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ATD Blog

5 Ways to Overcome Burnout at Work

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Millions of Americans are returning to the workplace after working from home during the pandemic. While this is exciting for many, some feel burned out. What do you do if you are weary of working? How can you get your mojo back?

As defined by Gallup, the main causes of workplace burnout include overwork, not enough control over work, and lack of support from managers. Most people come to work with residual, unresolved complications from childhood or a former boss. These tangles influence employees’ thoughts and behaviors at work and are made more difficult because most managers are promoted for technical skills, not emotional intelligence.

Be on the lookout for some of the signs of burnout: snapping at co-workers or family members, angry outbursts, sleep problems, digestive issues, and feelings of resentment.

If you are experiencing burnout at work, here are five actions you can take:

1. Perform a stress audit.

The first tool in my Banish Burnout Toolkit is a stress audit. The stress audit is a written exercise best done with pen and paper to get the most benefit. It helps you understand what your stress reaction patterns are physically, emotionally, and verbally.

While you are writing, the amygdala—the fear center of the brain—dumps information. When you go back and reread what you have written, the prefrontal cortex—the rational, analytical part—engages. That is the beginning of behavior change: awareness.

2. Know your stress; spin your stress.

The second tool is understanding how to spin typical stress reactions: over-reaction and over-generalization. For example, if your boss texts you, “Meet me first thing in the morning,” your initial thought is probably, “Oh no! What have I done this time?”

You can spin your reality into something positive by realigning your thinking. “I wonder what my boss wants to talk about. She is usually very supportive. Maybe she wants to talk about that exciting new project she was discussing last week.”


3. Combat stressful shoulds.

Do you catch yourself thinking, “I should do this,” or “I should do that”? Some typical shoulds include, “I should lose weight,” “I should save more money,” or “I should exercise more.”

A should statement indicates an expectation you have of yourself that you are not yet accomplishing. The expectation is that you need to be different in some way—better than you currently are. Transform that should into a preference. For example, rather than, “I should get more sleep,” think, “I would prefer it if I could get more sleep. Tonight, I am going to go to bed at 10, and I will begin my bedtime routine at 9:45.” Set a clear, specific, achievable goal.

4. Get outside.

One of the fastest ways to turn your mood around is simply to go outside. Sometimes just 10 minutes outside can do the trick. Did you know that as soon as the sun hits your skin vitamin D is activated?

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D causes several physiological responses in the mind and body. In terms of stress, light improves the communication between various parts of the brain to help you handle emotions. Furthermore, studies have shown that the more time you spend outdoors, the more serotonin you release and the happier you feel. And you also get a boost of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.

The next time you feel down, just walk outside and breathe for 10 minutes. You will notice a difference. While we are still working remotely, I love the idea of working outside. Sometimes I sit on my back deck with my laptop and work out there. Other times, I sit outside to read, and our family often has meals al fresco. It’s relaxing and helps combat the stress of intense work.


Finally, get a triple benefit by going for a walk with a friend. You hit three positive happiness chemical sources: getting outside, talking to a friend, and moving more.

5. Fill your day with sparkle.

Find your happy. Sparkle moments, a term I penned, are little flashes throughout your day when you feel happy about something you have accomplished or acknowledge a positive action you have taken.

When you take a moment to celebrate the little joyful moments throughout the day, you feel happier. One important way to find your happiness midday is to acknowledge an accomplishment. The brain really loves completions and rewards you with dopamine, a happiness chemical.

Stop and acknowledge these moments and pat yourself on the back. There can be many little sparkle moments that make you feel better, like laughing or talking to a good friend. It’s natural to feel good when performing a random act of kindness, volunteering, putting on calming music, or giving someone a random hug. It only takes a moment to infuse your day with sparkle moments.

For a deeper dive, join Janice for the ATD 2022 Conference & EXPO session, Banish Burnout: Move From Stress to Success.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the author’s personal blog,

About the Author

Janice Litvin, workplace wellness speaker and author of Banish Burnout Toolkit, is on a mission to help leaders and teams banish burnout in their organizations so employees can come to work healthy, happy, and ready to work. Her Banish Burnout: Move From Stress to Success keynotes, workshops, and accountability groups offer simple techniques to help leaders and teams manage stress to prevent burnout, engage in wellness, and fall in love with fitness. The result: lasting behavior change.

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