests is a necessary skill you need to acquire and cultivate. Being assertive will make it easier to say “NO” without offending your bosses or colleagues.

5. Refresh regularly

Like a system that hangs when working in overdrive, we all need to refresh regularly. Recreational opportunities that are refreshing could provide just what is needed to recover the energy, zest and vitality you dearly need. These could include developing new interests and friendships outside work.  To expand your social network, can you think of being part of groups with similar interest e.g. book club.

6. Think positive

Recognize and immediately reject negative thoughts that may creep. Festering pessimism further complicates the condition. So reflect on the positive aspects of your life and others.

7. Maintain a sense of humor

Never take yourself too seriously. Don’t always assume you have to be better than every other person to succeed…it’s a common myth. Be prepared to laugh at your mistakes while learning from them.

8. Physical exercise

Find time for exercises that are heart friendly and would enhance fitness. While going to the gym is often recommended, truth is you may not be able to combine this with your current work schedule. Don’t despair! There are a lot of simple, cost effective exercises that can be done with little or no hassles.

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9. Do not procrastinate

Leaving today’s work till tomorrow only increases your workload, making more important tasks urgent. Remember, increasing workload elevates the risk of burnout. So, set reasonable daily targets and stick to them!

10. Communicate

Getting a listening ear is a recognized way of reducing stress. So, actively seek friends, family members and colleagues that will provide the support you need. Furthermore, this supportive ring of communication has been cited as one of the most important coping methods among firefighters. Develop and use it wisely!

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