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Feeling burnt out? Here’s how you can recover

Last year, everyone was talking about quiet quitting. But does it help or harm your burnout? And how do you recover from burnout?

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Illustration by Eliza Anderson, Deseret News

Remember quiet quitting? Last year’s TikTok work trend sparked a lot of questions and conversations about work satisfaction and mental health. Here’s the biggest question: is quiet quitting a symptom of or a solution to burnout?

Whether you’re working your dream job or an entry-level gig, everyone experiences burnout. Here’s everything you need to know about work-related exhaustion — and how to recover from burnout.

What is burnout?

According to Psychology Today, burnout “is a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” Burnout is typically a symptom of a stressful work environment, but can also result from parenting or relationships.

Are you feeling apathetic at work? Unmotivated? Stressed? Then you might be experiencing burnout. Let’s dive into why burnout occurs.

Why does burnout happen?

Christina Maslach, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkley, and Michael P. Leiter, organizational psychologist, outlined the causes of burnout in 2016. They mention six factors that have been identified as factors in burnout: workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values.

Here’s a little more information on each factor:

  • Workload: According to Maslach and Leiter, “work overload contributes to burnout by depleting the capacity of people to meet the demands of the job.” This takes away an employee’s opportunity to rest and recover from the job.
  • Control: When employees feel like they have no influence over their work or “professional autonomy,” they experience less work engagement.
  • Reward: Lack of recognition or reward for a job well done causes both the work and the worker to be unappreciated. Because of this, employees can feel undervalued.
  • Community: Having positive relationships with co-workers has a huge impact on an employee’s overall happiness. If there’s a lack of trust and support, or if there’s conflict, employees have a greater chance of experiencing burnout.
  • Fairness: Employees use fairness in the workplace as a measure of equity. If employees feel that they’re being treated unfairly, or if they’re not being considered when new processes or procedures are implemented, they might feel as if they are undervalued in their work community.
  • Values: According to Maslach and Leiter, values are “the motivating connection between the worker and the workplace.” When employees feel like there’s a discrepancy between their own values and their employer’s values, they might feel as if they must make sacrifices between the work they’d like to do and the work they already do.

How common is burnout?

Those experiencing burnout in the workplace certainly aren’t alone. In 2021, the American Psychological Association sent out its Work and Well-being Survey to over a thousand working adults. Here’s what the group found:

  • 79% of adults experienced stress in the workplace a month before the survey.
  • 3 in 5 adults reported the following effects of stress at work: “lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%).”
  • 36% of adults experienced cognitive fatigue.
  • 32% of adults experienced emotional fatigue.
  • 44% of adults experienced physical exhaustion.

The symptoms of burnout

Wondering if you’re experiencing burnout or if you’re just stressed? They can be easily confused for each other. Here are some symptoms of burnout, per HelpGuide:

  • Feeling exhausted all the time.
  • Headaches or muscle pain.
  • Depression — feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped.
  • Disruptions in sleep or eating habits.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Detachment from life.
  • Feelings of dissatisfaction.
  • Procrastination.
  • Withdrawing from work and life responsibilities.

Is quiet quitting the solution to burnout?

Here’s the big question: is quiet quitting helpful or harmless? It depends. Lee Chambers, a psychologist and well-being consultant, told Healthline that quiet quitting can be used as a coping mechanism to help with burnout.

“Quiet quitting has the potential to improve boundary setting, as well as helping people step away from toxic productivity,” Chambers said. “It may empower them to take control over their rest and growth time and create space for reflection on how they can embed well-being into their lives.”

On the other hand, quiet quitting definitely has its risks. Chambers noted that while quiet quitting can help create boundaries between work and personal life, it can also cause feelings of meaninglessness.

“Quietly quitting would likely lower our sense of engagement, purpose and satisfaction, which are factors in our mental and physical well-being,” Chambers explained.

So does quiet quitting actually help with burnout? There’s no straight answer. While it could help burnout by ensuring that you don’t overextend yourself at work, it could also contribute to burnout by causing you to disengage from your job.

In a nutshell: it will entirely depend on your personal situation. Quiet quitting could be a good call for you, but not for someone else.

How to recover from burnout

Burnout can cause feelings of hopelessness, apathy and disconnection. So how can you connect to your life again? Here are some ways you can combat your burnout, per BetterUp:

  • See a therapist: Burnout can sometimes be linked with depression. You might need to seek the help of a mental health professional to address your burnout.
  • Identify what’s stressing you out: While you might not avoid all your stressors, knowing what they are can help you at least reduce how often you interact with them.
  • Try journaling: Journaling can be a helpful tool in your emotional health. It can create self-awareness and will help tap into why you’re feeling a certain way.
  • Get enough sleep: Practice good sleep hygiene to try to get at least seven to nine hours every night.
  • Have a good work-life balance: Make sure you’re not overworking. BetterUp suggests balancing the time you work and the time you don’t work every day. You could also try blocking out specific time to spend away from work.
  • Set boundaries: Setting boundaries is an important part in having a good work-life balance. Don’t be afraid to say no to taking on too many tasks at work.