April 9, 2020

7 Red Flags of Job Burnout — and What You Can Do

Expert tips to change your perspective

Woman unhappy and not challenged by her job

A healthy dose of pressure at work can give you fuel — and make you even better at what you do. Job-related burnout, on the other hand, empties you out and kills your motivation. If it lingers too long, it also can negatively affect your feelings about life.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The good news is you can take steps to reverse job burnout. You also can avoid it altogether if you pay attention to the signs.

When stress is prolonged

“Workplace burnout involves a prolonged and heightened response to work stress in which a person becomes drained from work demand,” says clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD.

He says to be on guard if you notice these signs:

  • Your performance at work is declining.
  • Your efficiency at work is dropping.
  • You’re losing confidence that you can achieve your goals.
  • You avoid work-related tasks.
  • You feel exhausted.
  • You’ve lost interest in your work.

“Engaging in tasks that feel meaningless can promote burnout,” Dr. Bea says.

“However, if something in your work effort is consistent with your commitments and values, each day can be an opportunity to live these values in a tangible manner.”

For example, people in caregiving professions can notice positive results with their consistent effort to help others.

Advertisement

It depends on where you place your attention.

“Try to notice the rightness of your work effort and the positive outcomes rather than dwelling on the stressors, obstacles or negative characteristics of work,” he says.

Emotions are a tip-off

Before you experience job burnout, your feelings will give you some clues that something is amiss. If you’re not sure if you’re just going through a rough patch or heading down the road to burnout, here are seven questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you feeling cynical or negative about work, and are these feelings escalating?
  2. Is your motivation decreasing?
  3. Is it becoming difficult to perform work-related problem solving?
  4. Do you feel yourself getting more agitated or angry at work?
  5. Are interpersonal difficulties at work spilling over into your home life?
  6. Do you feel depressed as a result of work-related stress?
  7. Is work-related stress causing you anxiety?

If you answered yes to many of the questions above, there are various ways to address these feelings for a healthier outlook.

Change your perspective

“Come to work intending to ‘give your gift’ as an alternative to approaching work fearfully about outcomes or penalties,” Dr. Bea says. “It helps when we lean into the experience with positive energy and a positive belief in ourselves.”

Advertisement

Here are some other in-the-trenches strategies to fight burnout:

  • Establish good self-care: Maintain healthy habits such as exercise, nutrition and interpersonal connections. Limit the use of quick fixes such as alcohol, nicotine or drug use.
  • Set healthy limits: Find a way to manage expectations in your workplace so that you don’t become overextended.
  • Keep a healthy pace: Strive to get into the flow of your work, and take periodic breaks.
  • Develop a mindfulness practice: Rehearse being aware of the present moment, rather than getting into thoughts about the future or past in a way that escalates tension.
  • Take breaks from electronic devices: Do this at predetermined intervals so that you are not “always on.”
  • Attach your work efforts to something you value: Notice how your work makes something in the world, the culture, or in other people’s lives better.
  • Be yourself. Do what you can to reduce the strain of having to project some image that is not authentic.

If you are struggling over a prolonged period, you also want to consider the source of your feelings. Is it that you are not a match for this particular career? Or is it that the work, and amount, has gotten beyond your control? It may be time to consider a change or talk with a supervisor about workloads or roles.

Related Articles

Person on couch writing in their journal to find stress relief.
June 4, 2023
12 Ways To Recover From Burnout

Start by seeing a healthcare provider to rule out conditions with similar symptoms

woman daughter doing laundry together
April 21, 2021
How Women Who Do It All Can Combat Burnout

How to beat burnout and ask for help

Someone meets with their coworkers over Zoom for a conference call.
October 27, 2020
Why All Those Zoom and Google Meets Are So Draining (And What to Actually Do About It)

6 tips to make video chat feel less tiresome

person sitting in a growing flower, as they're watering the pot from above
February 9, 2024
Self-Love: Why It’s Important and What You Can Do To Love Yourself

Like being your own best friend in times of trouble, self-love is an act of self-preservation

Closeup of person putting red and white capsule in mouth
February 2, 2024
Know the Dangers of ‘Gas Station Heroin’

It’s labeled as a supplement, but tianeptine is an addictive, dangerous drug

person standing on exclamation point holding up a No. 1 finger, wearing cape and mask in front of crowd
February 1, 2024
How To Make the Most of Your ‘Villain Era’

It’s not about embracing your dark side — it’s about showing up for yourself

Silhouette of person turned away from group of people talking
January 23, 2024
How the Grey Rock Method Can Protect You From Abusive People and Toxic Interactions

Like a boring ol’ grey rock, the goal is to be unresponsive and uninteresting to dissuade a harmful situation

person looking at reflection in hand-held mirror
January 22, 2024
9 Signs You’re Dealing With a ‘Narcissist’ (and Why That’s the Wrong Word to Use)

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition, not an insult

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery

Ad