Why Work Burnout Happens And How To Deal With It

Updated May 30, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you believe you are feeling the effects of work burnout, you are not alone. Most people experience work burnout at least once in their careers, and there are various ways to deal with work stress to prevent it from turning into a long-term issue.

The Mayo Clinic defines work burnout as “a special type of work-related stress – a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” The length of time it takes to realize that you are experiencing work burnout can vary. However, when you do realize you are experiencing burnout in the workplace, or disengaged from work or life in general, it should not be brushed off or taken lightly. Work burnout can have a large impact on every aspect of your life.  Read on to learn the answer and how you can manage it. 

Are You Showing Signs Of Burnout From Work?

Overview: Burnout Signs And Statistics

While not yet considered a medical condition, the revised version of World Health’s Organization  (WHO) International Classification of Diseases considers burnout to be an occupational syndrome that results from chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully managed. In short, burnout is a type of work-related stress caused by a poorly managed workplace. 

Symptoms of this job-related syndrome include:

  • Energy depletion 
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Feeling cynical, negative, or mentally distanced from your job
  • Reduction in professional efficacy and productivity
  • Job disillusionment
  • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, aches, and pains
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating

Work burnout can be caused when a person experiences a lack of control in their job with inappropriate entry to resources along with unclear expectations about your areas of responsibility. You may have unhealthy workplace relations where someone is a bully, or your supervisor is constantly micromanaging your assigned tasks. Working too much and not having enough social support can also lead to burnout.

According to the American Psychological Association, the prevalence of burnout is at an all-time high. APA’s most recent Work and Well-Being Survey reported that 79% of survey participants experienced work-related stress in the month before they took the survey and 3 out of 5 reported signs of burnout. These include lack of interest, energy, motivation, and diminished effort at work.

If you can relate to these statistics, know there is nothing wrong with your work ethic. But the problem should be resolved as soon as possible. Work burnout can affect your home life, social life, and even your work-life balance. No matter if you work from home, work at a corporate office, or work as a full-time mom, you could potentially be experiencing work burnout. Any age or stage of life could be impacted by the reasons listed below that typically result in work burnout.

1. Exhaustion Is Setting In

There are different dimensions to burnout, one of which being emotional exhaustion, a manifestation of extreme fatigue that can make you feel like you are unable to cope with or complete your work. However, you can also experience weariness and low energy because of overworking to the point of physical exhaustion. Both types of exhaustion can happen by working excessive hours or because a job is exceedingly stressful and requires great physical or mental efforts. Sacrificing too much of your mental and physical capacity for your job will exhaust you very quickly. 

Exhaustion can happen quickly or occur after consecutive days or months of pressure and can make you feel like you have no more energy to put forth. This can cause you to feel like you are simply “surviving” each day. Your work life should not make you constantly feel as though you are using every last drop of your physical or emotional energy to simply survive. Instead, a person should want to thrive and feel content with appropriate energy levels at the end of the workday. While most people will have a bad, exhausting, or challenging day every once in a while, feelings of being consumed or trapped at work and overly tired are signs of burnout.


2. You Are Consumed At Work And At Home

Another cause of work burnout is being all-consumed at work to the point that you bring it home. If you find yourself overthinking about happenings at work even after you have left the building, you may be unable to leave work behind you. You may be distracted at home by your grievances or worries from work and is causing you more stress than you can manage. Feeling trapped under the chains of constantly being pulled down by your work life can spill over into home life, which affects your relationships with family and friends. 

People in your workplace can also be contributors to job burnout. They may be too harsh of a critic on you or underperform their own job, which may increase your workload and cause feelings of resentment. You may also be expected to carry on work even when not on the clock. This can happen because your boss, coworker, or fellow employee are placing undue pressure on you to the point that you are unable to relax when you are not working. Whether you are just trying to enjoy your weekend, or out of town on a family vacation, your headspace could potentially be clouded by your boss or coworkers constantly contacting you for any reason. 

If your home life is just as stressful and consuming as work, this could be another cause for feeling burnt out. You may not be able to let go of the stress you are managing at home, which means you bring it to work. Having a harmonious and peaceful home life is very important for people, especially when they have a stressful job. If your home life is the reason, you are unable to get away from your negative feelings, try to take steps to resolve it. This may mean reaching out for help from a mental health therapist who can help you identify ways to work through these problems and strategies to manage stress. 

3. You Want More From Your Workday

Are you satisfied with your work? Do you get in your vehicle every day after work wishing you could have done more? Are you yearning for more responsibilities or more ways to use your talents? You may not be fulfilled with your current job. You may have finally landed your “dream job,” but is it exactly what you thought it would be? If not, you could feel disappointed with your job. You may have thought that you could apply all your skills at work, whether they be technical skills or personal skills. 

Job burnout can occur because you feel unsatisfied with your work. This leaves you with the urge to constantly be doing more. The potential you have inside might be withering away because you are too busy fighting fires that are below your level of training. Feeling fulfilled by your work is very important for your happiness and your excitement. If you are left feeling uninterested, your job will get exhausting and possibly even boring.

4. Lack Of Self-Care

If you are experiencing work burnout, you may feel so exhausted that you are neglecting to take care of yourself outside of work. Maintaining your health internally and externally is a task not only vital for your survival, but also for your happiness, success, and, ultimately, peace of mind. Practicing regular self-care routines can help you to recover from the pressures you are experiencing at work while refreshing your mind and body for the work week ahead of you. 

Self-care for does not have to be elaborate or cost money, but simply involves you taking time out of your day to gift yourself with an activity or moment of mindfulness that invigorate your being. It can include things like reading, doing a face mask, drawing a bubble bath, or even getting dinner with a dear friend. You can make yourself a home-cooked meal or take a longer lunch break. Self-care is defined on an individual basis. If you take a step back and notice that you have not done anything specifically for yourself lately, this could play a part in why you are fizzling out at work. Putting yourself first rather than others can seem very negative. However, in this context, taking some time for yourself and putting yourself first can help you to take a deep breath and reset your mind so you can enjoy work again.

5. Pessimistic State Of Mind

Pessimism, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is an attitude or expectation that things will go wrong and that your wishes or aims will not be fulfilled.  In contrast, optimism is characterized by hopefulness and an expectation that positive things will happen. While most people tend to have a character that lands in between these general outlooks on life, some will perceive life through either purely optimistic or pessimistic lenses. If you tend to choose a pessimistic outlook, you may have been judged by your more optimistic peers that you need to change your attitude to enjoy life. 

You may be working with someone who is constantly spreading around the workplace, which can it difficult for you to find joy in their work. When someone’s mindset causes them to constantly think the worst, how could they not burn out? This can be difficult to achieve, but it will be well worth it when you notice the great things that come with your job. If you have found that you are perceiving every situation through a negative lens and you think the worst-case scenario is always going to take place, it may be time to take a break and try to see life through an optimistic lens.

6. Dwindling Motivation

Motivation is generally a key indicator of job satisfaction. Job burnout can happen because you are not motivated to meet performance standards or complete tasks effectively. If you dread waking up in the morning to go to work, or if you dread coming back to work after lunch, you may have low levels of motivation. Your internal drive to accomplish tasks can also have a lot to do with the approval of your boss. According to an article from Time Magazine, a boss showing their appreciation for an employee’s work on mundane and simple tasks is very impactful on motivation. If no one is telling you that you are on the right track or doing your tasks well, then why would you want to keep going? If the thought of heading to work simmers down your mood, you probably feel unmotivated to do your tasks altogether.

7. Your Job Could be the Wrong One

This may be a difficult thought to consider, but if you are feeling burnt out with your occupation, could you possibly be in the wrong one? You may have outgrown your job. Your needs could have changed, or your family’s needs could have changed. Your job title could be right for you, but your scheduled hours in the day could be causing you havoc. Maybe you need to switch locations or switch positions within the same company. It could possibly be that your job roles were not clearly defined to you. If you feel like you are out of place or uninterested at work, you can easily get burnt out. If you work a full-time job, on weekdays, you spend more of your waking hours at work than you do at home. Even if your job is the right one for you, work burnout is still something that should be addressed.

Are You Showing Signs Of Burnout From Work?

How To Deal With Work Burnout

To get over your feelings of burnout, you may need to take a break. Sometimes, the remedy to feeling overworked, tired, or not like yourself, in general, is to take some time to recharge. When you find yourself too drained to function normally, a break will likely be very beneficial for you. A break could consist of things like catching up on sleep, taking a vacation, going on a date night, or, if you feel this is the right choice for you, maybe even taking a sabbatical. Think about what type of a break would make you get back to feeling fulfilled and passionate about your work.

Release Your Feelings

Sometimes, issues start to build up internally and get trapped inside your mind. This can be a big contributor to mental exhaustion. Something that could help you combat your work burnout is to try and talk it out with someone. Whether it be your boss, your spouse, or someone else important in your life, releasing your feelings to someone else can help take off the pressure. It also might help you identify exactly where your problem areas are. When you bottle up your emotions, they are trapped with nowhere else to go, unless they come out during a stress-induced breakdown. This can take a large toll on your state of mind.

However, not everyone’s preferred method of release is to let it out by talking to others. Another method of expressing feelings is journaling. If you start journaling, you will have a place for you to explain day by day how you feel or what is happening at work. Writing things out can be an amazing escape for people. It can help clarify the wounds that need mending to help your motivation and your work-life balance.

What is Your Why?

Why do you work? Realizing why you choose to work in the first place may help remind you of what is truly important. Most of the time, people work to provide for themselves and their families. Other times, people work to satisfy their need for a creative outlet. Why did you choose your specific job? If you bring the reason you chose your job back to the surface, you once again find inspiration in your work. Maybe you have been caught up in deadlines and forgot about the tasks that truly bring a smile to your face. Work burnout can come from your passions getting blurred within the chaos. If you make a conscious effort to think about your “why” while you work, you may come out with a more positive outlook.

Change Things Up

Do not be afraid to mix things up at work.  A change of routine can sometimes feel refreshing. Depending on your situation, it could include rearranging your workspace or altering your work hours. Sometimes a new and refreshed perspective can be exactly what you need to reignite your creativity or drive. Humans tend to be creatures of habit and easily get settled in a routine. Eventually, that routine gets old, and our minds can run a little wild. If you constantly try to implement a new element, big or small, into your life, job, or routine, there can be benefits across the many aspects of your life.

Better Manage The Stress That Is Up And Coming

No one knows precisely what is going to happen at work before it happens. You do not know when plans will change, when people will quit, or what obstacles will be thrown in your path. Despite some deadlines, events, or important meetings on the schedule, how things will play out may not go to plan. One thing you can do to help attempt to manage your work stress is to write down important upcoming deadlines in a planner. This can help you stay organized and less stressed. It may also be beneficial to add things to your planner that you need to do. This will give you something to look forward to, knowing that you have fun tasks on your schedule.

Seek Help From A Professional Counselor

If you feel that you are unable to find your motivation to work again, it is a great idea to seek help from a counselor. Although work burnout is not commonly associated with the need for counseling, it can help you greatly. For example, a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health investigated the benefits of an online mindfulness program for caregivers experiencing burnout. The participants of the study reported feeling less symptoms of burnout, including less perceived stress, anxiety, and loneliness, and improved mental well-being.

The study also confirmed benefits of online therapy, such as online sessions offering greater flexibility, allowing users to connect from the comfort of their home. For affordable counseling online, BetterHelp is a therapy resource where you can find support from professionals who can help you manage symptoms of burnout. The online services offered by BetterHelp’s counselors can also help you save time if you are managing a busy work schedule. A licensed counselor will meet with you either through a phone call, video chat, or text messaging. There, they will help you find the root cause of your feelings, and then help you come up with a solution to solve the problem.


If you are feeling emotionally or physically exhausted from work, it is important to remember help is available. The first step to improving upon this feeling of exhaustion is recognizing you are experiencing symptoms of burnout. From there, you can take steps to recovery. By reaching out for professional help, you can develop tools to help manage your work before burnout happens. Take the first step.

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