Beat Back Burnout

Do you dread the morning? Is much of your day spent stressed or daydreaming about what you really want to do? Do you have trouble finding joy, passion, and motivation in your life?
If so, you’re part of a national epidemic. A recent study by found that more than 77% of workers feel burnout on the job. And 23% of survey respondents said that they feel

Know when to walk away: Sometimes the only cure for burnout is a fresh start. If you’re arriving at work at dawn and leaving after dark, it might be time to walk away. “One day I was driving home on the freeway thinking, ‘I really hate being stuck in traffic,’ and I realized that being stuck was an analogy for my life at the time,” Cook recalls. So she spent a year attending an administrative fellows program at Harvard University and getting a clearer sense of her mission. “I gifted myself with a sabbatical,” she says, “and it changed my life.”
august 2006 : illustration by jason raish

Take a trip: A change of scenery can provide you with a fresh perspective and allow you time to recharge and relax, says Suzan Johnson Cook, author of Live Like You Are Blessed (Doubleday; $17.95). She recommends scheduling time off from work after particularly busy times. Cook suggests taking a “sabbatical” every few years, to reassess your life and dreams. “One of the definitions of recreation is re-creation.” she says. “Train yourself to recognize the signs that you’re ready for a break, and then take the time you need for reflection and rest.”

Get a mission: You’re ripe for burnout when you have difficulty seeing beyond your current situation. The solution? Write a mission statement and specify short- and long-term goals. Verna Price, Ph.D., a motivational speaker, coach, and author of The Power of People (JCAMA Publishers; $14.95), has a personal mission statement to “empower myself to pursue excellence.” When she drifts from that mission, she feels symptoms of burnout. “As long as you just ‘have a job’, you are going to experience burnout,” says Price. “Because then you’re just working for the money. But when you connect your job to your goals, dreams, and passions, then you have your life’s work.”

Explore your options: When you’re burned out, you feel stuck. Knowing that you have other options can change that, says executive recruiter Virginia Clarke, head of the Global Diversity Practice for Spencer Stuart in Chicago. Clarke suggests connecting with a reputable recruiter to get a sense of your options — and your worth — in the job market.

Build a trusted network: Cultivate a reliable group of trusted colleagues. “These are the people who can help you see what you can’t see about yourself,” Clarke says. “You need to have people in your life who can say, ‘you know, you don’t look good, or is this job really working for you?” When Clarke was feeling burnout from her job, her father advised her to tell people what she wanted to get results.