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How to avoid burnout

Stressed man at risk of burnout

Burnout is physical and mental exhaustion that happens when we get too stressed for too long. Research has shown that burnout can lead to memory, attention, and emotional problems over time, as well as increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

This is more common than you may think. In fact, a 2015 survey found that over half of people in the UK had experienced anxiety or burnout in their current job (YouGov).

Here’s a quick guide to burnout, spotting its symptoms and what you can do to overcome it.

Signs of burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a gradual process. If you start to notice some of these symptoms building up over time, then you may be starting to suffer from burnout.

The symptoms of burnout can be roughly split into three areas.

  1. Exhaustion
  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness/lack of concentration
  • Becoming easily upset
  • Loss of appetite
  • Getting ill more often
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Getting angry more often
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  1. Cynicism/detachment
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling alienated from other people
  • Feeling negative
  1. Feeling ineffective
  • Loss of belief in yourself
  • Feelings of apathy or hopelessness
  • Lack of productivity at work
  • Feeling irritable or snappy
  • Being unable to “switch off” from work

What can you do to avoid burnout?

If you notice some of the burnout symptoms starting to creep into your life, don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can do to reverse them. For example:

  • Make to do lists – this means that you won’t stress out trying to hold lots of information in your head. You also get the satisfaction of seeing tasks crossed off.
  • Care for your physical wellbeing by eating a balanced diet, doing exercise and getting enough sleep. You can find lots of tips in our physical health section.
  • Don’t feel bad about saying “no” to taking on more tasks. It may help to operate a “one in, one out” policy – not taking on a new task until you’ve completed something else. This applies to home life as well as work!
  • Discover relaxation techniques that work for you. Some people may find a nice soak in a bath helps them to unwind, others prefer lying on the sofa and watching a movie.
  • Block out time to do things you enjoy, such as meeting up with friends or doing a hobby. If it helps, book in things to do each week or fortnight. Remind yourself that you deserve time for you.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed and happy, and limit time with those who make you feel negative or stressed.
  • If your work is getting too stressful, have a chat to your manager and see if there’s anything your company can do to support you, such as reducing your workload.

Additionally, you can find more advice on our post about managing stress.

What can you do to recover from burnout?

If you’ve experienced burnout and it’s having an impact on your life or making you feel distressed, then it’s important to seek support. You can speak to your GP or ring the NHS on 111.

Recovering from burnout takes time and you’ll need to be patient with yourself.

  • Make a list of the things that make you feel stressed or frustrated, then write down a way of reducing each one. It may help to keep a stress diary to help you identify situations that contribute to your burnout.
  • Try to avoid taking on new commitments whilst you are recovering. It may even be helpful to see if there’s anything you can drop for a while and come back to when you’re feeling better.
  • Focus on looking after yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. You can find advice in our physical health section.
  • If you can, take a break. Even if you can’t go away anywhere, take some time off work and reconnect with activities that you enjoy, such as walking, hobbies or catching up on some movies.
  • Avoid taking work home. This includes having work emails synched to personal devices – they will prevent you from switching off and giving your mind the break it needs.
  • Challenge yourself to focus on positives and celebrate small achievements. This could be something as small as writing down one positive thing about each day.

You may also find it helpful to read our blog on caring for your mental health or visit our mental wellbeing section.

We’re here

If you’re struggling to cope, you can pick up the phone and call Ben’s confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat. It’s completely free to get in touch with us if you work (or have worked) in the automotive industry, or you are dependent on someone who is.

You can find out what happens when you call us here.


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