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Feeling Burned Out At Work? Here’s What to Do About It

Author:NeuroGym Team

Is Burnout Harming Your Productivity? Here’s How to Cope

“I feel thin, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

If you’re not familiar, that’s a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The quote is spoken by Bilbo Baggins, a character some readers believe Tolkein based on himself. Even though Bilbo was talking about the effects of the evil magical ring he was carrying, it’s possible Tolkein related to the sentiment in real life—as many of us can!

Starting in primary school, long before we enter the workforce, we learn that people who put in effort are more likely to succeed than people who slack off. But putting in a lot of effort doesn’t always work out the way we hope.


Sometimes, we work so hard that we overextend ourselves. When we do, something strange happens to our brains. We start feeling foggy, depressed, and exhausted, like we can’t do anything that requires effort.

Burnout can really get in the way of not only your work performance, but your quality of life, making you too tired to do things you enjoy, like hanging out with friends or engaging in hobbies, and things you need to do to take care of yourself, like cooking and cleaning.

In this article, we’ll be going over what burnout is, why it happens, and how you can recover if you already have it. Read on to find out how you can rise above this frustrating obstacle and keep doing your best work moving forward!

Are You Burned Out? Here’s How to Tell

You Just Can’t Stop Working

Are you someone who just loves to work and has no problem putting in overtime, evenings, and weekends because you love seeing your productivity pay off?

According to one expert, workplace burnout is something that workaholics are especially prone to. This is more of a warning sign or risk factor than a symptom, but if you recognize yourself in this trait, it’s a sign that burnout might be on the horizon.

What’s more, if you’re already dealing with the other symptoms of burnout described in this section, and if you still feel like you can’t stop working, it’s possible workplace burnout has already struck.

“You feel like you have to do something, to get something done,” says experienced business strategist and entrepreneur Kokab Rahman in the article linked above. “Soon, your mind is blurry and productivity falls, but you can’t stop working.”

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You Can’t Think Straight—And It Shows

When you burn out, you aren’t able to think as clearly as you want to. Your mind might feel foggy, blurry, or fuzzy, like you’re moving through water or moving in slow motion. You may also have emotional symptoms—for example, feeling depressed, hopeless, and emotionally exhausted.

As a result, your performance suffers, and you may start to neglect other aspects of your life and self-care. You may stop doing chores you need to do to live in a clean, healthy environment, or you may become withdrawn from family, friends, and hobbies. You may also feel a sense of despair, like you’ll never be able to get enough done, or become cynical about whether your goals are even worthwhile.

Your Physical Health Is Affected

Science is clear that not only does stress increase your future risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and more, but dealing with an extreme level of stress with no relief can harm your health in the short term. People who are burned out may experience sleep disturbances, muscle aches, and even stomach pains as a result of too much stress.

Burnout can also harm your physical health if it makes you stop following your self-care routine, or turn to unhealthy ways of relieving stress, like alcohol or drugs.

According to Rahman’s article, burnout can even depress the functioning of your immune system—and science backs her up!

Want to learn strategies to maximize your business’s potential? Sign up today for the 5 day live virtual Business Challenge to hear it from the experts, including NeuroGym’s very own John Assaraf!

What Causes Burnout—And Can It Be Prevented?

Because burnout is so common, plenty of research has been done on ways to prevent it! In this section, we’ll talk about common causes of workplace burnout, and ways you can take care of yourself, your body, and your mind.

Causes of Workplace Burnout


The main cause of workplace burnout is simply doing too much: You’ve been working too hard, for too long, with no breaks to speak of. This may be because you’re just so driven you can’t pull yourself away, or it may be because you’re actually addicted.

Our brains are naturally wired to love productivity, and to be extremely satisfied when our work pays off. When we achieve a goal or receive praise, especially when our work goes above and beyond, our brains get a big dose of neurotransmitters like dopamine—which is very addictive.

People who are addicted to work act just like people who are addicted to drugs: They can’t stop working, even if their health is affected.

But work addiction isn’t always the reason people work too hard. They may also be overworked because they believe so strongly in their work’s mission statement that they feel taking a break would be wrong! This is a big reason why medical professionals, activists, social workers, and people in other “caring” roles are so prone to burnout.

Other people experience workplace burnout because they’re trying to do multiple people’s jobs, with only one person’s pool of time and energy. This can happen to entrepreneurs or people who are self-employed, or to people who work at chronically understaffed workplaces.

Best Strategies For Preventing Workplace Burnout

If you’re a workaholic, or if you’ve been putting in way too many extra hours for another reason, you might be feeling helpless to prevent burnout from happening to you. But that’s not true; in fact, it’s a sign that burnout has already hit! Here are some strategies you can use to prevent workplace burnout before it starts.

Force Yourself To Take Breaks

From the last section, you can clearly see that failure to step away from work is the unifying factor behind all the causes of burnout we listed. If you’re passionate about what you do, or if you’re really driven to achieve, it’s easy to forgo taking a break, but burning out can mean you need to rest for an even longer period to recover!

Here are some tips for incorporating mandatory breaks into your work routine:

  • Set a clear limit for how many hours you will work and stick to it.
  • Set goals, and when you achieve them, take a break and celebrate!
  • Learn to say no to people asking you to pick up overtime or extra tasks.
  • Treat your lunch break like a sacred time of rest where no work is allowed.
  • Set boundaries; don’t be cajoled into doing work during your off hours. 
  • Set aside enough time each week to socialize, relax, and have fun!

Prioritize Essential Tasks

People who multitask too much are very prone to burnout, and one reason this happens is that people find it very hard to prioritize tasks.

Leaving a task incomplete can be extremely unsatisfying to an ambitious worker! But avoiding burnout and protecting your mental health are more important than crossing out items on your to-do list. Here are some ways to make sure you can separate essential tasks from tasks that can wait until you’re feeling better.

  • Make a list of weekly goals, then go through it. How many of these actually need to be done this week—or month, or at all?
  • If you’re in a management position, figure out which tasks you can afford to delegate.
  • If you have to choose, focus on tasks that are directly related to your responsibilities.
    • If you’re a nurse, for example, and you’re feeling like you’re starting to burn out, step back from organizing a staff get together so that you can focus on looking after your patients.

Unplug After Work


Unplugging doesn’t just mean not answering work messages on your off hours—it means taking a break from screens entirely. We know, we know—your smartphone is super addictive, Netflix just released a new show, and you just can’t pull yourself away from your favorite social media. But screens have a way of increasing our stress levels.

Being online makes it easier to find more ways to keep yourself busy, like posting to or reading comments on your business’s social media. A lot of time online is also spent on social media where it is extremely easy to start comparing your own success to other people’s, thus making yourself feel like you’re not as productive as you should be.

Here are some tips for unplugging after work:

  • Use parental controls to limit how long you spend on social media each day.
  • Opt for phone calls instead of video calls, texting, or instant messaging to check in with family and friends.
  • Fill your free time with offline activities, especially those that get you moving or get you outdoors!
  • Opt to read a physical book instead of reading online articles. If you prefer to read books on your phone through the Kindle app, consider investing in a separate Paper-White Kindle device instead.

Recovering From Burnout

Already burned out? If you’re a chronic workaholic, you might be dismayed to learn that recovering from burnout requires extended rest, much longer than a lunch break. Whether that break lasts days, weeks, or even longer, it’s essential to take a break if you want to recover.

To wrap up, here are eight ways to help yourself recover from burnout:

  1. Take time off work to rest, and avoid engaging with work-related discussions or answering work messages during this time as much as possible.
  2. If your workplace expectations are burning you out, consider switching jobs.
  3. Spend time in nature. This is great for relieving stress and boosting your mental health.
  4. Take time to reconnect with things that give you a sense of purpose unrelated to work or productivity, like your family, hobbies, or any religious or cultural communities you’re part of.
  5. If you find yourself mentally conflating your productivity with your self-worth, consider seeing a counselor or therapist to work through this.

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  1. Try yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or other self-care practices that help you separate yourself from the stress you’re feeling.
  2. Without stressing or overextending in this regard, make sure you’re living in a clean, welcoming environment. Wash the dishes, pick up the clothes on the floor, and clean up any spills! A dirty living space is more stressful than a lot of people realize.
    • Apps like TaskRabbit, as well as drop-off laundry services, meal delivery services, and decluttering services can all help you clean up and create an environment where you feel safe, happy, and relaxed.
    • When you feel up to it, consider doing a little decorating or rearranging to feel like your space is really your own!

Final Words

Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, stepped back from competing in the 2020 Olympics to prioritize her mental health. If one of the most hardworking athletes in the world can take a break, you can too.

If you want to keep working hard, the key is to become familiar with what burnout is, and how to stop it from happening. We hope you feel better equipped with the knowledge and strategies you need to look after yourself and stay on track towards success!

Ready to get back at it? Want some tips for how you can use neuroscience to boost your business success? Join us for the 5-day live Business Challenge with brain expert John Assaraf! Book your spot TODAY!

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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