When work starts to feel stressful, it can sometimes be confusing. Are you just having a bad day, a hell week, or facing total burnout? It’s important to identify what it really is so you can “treat” it immediately.
Bad days happen to everyone, whether it’s work-related or not. It can be a bad mood, having more tasks for the day, or facing new work challenges. Regardless, bad days are easier to overcome if dealt with immediately. If you keep allowing bad days to get to you, then you might be experiencing a burnout.
Exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced performance are all symptoms of a burnout. And the feeling of total exhaustion is the most important one, “to the extent that it cannot be remedied by normal recovery phases of an evening, a weekend, or even a vacation,” says Dr. Christian Dormann, a professor at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz’s Department of Law, Management and Economics. But how do you treat a burnout, if it’s already this bad?
How to Deal with Bad Days and Burnout
It’s crucial to fight bad days so they won’t mount up. At work, bad days can be triggered often by worrying, especially when unwanted changes happen in the workplace, leaving you with a feeling of uncertainty. Say, when management starts laying off people due to budget problems, and you don’t have an idea whether you’re next or not. You tend to think about it a lot, and it starts to get In the way of work. Amy C. Waninger, our founder and CEO, points out how worry at work can destroy productivity when you focus instead on your questions and fears that only worsen your stress levels. One way to deal with it is to try procrastinating worry by firmly telling yourself, “I’ll worry about it later.” Then re-focus on your work and achieve something worthwhile for the day.
If it’s a conflict with a co-worker or a project, try solving it immediately with communication. Talk to your co-worker about it, or consult your boss about your project. Asking for help can easily be the solution to get you through a bad day. What’s important is you identify what’s making your day bad, and deal with it as early as possible before it starts to get worse.
Take a Time Out
But even with all these, burnout is still possible. The good news is there are still ways to deal with it. One way is to take a step back from all the things stressing you out, and Dr. Erika Rasure, a professor for Maryville University’s online business program, highlights three signs you’re in need of a time out. First, you might be more agitated both at home or at work. This makes you more impulsive and act less kindly to your coworkers and loved ones. Second, you’re itching for a change but can’t seem to get a grasp on what kind of change you need. Finally, you might have lost inspiration to do anything that used to matter to you.
When this happens, Rasure states on Psychology Today that the important thing is to acknowledge it. “Not only that you have created your own prison,” says Rasure, “but also that you are the only person who has the power to set yourself free.”
Take Care of Yourself
Dr. Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, the chairperson of the American Psychological Association’s Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance, believes that “repeated small doses of self-care are more effective than a once-a-week event.” They can be short bursts of exercise, or eating healthy snacks. Daily short meditations can also help reduce stress and make you more mindful of your thoughts and emotions.
Take time to unplug from work everyday. Turn off work notifications and try to stop thinking about work once you clock out. Focus on your small self-rewards that can make you forget about stress, like preparing your favorite dinner or watching a funny movie. Don’t wait for the weekend before you do anything nice for yourself. Do these rewards as often as you can. What matters is you prioritize yourself everyday and let go of burdens that stress you out. At the end of the day, remember that these burdens are not your life.