How to Get Over Burnout When You Can’t Take Time Off

Rethink how you approach both your job and your downtime

Rebecca Fishbein
Forge
Published in
6 min readNov 7, 2018

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Photo by Gift Habeshaw

Burnout in the workplace isn’t uncommon, and it’s not pleasant, either. Data from the American Institute of Stress suggests that 80 percent of U.S. workers feel stressed out about their jobs, with 40 percent in roles that are “very” or “extremely” stressful.

People in high-intensity jobs, like those in the medical profession or law enforcement, are particularly prone to burnout, but they’re by no means the only ones who suffer from it. Across the professional spectrum, burnout can be caused by any number of factors: Long hours, conflicts with management, and overall job frustration are just some of the things that can leave any worker feeling like they’re on the brink of mental, emotional, or physical collapse.

“If you’re noticing, ‘I’m working hard and really long hours but accomplishing a lot less than I used to,’ that’s a red flag.”

The easiest cure is also the most obvious: Take some time off. Going on a trip or setting aside a few days at home to refresh can temporarily reset your stress clock. But not everyone has the vacation days or financial means to make an escape, so you may need an alternative way to fight off the job scaries. Here are some ways to get yourself back on track when you can’t get away.

Recognize the Signs

The first step toward treating burnout is recognizing it for what it is. “There are three big signs of burnout,” says psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, author of How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. The first, emotional exhaustion, “is exactly what it sounds like: a sense of being drained and unmotivated and tired, both physically and psychologically. It gives you the sense of moving through mud.”

Another symptom is something called depersonalization, or “a substitution of characteristics for an actual person,” Hendriksen says — for example, “nurses might start to refer to a patient as ‘the heart attack in Room Eight,’ or a psychologist might refer to a client as ‘that OCD guy.’” You stop seeing the people you work with as people and…

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Rebecca Fishbein
Forge
Writer for

Rebecca Fishbein is a writer in Brooklyn & the author of GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE YOU HATE, out 10/15. Find her on Twitter at @bfishbfish.