Self-Care Tips For People Feeling Overworked

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Some individuals may dedicate a significant portion of their lives to their careers. However, in certain cases, working overtime or putting too much energy into a professional life can lead to mental burnout. Understanding how to cope and knowing when to stop working can be essential to reducing the risk of burnout.

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Work burnout can be extremely overwhelming

What is occupational burnout? 

For some people, work takes up a significant portion of life. Whether an individual works to make a living, fulfill their purpose, stay busy, or have fun, balancing professional and personal duties can often be necessary to avoid occupational burnout. 

Occupational burnout is a form of mental burnout that can result in the following symptoms: 

  • Marked demotivation and difficulty starting your day 
  • Irritability and impatience with the people in your work environment
  • Overcriticism and cynicism at work
  • Sleep disruptions and a lack of energy 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disillusionment and a lack of satisfaction from work achievements
  • Unexplained physical symptoms like digestive pain or unusual headaches
  • Using food or substances to cope with your stress

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

What causes occupational burnout?

Occupational burnout is often caused by overworking. However, a few other culprits may be involved, including the following. 

Work-life imbalance 

If you're consistently spending most of your time at work, whether you choose to or not, you may experience occupational burnout. Humans require various avenues in life to be healthy, including relationships, self-care, and fulfillment. Some people may believe they receive fulfillment 100% from work. However, no human is immune to isolation, a lack of self-care, sleep deprivation, and ignoring one's emotions. All these behaviors can lead to poor mental health and chronic stress. 

Lack of control 

While you may not be able to control everything in the workplace, feeling as if you have no control over your workload, schedule, assignments, or growth in the company might lead to occupational burnout.  

A lack of direction, expectations, or resources

It may be challenging to complete your job duties without clear supervisor guidance and expectations. The same may be true if you don't have the necessary tools to complete your job. The extra effort you exert on these details with no recognition or support can lead to a belief that your work leads to nothing, which might lead to burnout.  

Dysfunctional dynamics

If your boss tries to micromanage you, your coworkers are mean, or you work with a bully, it can cause workplace stress. Long-term chronic stress often leads to severe mental burnout. Having a positive work environment may reduce this risk. 

Your job is hectic or too slow

An imbalanced work environment may directly impact one's stress levels. While working in a fast-paced environment may be exciting, not having a break can be rough on your body and mind. Contrarily, you may feel sluggish if your job is monotonous without periods of lively activity.  


If you are isolated at work and don't reach out for social support outside of work, you might experience long-term job dissatisfaction, leading to burnout. Humans require social connections. If you work remotely from home, you might get used to being alone and struggling to socialize, further complicating your mental well-being. 

Six tips for avoiding occupational burnout

Below are a few tips for avoiding the factors that can lead to occupational burnout. 

Set boundaries at work

If you are constantly overworked, examine the boundaries you've set or haven't set at your job. Evaluate your needs and what prompts stress for you at work. Writing them down to organize your thoughts and reference them later may be helpful. From there, determine where you can say no and rearrange your schedule. 

For example, if you have a demanding supervisor who asks you to work overtime or take on extra tasks that overwhelm you, continually going above and beyond may be at your own expense. Examine why you want to always accommodate them and decide how to tell them "No" next time. If this step is difficult, consult your therapist or a close friend for help. Learning to self-advocate can be an essential life skill. You don't have to say "No" every time. However, giving yourself a break every once in a while may be beneficial. 

Have a set schedule and stick to it

Setting a regular schedule for yourself is a way to practice self-care. Having your day mapped out can save time while helping you work more efficiently and meet deadlines without stress. It may be unrealistic to expect your days to go smoothly all the time, so give yourself leniency if you miss out on your commitments to your schedule some days. 

The second part of scheduling to avoid burnout is to follow it. Although it may be tempting to get a minor task done before you leave for the day, quit working when your workday ends, especially if you've scheduled time to relax or engage in a fun activity after work. 

Schedule leisure time outside of work

Try participating in activities you love or enjoy when you're not working. Sleeping in and sitting at home may be tempting when you're not on the job. However, while rest can be beneficial, fun and self-care are also. 

As you have your workday scheduled, put leisure activities into your routine. Taking care of yourself by relaxing and having fun is a meaningful way to nurture your well-being and offers an opportunity to spend time with others. You can also try exercising if you enjoy sports or outdoor activities. 

Take breaks during work

Work breaks can matter as much as completing projects, so schedule breaks during the day. During your break, you might walk around the block, chat with a friend for a few minutes, or enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in a nearby park. Choose an activity that gives you a moment to escape from your surroundings and decompress. 

Studies on worker productivity suggest that employees who take breaks, particularly during lunch hours, are more productive, better focused, and happier with their jobs. It can be tempting to skip your lunch to run errands or eat at your desk so you can keep working, but your mental health may be harmed.

Seek support and social interaction

With a network of people to communicate and spend time with, burnout at work may be easier to avoid. Staying socially active and spending time with friends and family is essential for mental well-being. 

Studies have long proven that humans need interaction with others, and loneliness and isolation are linked to physical and mental health conditions. Whether meeting up for a walk at lunch or taking an extended vacation, interacting with friends and family can be vital to staying healthy and well-adjusted. 

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Talk to a professional 

There is often a bi-directional relationship between workplace burnout and conditions like anxiety and depression. However, when individuals work to the point of burnout, they may not notice the symptoms of anxiety and depression until they've gotten to a severe point of overwhelm. 

Many workplace burnout symptoms overlap with anxiety and depression. For example, a persistent sense of demotivation, sleep disruptions, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability, digestive pain, headaches, and stress can be signs of a mental health condition. If you notice these symptoms regularly in your daily life for two weeks or longer, it can be vital to seek help from a mental health professional with experience diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.  

In some cases, it might not be easy for overworked people to schedule and keep an appointment with a therapist. If you're juggling the commute to a therapist's office with your work commute, you may be exacerbating your stress instead of alleviating it. 

In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be a practical solution. Online therapy is convenient and often more cost-effective. In addition, you can schedule sessions around your work schedule. Studies show that online therapy is as effective and, in some cases, more affordable than in-person therapy without insurance. 

Work burnout can be extremely overwhelming


Work burnout is a common but serious challenge many individuals face when struggling to maintain a positive work-life balance. If you're experiencing occupational burnout, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for support. You do not need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit from counseling, and over 41.7 million US adults see a therapist, so you're not alone.
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