How To Avoid Being Burned Out From A Heavy Workload

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 12, 2022

While everyone may experience the issues mentioned in this article, please note that as part of our initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (2018), these articles will focus on how these topics affect men and boys. We use “men” to refer to people who identify as men.

When it comes to managing school, family, and work, people can often become burned out. It can be hard to admit when you’re stressed or overworked. But, if you have a heavy workload and juggle too much without taking time off to care of yourself, you are likely to become burned out. What are some tips to effectively manage priorities and responsibilities and develop ways to avoid burnout?

What Causes Heavy Workload?

A heavy workload can be caused by juggling too much. A heavy workload can come from responsibilities related to career, family, and personal life. Specific activities and certain tasks required in all of these different areas can add up, causing stress and pressure to perform. But learning to how to manage stress and your workload can be a reality and help you live a calmer, more fulfilling life.

How Do Masculine Roles Play A Part In Workload?

Although everyone experiences a heavy workload from time to time, men can be especially susceptible. Men often feel pressure to be the breadwinners and sole providers of their families. The pressure from this stereotype often builds up, causing extreme amounts of stress and tension in men. Seeking a healthy work-life balance, learning to manage a heavy workload, and effectively dealing with stress can help people feel better and find the right balance.

We’ve all probably heard a phrase similar to this in a movie, “Just stand there and look pretty.” These phrases are usually directed at women, and although extremely damaging and insulting in their own right, they show how traditional gender roles affect the work environment.

It would be incredibly rare to hear something like this directed to a man, as typically the opposite is often verbalized or implied, which can be just as damaging. When things become difficult to deal with, you may have heard phrases similar to “be a man” or “man up.” As a man, you may feel you’re expected to be able to “carry your weight” and sometimes the weight of others. This stereotype and idea of filling this traditional role can build up in a man’s head, causing him to do more work and feel more pressure without seeking support. Learning healthy ways to manage your workload without feeling the undue pressures of stereotypes can help you avoid burnout and reduce stress.

How Do You Tell If You’re Overworked?

Men are often expected to work and provide. This pressure and stress can build up, causing you to feel overworked. A heavy workload and working longer hours can take their toll. Here are some signs you’re overworked:

You Find It Hard To Relax

One of the telltale factors of being overworked is difficulty relaxing. Having a problem with relaxing can stem from the feeling of always being “on.” The sensation of always being “on” can manifest in the body with increased muscle tension and a restless mind. You may find it difficult to clear your head and sleep. Your workload may be constantly on your mind.

The “on” sensation can be especially true for men who work in high-pressure situations, jump from crisis to crisis, or constantly juggle responsibilities. An example would be running your own business and having a family to care for. The lines of work and play can become blurred, causing difficulty in letting loose and enjoying the moment. Employees and team members may also find themselves feeling overwhelmed when they’re trying to manage a heavy workload. No matter what position you hold at work, you may find an excessive workload leads to a poor work-life balance and difficulty relaxing.

Feeling Burnt Out And Exhausted From Work?

A Heavy Workload Is Taking A Toll On Your Life

Being overworked can take its physical toll on your body. Your body may give you warning signs when it’s time to take a break from the workload. These signs can include:

Fatigue. Overworking can lead to fatigue. You might feel a loss of energy or complete exhaustion. You can also experience a sensation of dread when it comes to your responsibilities and obligations.

Insomnia. As mentioned earlier, you might experience a restless mind as a result of feeling you have too much work and not enough time. Your seemingly never-ending to-do list can make it hard to wind down for the night. Insomnia may manifest one or two nights a week or become chronic insomnia.

Lack Of Focus. Overworking can lead to a lack of focus and forgetfulness. With everything piling up, you may find it challenging to manage it all. Lack of focus can cause brain fog and forgetting simple details.

Physical Symptoms. Some men may not feel physical signs at all, while others will notice them right away. Symptoms can take the form of chest pain, headaches, muscle tension, or even stomach pain.

Anger. Overworking can lead men to become angry and frustrated. They might not enjoy having so much to do and not enough time. Anger can lead you to lash out at yourself or the people you love.

Loss Of Appetite. In the beginning phases of being overworked, you may skip a meal and not think too much of it. But over time, your appetite can steadily decrease, causing you to lose weight and muscle mass.

Increased Illness. When our bodies and minds deal with the effects of work and stress, we can be more susceptible to illness. Increased risk of illness is due to overspending our energy reserves. You may notice an increase in colds or fever.

As men, when we have a job to do, it’s easy to neglect our bodies in favor of getting more work done. Make sure to pay close attention to your body and its physical sensations.

A Disconnected From Friends And Family

Spending more time at the office or doing work leaves less time for family and friends. You may realize you haven’t seen your friends in some time. Or maybe your family is starting to raise concerns that you haven’t been around as much.

Overworking can lead to isolation. Isolating yourself in favor of getting work done can lead to damaged personal relationships. Pay attention to what your friends and family are saying. If they’re raising concerns or mentioning how they miss you, it may be time for a break.

Constantly Playing Catch Up

You may think that working more means you’re getting more done. It makes sense, right? The unfortunate truth is that this may be incorrect.

Overworking, juggling too much, or wearing too many hats can cause you to get behind. You can end up biting off more than you can chew and taking on too much. Spreading yourself too thin can harm the quality of your work.

This sensation of playing catch-up doesn’t just end at the office. Overworking can cause you to fall behind in relationships, health, and daily life. You may find it difficult to complete simple tasks like changing your car oil or paying the bills.

Losing Your Sense Of Fire

You may have started overworking with excellent and honest intentions. Maybe you love what you do and can’t get enough.

However, overworking makes it challenging to maintain joy, ambition, and excitement for what you do. Being overworked can cause you to lose your sense of fire, passion, or drive. This loss of desire can have a trickle-down effect on the other areas of your life, negatively impacting you

What Are The Effects Of Work Overload?

As mentioned above, overworking can lead to a host of physical, mental, and social-related issues. But what are some of the long-term effects of overworking and constant stress?

Overworking has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. One study found that those who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 33% higher risk of stroke and a 13% greater risk of heart attack than those who worked 35-40 hours a week.

Overworking can also lead to an unhealthier lifestyle. Men who work long hours tend to exercise less, have unhealthy diets, and consume more alcohol and tobacco products.

Men who have an overwhelming workload can experience mental and psychological symptoms as well. Symptoms can take the form of depression, anxiety, and stress. High-stress levels can lead to muscle tension, lack of motivation, changes in sex drive, and other negative symptoms.

The 12 Stages Of Burnout

Being overworked can lead to burnout. Burnout is defined as the condition of physical and mental exhaustion that can negatively impact your relationships, career, and health. It’s important to note the 12 stages of burnout.

  1. Excessive Drive And Ambition -In the beginning phases of burnout, you often have an increased drive or ambition. Excessive drive and purpose can be due to a new job, starting a business, or starting a new hobby.
  2. Pushing Yourself To Work Harder -This high drive and ambition cause you to push yourself to work harder and longer to achieve your goals.
  3. Neglecting Your Own Needs -In this stage, you start to neglect your own needs. These needs can be physical, mental, and social. You can sacrifice your sleep, hygiene, and health.
  4. Displacement Of Conflict -Instead of taking responsibility, you start to spread the blame. You can blame your boss, the job, or even your colleagues.
  5. No Time For Non-Work-Related Activities -In this stage, you begin to sacrifice fun and pleasure in favor of work. You may turn down social events and hobbies.
  6. Denial -You might begin to deny your symptoms. You can even start to blame others for not understanding what you’re trying to accomplish.
  7. Withdrawal -In this stage, all the social events start to become a burden. You may isolate yourself from friends and family.
  8. Behavioral Changes -You may start to become irritable and agitated. Irritability can lead to you lashing out at loved ones and coworkers.
  9. Depersonalization -During this stage, you might feel a sensation of being detached. You may get the sense that you are losing control over your work and life.
  10. Inner Emptiness -At this point, you are starting to lose your passion and drive. What was once enjoyable has become a burden. You may question the significance or reason why you’re working so much.
  11. Depression -You can start to suffer symptoms of depression. You may find it hard to get out of bed or maintain basic tasks. Everything can start to seem pointless.
  12. Mental Or Physical Collapse -Mental or physical collapse is the final stage. Your body and mind have had enough causing you to hit a breaking point. You may find it near impossible to cope, and medical attention might be necessary.

How To Avoid Burnout

If you find yourself somewhere among the stages listed above, you may have started to be honest with yourself about where you are. That’s crucial. Stress and difficulties will always happen, but there are many ways to manage the symptoms.

Exercise

Physical exercise and activity are one of the best methods to avoid burnout. Physical exercise and movement are helpful for both the mind and body.

Hitting the gym, playing a sport, or participating in a physical hobby are effective ways to exercise. If you lack the time or are in a rush, you can try home workouts or simple cardio routines.

Eating Healthy Foods

Eating a nutritious diet can negate the effects of burnout and stress. Foods have been linked to having a positive impact on our moods. Try fruits and vegetables. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna have also been shown to potentially increase mood.

Practice Good Sleep Patterns

Getting enough sleep is vital to maintaining energy levels and managing stress. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Try setting a consistent wake and sleep time to give you a sense of routine and schedule. Turning off screens and limiting caffeine before bed is also a great way to ensure better sleep.

Do Hobbies

Making time for hobbies, activities, and interests you enjoy is another great way to ease stress and symptoms of burnout. When you focus on working too much, you can often neglect the other activities you enjoy. Set aside time for these activities daily or weekly.

Socialize

Feeling Burnt Out And Exhausted From Work?

Socializing with friends and family is another excellent way to take your mind off work. Try inviting your friends out to a movie. Or, if you’ve been turning down invitations, accept the next one. Spending time with people you love can reduce stress.

These are just some of the basic things you can do to ease stress and burnout. When in doubt, focus on your basics and foundation. Make sure you’re eating enough, getting exercise, and sleeping well. If you can master the basics and build a strong foundation, everything else will fall into place.

How Do Work Under High Pressure?

Everyone faces difficulties and stress to varying degrees. Dealing with family and work responsibilities, projects, employees, managers, and more can make you feel like there isn’t enough time or energy for you to do all you need and want to do. A demanding workload can be a pressure cooker. However, there are loads of different strategies for working under high pressure; the following are just a few.

Prioritize: If you have a heavy workload, prioritizing what needs to get done from urgent, important, to unimportant can ensure you are working on the most crucial tasks. First, you could take a look at your current workload and make a list of each task you need to do in order of importance or time sensitivity. Then you could look to the future so that you can plan ahead. Prioritize what you need to take care of both now and later, task by task, project by project. Remember that it can be healthy to prioritize projects that are of personal importance in addition to projects that are business-focused.

Break Down Your Tasks: Breaking your tasks and to-do list into bite-sized and manageable pieces can make pressure easier to deal with. Breaking down your tasks can also give you a sense of satisfaction when you complete one of them. Managing tasks effectively can help you feel more in control.

Use Good Time Management Techniques: To manage a heavy workload effectively, try implementing helpful time management strategies. Try doing some self-reflection to determine how you’re spending your time and what you’re spending it on. Can you change anything? What’s most time consuming? Are there smaller tasks that are taking up large amounts of time? Can you implement some new organizational skills to find more balance in your schedule? You might track how long it takes you to do specific tasks and look for the most effective ways to accomplish them by setting achievable deadlines. Consider using a daily to do list to help manage your workload. You might pencil in regular breaks on that to do list, which can actually boost your productivity and capacity and minimize your stress. With good time management skills, you might even find yourself with extra time you didn’t know was possible—time you can spend on something you value.

Be A Team Member To Give And Get Support: Not everything must or can be accomplished by you alone. To manage a heavy workload, tame stress, and increase productivity, a willingness to work with team members can be helpful. On the job, managers and employees can benefit from working as a collaborative team. A family can also work as a team. Most people benefit from both feeling supported and giving support.

Build Smart Daily Habits: In both your personal life and work life, getting into the habit of taking care of things on a daily basis can help you feel more in control of your time and workload. For example, you might try answering non-urgent emails only at certain, set times during the day. Every morning, you could try getting into a routine of writing down the most important tasks you want to accomplish that day. Next to the tasks, you could note realistic deadlines for accomplishing each item. You could try setting aside time to tackle work piles at the end of each day instead of letting them grow.  At the end of each week, you might find it beneficial to assess your progress and adjusting your daily routine and habits accordingly for the week ahead.

Consider Where You Can Cut Back: Perhaps there’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done without feeling burned out. Can you find any areas to streamline? Can you find just one task to cut out? Is there one project you could let go of? Can you delegate anything to someone on your team?

Change Your Mindset: Thinking of your situation, stress, or pressure from a different perspective is sure to bring some ease. Try making it a challenge to conquer or see how you can grow from the experience. You might also change your outlook on how you view the people around you. Could you look at your family members or co-workers as your team members—a team that supports each other to promote a good balance and quality of life?

How Do You Calm Down Under Pressure?

In high-intensity situations, it can be challenging to remain calm. There are evidence-based ways to calm down under pressure.

Taking a step back and breathing deeply will calm you down and bring you back to the present moment. Breathing deeply calms the nervous system down, allowing you to perform. It may seem too simple, but try it to see the effects.

Focusing on the present moment is another way to remain calm. Whether at work, home, or during a crisis, be present with yourself and the situation.

As mentioned earlier, breaking your tasks down into smaller pieces can help you remain calm. Some jobs or situations can seem daunting. Breaking the problem down into actionable tasks can turn it from a monstrous activity into a walk in the park.

If you find yourself under high pressure or facing burnout, meeting with a professional is another option. You and a licensed mental health professional can work as a team to find ways that you can reduce burnout, manage stress, improve your quality of life, and still meet your capacity and stay focused on what’s important to you. Here’s an example from BetterHelp to show you the benefits:

“Brilliant! He helped me out of a pretty dark place and was nothing but helpful! For men looking for a counselor who understands what it is like to be a man in today’s world with a family, kids and responsibilities, job, etc. I was extremely impressed with his ability to get down to it and understand what I was talking about. He’s great at getting to the root of the issue too. No need to slog through 8,000 words to find out what point he’s trying to make. He has a knack for asking exactly the right question in about 2-3 sentences. If you’re looking for a counselor who isn’t the typical counselor, he’s your guy!”

Some commonly asked questions on this topic can be found below:

What's another word for work load?
Why is heavy workload stressful?
What is the risk of heavy workloads?
How do you deal with a heavy workload?
How do you say work load?
What is the meaning of work load?
What are the effects of work overload?
How heavy workload affects performance?
What is workload overload?
How do you tell if you are overloaded at work?

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