Career burnout is a genuine phenomenon, with nearly two-thirds of full-time workers having experienced it at one time or another. Rates of burnout are particularly high when people are in the middle of their careers.
Professionals who were once energized by their jobs can start to feel drained and diminished by them. You deserve to have a career that inspires you, challenges you, is meaningful, and aligns with your values, but doesn’t take more from you than it gives back.
So, what measures can you take to avoid mid-career burnout?
Make sure your job serves you well
Choosing a position that will allow you to achieve your desired lifestyle is an incredibly important proactive action that will help you avoid mid-career burnout. Check-in with yourself:
- What is essential for you in a job or career long-term?
- What kinds of stressors you can handle and not handle?
- What volume of work are you willing to take on?
Look for work that excites you and that you find meaningful. Also, consider how much autonomy a position will offer you. When researching, look for employers that are taking actions to increase employee satisfaction.
What burnout looks like
It’s normal to feel tired or overwhelmed from time to time, but if these states are dominating your life, it may mean that you’re reaching your limit. Burnout looks slightly different for everyone.
Burnt-out individuals may become apathetic about the outcomes of their work and have trouble focusing. They may feel constantly stressed, fatigued, or uncharacteristically bothered by small annoyances. They might notice that their performance is slipping.
If you notice some of these signs in yourself, it might be time to take action.
What can you do about it?
Be mindful of how you spend your free time
The activities you do outside of work have the power to either exacerbate or appease burnout. Some unhealthy habits may actually be contributing to your burnout more than you realize.
For example, you might think that mindlessly scrolling through social media is helping you decompress, when it’s actually eating up more time than you’re aware of and worsening your anxiety.
Spending time exercising, learning a new hobby, or with friends and family can be very rewarding and beneficial for your mental state.
That being said, it’s your time, and you can spend it, however, the heck you want to! Do what brings you the most delight and fulfillment. Regardless of which activities you prefer it’s critical that you’re active, rather than passive, in deciding what to do with your time.
While it’s admirable to be responsible and to go above and beyond at your job, it’s important to notice when you may be taking on more than you can handle. Being available for work 24/7 is very taxing, and if you take on too much it’s only a matter of time before your performance and your mental health start to suffer.
If you were the last person to take the lead on the last three projects, and you’re feeling exhausted, maybe it’s time to let someone else take charge this time. You may wish to have a conversation with your employer or your co-workers to clarify when they can expect you to be online, and when you are on your own time.
Ask for support
Mid-career burnout can be extremely frustrating and upsetting but know that you are not stuck and you don’t have to go through it alone.
Talk to a therapist, or ask for advice from friends who may have had similar experiences. It may also be helpful to express your feelings to your boss and explore ways that you can be challenged or supported in your position.
After all, employee dissatisfaction is not only harmful to the employee, but to the company as well. It is in everyone’s best interest that they hear out your concerns and help you make the changes that you need to.
Add joy to your workday
Whether it’s listening to your favorite playlist while you work, treating yourself to a delicious lunch, or focusing on the parts of your job that you find the most enjoyable, a little joy can go a long way in combatting burnout.
Consider a job change
If you’ve done everything you can and you still feel deeply unsatisfied with your current position, consider your options, and what it might look like to change jobs, or even shift your career direction.
If you decide that changing paths is what’s best, get specific about what you like and dislike about your current job. Use your findings to propel your job search and find a position that better aligns with your goals, strengths, and values.