5 Ways to Recover When You’re Totally Overwhelmed at Work

Feeling overwhelmed at work lately? If you have an abundance of vacation time sitting in your PTO bank, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your work-life balance, or imbalance, as the case may be.

Once you’ve determined you’re officially burnt out, it’s time to make some serious changes. Rather than continuing the cycle of feeling bogged down without any silver lining in sight, give a healthier lifestyle a try. Keeping your stress levels at bay is an important part of your overall well-being. Here’s how to recover when you’re overwhelmed at work.

1. Seek counseling

man sitting on couch talking to therapist

Talking to a counselor can help. | iStock.com

Mental health professionals can be of huge assistance in the way of dealing with emotional problems. If you’re suffering from work burnout, discussing your issues with a counselor who’s well-versed in the subject just may be the help you need. According to The New York Times, people who suffer from burnout experience feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, frustration, cynicism, and a sense failure — all things that may get better with the help of a therapist.

The article discusses burnout on a global scale and how other countries deal with it. In the Netherlands, for example, burnout is a medical diagnosis. Wilmar Schaufeli, a professor of psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, told the publication a typical response “would be to give the employee six to eight weeks off, with weekly half-hour counseling sessions to help figure out what went wrong and how it might change.” America: Take note.

2. Make lists of thing you do, and do not, like doing at work

man writing out a list

Make a list of both the positives and the negatives. | iStock.com

There will always be things you don’t like doing at work, that’s why it’s called a job. This is why it’s important to remember the things you actually enjoy doing. It’s easy to focus on the negative, and let yourself get caught under a dark rain cloud of menial tasks and frustrating busywork. If you take a step back to remember what you like about your job in the first place, though, you’ll be well on your way back to a happier career existence.

After you make list of things you enjoy doing at work and another of things you dislike, keep these lists on hand for future reference. Hang them in your cubicle, keep them in a desk drawer, or save a file on your desktop. Whatever the case, if you suffer from burnout, try spending two weeks doing only the things you enjoy, and step back from those you can’t stand. If you’re worried your performance will suffer, have an honest discussion with your boss about why you need to hold off on certain items for a couple of weeks.

3. Evaluate your options

man in robe working at laptop in kitchen

Talk to your boss about possible options. | iStock.com

Perhaps you just need to assess your current job situation and adjust accordingly. Maybe your role has changed since you first started, evolving over time, as many positions do. If you’re truly unhappy at work, discussing these concerns with your supervisor is definitely worthwhile. Mayo Clinic mentions talking to your boss may yield positive results like a shift in expectations.

Maybe finding common ground or alternative solutions to your work environment will do the trick. Would you be more productive if you were afforded some work-from-home flexibility? Or perhaps you need to reduce your list of monthly goals. Whatever the case, weighing additional options to find solutions that work will benefit you in the long run.

4. Return to your roots

young woman with long blowing blonde hair in neon yellow tank top

Take some time to reflect. | iStock.com/Halfpoint

Returning to your roots doesn’t just mean going back to the town where you grew up. Although for Carrie Severson, a self-proclaimed burnout, it definitely helped. In an article she wrote for The Huffington Post, Severson describes her road to burnout recovery. After hitting a mental rock bottom in her professional career, Severson took a long, much needed hiatus. During her several weeks spent sitting on a porch for hours on end, she hoped to return to a happier existence.

When you allow yourself to admit you’ve fallen victim to work burnout, it’s likely you’re ready and willing to take a few steps back from it all. Once you set out on a personal search for inner peace, surrendering to the idea of self-evaluation doesn’t seem so scary. Severson writes, “My new identity had nothing to do with what I did for a living. It had everything to do with who I allowed myself to grow into.” Self-reflection may never come in handier than it does during a time of severe work burnout.

5. Leave your work at the office

Tired businesswoman

Leave your work at the office where it belongs. | iStock.com/Poike

For many busy professionals, it’s common to take work home from time to time. But for those who are burnt out, it’s imperative to leave the workload exactly where it belongs — at work. Or, in the case of those who work remotely, and whose home is their office, closing your laptop or leaving your must-read documents in another room at night is key.

Psychologies Sherrie Bourg Carter writes about the importance of resisting the urge to take work home with you in an article published on Psychology Today. Although your work has to get done, turning your evenings and home time into regular working hours may be what led to the burnout in the first place. Even if you’re someone who normally operates full-speed ahead, in times of burnout, this MO of yours will only further stunt your productivity, not to mention your well-being. The only way you’ll return to your fully-functioning speed is if you first take the time to pump the breaks.