How to Decrease Burnout at Work or School

GoodTherapy | How to Decrease Burnout at Work or School Burnout syndrome manifests itself in various forms, from cynical outlooks on life to detachment from relationships and hobbies, and it can arise from personal, professional or academic circumstances.  

Everyone gets stressed at work sometimes, but such a condition tends to be ongoing in nature, where chronic mental or physical exhaustion as a result of a job or other circumstances creates a sense of apathy, or even dread or distress, toward one’s key responsibilities.  

Burnout affects one’s individual health, but it also impacts organizational success, such as office culture and employee turnover. In fact, research shows that burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day than happier employees, and 59% have cited their mental health as a key driver in seeking a new role.  

Take inventory of your mental state and whether you’re experiencing symptoms, such as lack of focus, irritability, continuous exhaustion, indifference or frustration toward work or school. 

 What can cause burnout in the workplace

When people think of burnout, they often associate it with a professional job or career, as the cumulative addition of life duties over time  – raising children, managing relationships and financial pressures – increases as we get older, as do work responsibilities.  

Research shows that there are about six key areas attributable to workplace satisfaction, and according to the 2020 study, imbalance within these categories may intensify burnout:  


An unreasonably high workload is one of the most common contributors. When an employee feels that their to-do list is indefinitely unmanageable, it decreases motivation and can have the counterintuitive effect of worsening productivity. 


Ongoing lack of autonomy over one’s success impacts employee attitudes as well. Most jobs require the achievement of certain goals, but if the necessary resources are unavailable, or if colleagues or leadership hinder one’s ability to adequately perform their role, it diminishes their sense of control.  


When done correctly, rewards promote workplace satisfaction because they symbolize recognition and validation. Rewards may be financial – i.e., feeling like you’re properly compensated – but it can also come in the form of positive feedback.   

A Deloitte survey found that not only did 77% of employees experience burnout at their current job, but the main reason was a lack of support and recognition from leadership.  


Most adults know the feeling of working at a job that is made more bearable due to good rapport with coworkers or management. This speaks to how the quality of relationships affects burnout levels.  


Without a sense of justice, individuals tend to feel hopeless, in that good performance and behavior aren’t rewarded. Seeing a poor-performing colleague, for example, get a promotion over a more deserving employee rubs us the wrong way, because it signals a lack of fairness.  


Working in a role that requires executing tasks not in line with our own morals creates a sense of dissonance, and this also applies when working at a company whose mission is at odds with our own values.  

What can cause burnout in school   

From an early age, students are often inculcated with the pressure to get as close to straight A’s as possible, not to mention accumulate a long list of extracurriculars showcasing a holistic college application. 

For college students, balancing classes, part-time jobs and social activities can seem high-stakes, particularly as graduation nears, and exams, job applications and impressive internships seem like non-negotiables to enter the job market.  

It’s normal to feel busy, but take note of whether this feeling leads to a sense of continuous fatigue or disconnection from hobbies or friendships. Eventually, it can lead to poor academic performance, class absenteeism, and even depression or anxiety. If this sounds familiar, be sure to take advantage of your campus’ mental health resources, as the same factors influencing job satisfaction – workload, control, community, reward, fairness, and values – apply in educational settings as well.  

How to decrease burnout 

Aim for a well-balanced personal life 

Diet and Exercise 

Did you know that the American Psychological Association found that burnout syndrome is associated with an 84% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and a 40% increased risk of hypertension? That makes diet and exercise particularly important in staving off insidious effects of burnout.  

Better sleep 

Prioritizing high-quality sleep will sharpen mental clarity long-term, such as memory improvements and overall energy. Unplug from phones and other screens at least 30 minutes before bed, and eat your last meal several hours before your head hits the pillow.  

Social activities   

Even with a full work schedule, make sure to carve out time for healthy activities with family or friends. Going for a hike with friends or joining an intramural sports league may create an added layer of accountability and support as well.  

Find the right therapist  

A professional therapist can help you navigate difficult academic or work situations, as well as provide mindfulness exercises and techniques. Such conversations often unearth more purpose-driven goals and allow us to recognize long-held habits and thinking patterns no longer serving us.  

 Therapists can also assist clients in discovering which of the six job satisfaction factors are most out of balance and what practical changes can recalibrate them.   

One study found this combination of emotion-based and practical applications “indicates that burnout recovery will need to happen through both the job redesign and symptom treatment.”   

 While it may be comforting to know burnout is not uncommon – even mental health professionals experience burnout  – it’s also important to take seriously. Whether it originates from a job or rigorous academic schedule, it usually spills into an individual’s personal life, negatively impacting relationships and even physical health. Facing the underlying causes of your burnout can propel you toward a more fulfilling career and personal life.  

Use online search tools such as GoodTherapy to quickly find a therapist well-versed in burnout symptoms and causes. 



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