'Giving your all comes at a cost.' What to do when the job you love burns you out.

So you're in a job you love. You sit next to your work wife, you do tasks you're good at, and you're happy with how far you've come. But you're utterly exhausted. And a bit despondent. So what now?

That's the particular challenge many of us are facing. We're in jobs we always wanted but they are slowly burning us out. Earlier this year, Abbie Chatfield quit her "dream" radio show Hot Nights with Abbie Chatfield. "I simply wasn't enjoying myself day to day in that environment" she wrote on Instagram. "I simply need to put my energy into projects that bring me joy and that energise me, rather than draining me." And she's not the only one wanting a change.

Findings from the 2023 State of the Future of Work Report, have revealed that Australian workers are in poorer physical and mental health since the pandemic began. What's more, over a third of prime-aged workers (between 25-55 years of age) are considering quitting their jobs.

Amanda Gordon is a workplace psychologist for job site Indeed, and she has over 25 years of experience in her field. Speaking with Mamamia, she says the mood right now among a lot of people is burnout.

It's not completely unexpected - we are in the final stages of 2023, and with this period comes the mad scramble to get everything done by December. Or perhaps you've been go-go-go the whole year and your energy is starting to wane.

If you're feeling this right now, Gordon says there's a few things you can do to address it.

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First and foremost... what is burnout again?

Simply put, burnout in reference to one's work is when there's a lack of work-life balance, exhaustion levels are high and it's a feeling of stress plus overwhelm, explains Gordon.

"People are using the word burnout to explain just about every bit of distress around the workplace. But burnout is more than just feeling stressed. It's when your mind and body give in. Burnout actually implies the cause of the distress - it's when you've completely fizzled out."

Most commonly related to the workplace, burnout can happen due to a myriad of reasons. But some of the biggest examples include working too hard at too fast a pace or putting all your energy and focus into work rather than having a balance. Another common feeling among some burntout people is they feel they don't have a choice, when they're being pushed to put all their commitments and connection into the job. 

Ultimately, responsibility can equally lie between the employee and the employer, but it, of course, varies depending on the personal situation.

What to do if the job you love is burning you out.

This can be really challenging to grapple with, says Gordon.

There are certain occupations and industries as well where this can happen often - high-stress environments, places with consistently tight deadlines, and jobs that involve first responders or caring for other people. 


"It's very normal in these sorts of occupations for people to work too hard and put themselves second best for a while. They do the work because they're passionate about it, and they're likely very good at it too. But giving their entire all comes at their own personal detriment," Gordon tells Mamamia


"If people are putting all their focus on the workplace, but are not giving themselves an opportunity to live a life elsewhere - this lack of physical self-care can lead to burnout," says Gordon.

"Work-life balance is now an old term that gets thrown around a lot, but there's a reason for that. It's significant."

Sometimes it's as simple as switching your work phone off when you leave the office or workplace (if possible), or trying to cut off mentally from work when you get home (or once you've left your home office space). Gordon says that by creating these physical boundaries, and sticking to them most of the time, it can make a real difference.


Managing one's non-work time is another crucial step to take.

It gives you a sense of living life, rather than just trotting along and going through the motions. Rediscover or find new passions outside of work, as we shouldn't be just limited to one.

Sometimes, this process involves taking a bit of leave if you can as well, even mental health leave. Because when we take a step back from the workplace - which we're so often completely engrossed in - it can provide some much-needed clarity or perspective. AND it gives you the time to process and find small joys in everyday life again.


Prioritise friendships - both inside and outside of the workplace.

Another very handy tip from Gordon is to focus on friendships. Often when work is so overwhelming, our friendships are put on the back burner, and we forget how helpful a good chat and catchup can be.

Interestingly though, you shouldn't just be focusing on friends outside the workplace - but inside it too.

Indeed's 2023 Workplace Wellbeing Report found that 74 per cent of workers believe that having at least one close or best friend at work has a positive impact on employee wellbeing. Add onto that, 72 per cent who have a close or best friend in the workplace are more likely to feel happy at work most of the time.

Amanda says the findings stack up from a psychologist's perspective as well. 

"It does protect against burnout to feel like you have allies in the workplace, and people you can lean on for support and good conversations. It also helps to make sure you don't feel isolated," she explains.

"Just as important though is to ensure you have social connections outside work, whereby you can have a bit of a b*tch without it impacting your workplace in any way."

This isn't to say that we should all dump our work dramas on our outside-of-work mates, and whinge and complain to them consistently. But having a group of friends where you can have a vent, a laugh and some fun can be really gratifying.

What employers and managers can do.

"Sometimes burnout is preceded by anxiety in the workplace. For example, the employee might not know whether they're doing well enough or if they're getting it right," says Gordon. "Actually addressing the anxiety can be really protective against developing burnout later."


For employers and managers, it's up to them to keep communication open, as well as positive feedback lines. 

Leaders also need to make sure their team aren't working unreasonable hours. And if there has been a particularly busy or hectic period, where everyone has had to give 100 per cent - that's okay. That's the nature of work. But making sure it's followed up with positive reinforcement, gratitude, bonuses if relevant or a team social outing can make a big difference. 

"It's all about touching base, with both the employer and employee realising they each have a role to play in ensuring burnout is mitigated in the workforce. The employee also needs to be transparent with their manager - taking responsibility for our own mental health is key."

Ultimately, for anyone feeling rather burntout right now - you're not alone.

Gordon wants you to know this. Firstly, burnout is fixable. Secondly, you can love your job and still have off days - nothing is sunshine and rainbows 24/7.

"There are other ways of working that can be really just as enjoyable, without giving every part of yourself to your job. It's important we all remember that, especially when those feelings of burnout are starting to creep in."

Featured Image: Getty.

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