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Career Advice

Barely Breathing: 5 Ways to Avoid Burnouts

By Krisha Maclang on July 7, 2015

As a popular saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What Jack doesn’t tell you is that not only does “all work and no play” make you dull, but it can also make you prone to burnouts. What exactly is a burnout?

Burning out is a special kind of stress in its own category. It’s chronic stress you feel when you are at the end of your rope. When you're burnt out, you're in a constant state of dissatisfaction and exhaustion that you can’t quite shake off. At its worst, it affects you physically and can even cause long-term illnesses.

Everyone gets stressed out at work and we have all felt dissatisfied with our jobs at some point. But if you feel constant fatigue at a physical, mental and emotional level and you feel this exhaustion seeping into other areas of your life, you may be burning out. It doesn’t just affect people who hate their jobs either. Even people who have landed their dream jobs end up burning out if they are constantly stressed.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid burnouts:

Do something you love on the side

Do something you enjoy. And once more with feeling: Do. Something. You. Enjoy. It may seem like a basic concept but it demands repetition because we often underestimate its importance. Hobbies aren't just luxuries for people with a lot of time on their hands.

If the only thing you have in your life is work, then your mind and body will always be focused on work as well as all the stress that comes with it. And frankly, if work is all you look forward to, isn’t that just plain boring?

Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who happen to be doing something you love for a living, it still helps to have a project that you can do simply because you love it; no deadlines, no clients, no hovering bosses. The danger in turning a hobby or interest into a source of livelihood is that it can take away the pleasure that you associate with it. Do something for the sake of enjoyment.

Doing something you love is the perfect way to destress and to go back to the things that drive you.

Take vacations

As enticing as it is to cash out your unused vacation days at the start of the year, resist the temptation to do so. Your vacation leaves are given to you for an important reason: you need to take a few days away from work to recharge and relax.

Take a few days off work to go on a relaxing vacation. It doesn’t matter where you go; just make sure to leave work behind when you are on your vacation. Stop checking your emails and unplug from work completely. You can even have a cost-effective staycation if you want. The important thing is to take the time to reconnect with yourself and disconnect from work stress.


It sucks to have to deal with work-related stress every day. What sucks even more is having no one to talk to about it. While it may seem like keeping your worries to yourself is the more productive choice, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health.

It helps to discuss your worries and have an outlet for your anxiety and negative emotions. You can turn to a friend close to you to help you process your experiences since they know you the best. If you feel like you can't be totally upfront with your friends or if you want professional help, you can also seek therapists or counselors.

You don’t have to face everything alone.

Reward yourself during rough times

When we get really stressed and consumed by work, it can be easy to forget why we do what we do. Why am I even doing this year-end report? What’s the point of today’s fifth client meeting? It can be really difficult to get through the hard times at work if we feel like our hardships don’t have an immediate pay off.

This is why a personal rewards system can help you. Rewarding yourself during periods of stress can carry you through tough times. Your reward doesn’t have to be expensive or grand. It can be as simple as treating yourself to your favorite meal during lunch break. You can even opt to have a quiet weekend at home reading a book or marathon watching your favorite series.

A nice treat for yourself is a simple but effective way to remind yourself that you’re not a work drone. You need to enjoy too.

Know when to cut your losses

Sometimes, there really is no other way to deal with a burnout but to leave your job. Unfortunately, as much as we want to keep trying to make things work, there are times when they just don’t.

Quit, if - and only if - you have done everything you can to find and eliminate the source of stress at work. It could be uncooperative teammates, work overload, or an unreasonable work schedule. Whatever it is, figure out how you can eliminate the source of stress. If the problem persists, consider quitting.

If the choice you face is between keeping your job and keeping yourself healthy and sane, we suggest going with the latter option.


Burning out is a gradual process that slowly takes over your life. In this day and age, we all want to be overachievers and accomplish great personal success. We want to go from zero to one hundred in record time but its price can often mean chronic stress, dissatisfaction and sicknesses. Never forget to take care of yourself. Sometimes it pays to take your foot of the gas pedal and slow down.