How to find motivation when you’re totally burnt out

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

People who are struggling to cope with workplace stress may place themselves at high risk of burnout. Burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life.

Burnout may be accompanied by a variety of mental and physical health symptoms as well. If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

What Is Burnout?

The term “burnout” is a relatively new term, first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He originally defined burnout as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.

More simply put, if you feel exhausted, start to hate your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, you are showing signs of burnout.  

The stress that contributes to burnout can come mainly from your job, but stress from your overall lifestyle can add to this stress. Personality traits and thought patterns, such as perfectionism and pessimism, can contribute as well.  

Most people spend the majority of their waking hours working. And if you hate your job, dread going to work, and don’t gain any satisfaction out of what you’re doing, it can take a serious toll on your life.  

Signs and Symptoms

While burnout isn’t a diagnosable psychological disorder, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Here are some of the most common signs of burnout:  

  • Alienation from work-related activities: Individuals experiencing burnout view their jobs as increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may grow cynical about their working conditions and the people they work with. They may also emotionally distance themselves and begin to feel numb about their work.
  • Physical symptoms: Chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches or intestinal issues.
  • Emotional exhaustion: Burnout causes people to feel drained, unable to cope, and tired. They often lack the energy to get their work done.
  • Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work—or in the home when someone’s main job involves caring for family members. Individuals with burnout feel negative about tasks. They have difficulty concentrating and often lack creativity.

It shares some similar symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression. Individuals with depression experience negative feelings and thoughts about all aspects of life, not just at work. Depression symptoms may also include a loss of interest in things, feelings of hopelessness, cognitive and physical symptoms as well as thoughts of suicide.  

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Individuals experiencing burnout also may be at a higher risk of developing depression.  

Risk Factors

A high-stress job doesn’t always lead to burnout. If stress is managed well, there may not be any ill-effects.

But some individuals (and those in certain occupations) are at a higher risk than others.

The 2019 National Physician Burnout, Depression, and Suicide Report found that 44 percent of physicians experience burnout.

Their heavy workloads place individuals with certain personality characteristics and lifestyle features at a higher risk of burnout.

Of course, it’s not just physicians who are burning out. Workers in every industry at every level are at potential risk. According to a 2018 report by Gallup, employee burnout has five main causes:  

  1. Unreasonable time pressure. Employees who say they have enough time to do their work are 70 percent less likely to experience high burnout. Individuals who are not able to gain more time, such as paramedics and firefighters, are at a higher risk of burnout.
  2. Lack of communication and support from a manager. Manager support offers a psychological buffer against stress. Employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70 percent less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  3. Lack of role clarity. Only 60 percent of workers know what is expected of them. When expectations are like moving targets, employees may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  4. Unmanageable workload. When a workload feels unmanageable, even the most optimistic employees will feel hopeless. Feeling overwhelmed can quickly lead to burnout.
  5. Unfair treatment. Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment may include things such as favoritism, unfair compensation, and mistreatment from a co-worker.

Prevention and Treatment

Although the term “burnout” suggests it may be a permanent condition, it’s reversible. An individual who is feeling burned out may need to make some changes to their work environment.  

Approaching the human resource department about problems in the workplace or talking to a supervisor about the issues could be helpful if they are invested in creating a healthier work environment.

In some cases, a change in position or a new job altogether may be necessary to put an end to burnout.

It can also be helpful to develop clear strategies that help you manage your stress. Self-care strategies, like eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercises, and engaging in healthy sleep habits may help reduce some of the effects of a high-stress job.

A vacation may offer you some temporary relief too, but a week away from the office won’t be enough to help you beat burnout. Regularly scheduled breaks from work, along with daily renewal exercises, can be key to helping you combat burnout.

If you are experiencing burnout and you’re having difficulty finding your way out, or you suspect that you may also have a mental health condition such as depression, seek professional treatment.

Talking to a mental health professional may help you discover the strategies you need to feel your best.

Telling a depressed person to get motivated is like telling a rock to dance. You’ll get the same result.

It’s not because depressed people don’t want to get motivated. It’s because getting motivated is an overwhelming task when you’re depressed. Is motivation impossible? Definitely not. You just have to find a process that works for you.

There is a saying: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But many depressed people can’t get out of bed, much less take a thousand-mile journey. For many sufferers, medication is the first step.

There are those who scoff at the idea of medication as an answer. But for those in a major clinical depression, life is a dark place full of pain, hopelessness and insecurity.

Sometimes the blame can be placed on brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters don’t work right, and brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — your feel-good chemicals — often don’t go where they’re supposed to go. Medications deal with chemical imbalances. Find the right one, and you may feel more like your old self again. Because you feel better, getting motivated becomes a little easier.

A good therapist goes hand in hand with medication. One without the other is kind of a half-solution. By talking to a trained professional, you’ll feel better because you’re talking to someone who knows how to listen.

Good friends listen, sure, but don’t forego a therapist for a friend. Well-meaning friends may tell you to just get over it or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This results in a vicious cycle. You may feel worthless and stupid because you’re finding it hard to brush your teeth, much less pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This leads to a deepening depression, which leads to more “helpful” remarks, which leads to even more depression. Unfortunately, the thick, ugly scars of depression aren’t outwardly visible, and when your wounds aren’t visible, sympathy from your friends is hard to come by.

There’s a method used in Alcoholics Anonymous that works for some, and that’s acting as if something were already true. For example, every morning when you wake up, pop up with as much vigor as you can muster. Don’t give yourself time to dwell. Get dressed immediately. It can be for the gym or dog-walking or some other form of exercise. Or, get dressed to go to the mall, the bookstore, or the theater.

Just get dressed. Do your hair. Groom yourself attractively, and do it quickly. Don’t give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. In other words, act as if you feel great already and you know for a fact that you’re leaving the house and will have a good time. At the very least, getting dressed and looking decent can go a long way toward giving you a mental boost. It may even give you enough motivation actually to go to the gym and exercise, which is great for alleviating depression.

If you’re not at the gym phase yet, however, walk the dog, or go into the yard and pull weeds for 20 minutes a day (assuming it’s spring or summer). This gives you the added benefit of sunshine. According to research, 20 minutes of sun a day will lift your mood. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, invest in a light box, which simulates full-spectrum sunlight.

Even if you can’t find the motivation to do anything, don’t berate yourself for it. You’re up and ready for the day, aren’t you? Do only what you can do, and let go of major expectations. If you brushed your teeth, that’s positive. Don’t be hard on yourself, or getting motivated to do anything becomes another chore to be avoided.

Depression whispers bad things in your ear about your capabilities. We hear, “You can’t do anything right. Look at the mess you’ve made of your life. Why aren’t you further along in your career? Why don’t you have a career at your age?” By consciously replacing the words on these soundtracks with positive words, we’ll be able to change our way of thinking. The brain is able to create new neural pathways. Change your way of thinking over a period of time, and a new neural pathway is created.

Use positive thoughts about yourself to create new neural pathways. Over time, the old, bad, unused pathways wither, die and fall off, much like the branches on an old tree. With some determination to stay on the positive path, you create a new soundtrack, which is filled with hope, giving you more motivation to keep stepping forward.

The same premise applies to self-talk in the mirror. Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, say something positive about yourself. Some people carry flashcards to remind themselves of their good traits when they’re feeling particularly down. This is a behavioral psychology method to get you to replace bad thoughts with good ones. Before long you are reminded of all the wonderful things that you have to offer, and you are motivated enough to take another step in the healing process toward rejoining the world.

Socialization is important. Make a standing appointment to have a friend or family member pick you up to go out. This way you’re held accountable to someone else. If there are no friends or family members available, don’t use that as an excuse. Going to the bookstore and people-watching in the coffeeshop is preferable to sitting home alone. Who knows? You may make a new friend. That is certainly motivating.

Give yourself credit for progress made, even if it seems tiny. Set small goals. Do what you can handle and nothing more. Are there seven loads of laundry to fold? Tell yourself you’ll fold laundry for five minutes, then do it. You’ll be surprised by how accomplishing one thing you said you were going to do can boost your spirits and motivate you.

By the same token, don’t set yourself up to fail by telling yourself you’re going to do something you know you can’t do. Because, when you do fail, your motivation to move forward stops. Try doing only one thing at a time, a little bit at a time. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there — each success makes it easier to stay motivated for the next step in your journey to feeling good about yourself.

Many people struggle with depression; you’re not alone. Take that first step. Find what works for you, and the motivation to continue forward will come. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

Last medically reviewed on December 22, 2014

Telling a depressed person to get motivated is like telling a rock to dance. You’ll get the same result.

It’s not because depressed people don’t want to get motivated. It’s because getting motivated is an overwhelming task when you’re depressed. Is motivation impossible? Definitely not. You just have to find a process that works for you.

There is a saying: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But many depressed people can’t get out of bed, much less take a thousand-mile journey. For many sufferers, medication is the first step.

There are those who scoff at the idea of medication as an answer. But for those in a major clinical depression, life is a dark place full of pain, hopelessness and insecurity.

Sometimes the blame can be placed on brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters don’t work right, and brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — your feel-good chemicals — often don’t go where they’re supposed to go. Medications deal with chemical imbalances. Find the right one, and you may feel more like your old self again. Because you feel better, getting motivated becomes a little easier.

A good therapist goes hand in hand with medication. One without the other is kind of a half-solution. By talking to a trained professional, you’ll feel better because you’re talking to someone who knows how to listen.

Good friends listen, sure, but don’t forego a therapist for a friend. Well-meaning friends may tell you to just get over it or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This results in a vicious cycle. You may feel worthless and stupid because you’re finding it hard to brush your teeth, much less pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This leads to a deepening depression, which leads to more “helpful” remarks, which leads to even more depression. Unfortunately, the thick, ugly scars of depression aren’t outwardly visible, and when your wounds aren’t visible, sympathy from your friends is hard to come by.

There’s a method used in Alcoholics Anonymous that works for some, and that’s acting as if something were already true. For example, every morning when you wake up, pop up with as much vigor as you can muster. Don’t give yourself time to dwell. Get dressed immediately. It can be for the gym or dog-walking or some other form of exercise. Or, get dressed to go to the mall, the bookstore, or the theater.

Just get dressed. Do your hair. Groom yourself attractively, and do it quickly. Don’t give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. In other words, act as if you feel great already and you know for a fact that you’re leaving the house and will have a good time. At the very least, getting dressed and looking decent can go a long way toward giving you a mental boost. It may even give you enough motivation actually to go to the gym and exercise, which is great for alleviating depression.

If you’re not at the gym phase yet, however, walk the dog, or go into the yard and pull weeds for 20 minutes a day (assuming it’s spring or summer). This gives you the added benefit of sunshine. According to research, 20 minutes of sun a day will lift your mood. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, invest in a light box, which simulates full-spectrum sunlight.

Even if you can’t find the motivation to do anything, don’t berate yourself for it. You’re up and ready for the day, aren’t you? Do only what you can do, and let go of major expectations. If you brushed your teeth, that’s positive. Don’t be hard on yourself, or getting motivated to do anything becomes another chore to be avoided.

Depression whispers bad things in your ear about your capabilities. We hear, “You can’t do anything right. Look at the mess you’ve made of your life. Why aren’t you further along in your career? Why don’t you have a career at your age?” By consciously replacing the words on these soundtracks with positive words, we’ll be able to change our way of thinking. The brain is able to create new neural pathways. Change your way of thinking over a period of time, and a new neural pathway is created.

Use positive thoughts about yourself to create new neural pathways. Over time, the old, bad, unused pathways wither, die and fall off, much like the branches on an old tree. With some determination to stay on the positive path, you create a new soundtrack, which is filled with hope, giving you more motivation to keep stepping forward.

The same premise applies to self-talk in the mirror. Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, say something positive about yourself. Some people carry flashcards to remind themselves of their good traits when they’re feeling particularly down. This is a behavioral psychology method to get you to replace bad thoughts with good ones. Before long you are reminded of all the wonderful things that you have to offer, and you are motivated enough to take another step in the healing process toward rejoining the world.

Socialization is important. Make a standing appointment to have a friend or family member pick you up to go out. This way you’re held accountable to someone else. If there are no friends or family members available, don’t use that as an excuse. Going to the bookstore and people-watching in the coffeeshop is preferable to sitting home alone. Who knows? You may make a new friend. That is certainly motivating.

Give yourself credit for progress made, even if it seems tiny. Set small goals. Do what you can handle and nothing more. Are there seven loads of laundry to fold? Tell yourself you’ll fold laundry for five minutes, then do it. You’ll be surprised by how accomplishing one thing you said you were going to do can boost your spirits and motivate you.

By the same token, don’t set yourself up to fail by telling yourself you’re going to do something you know you can’t do. Because, when you do fail, your motivation to move forward stops. Try doing only one thing at a time, a little bit at a time. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there — each success makes it easier to stay motivated for the next step in your journey to feeling good about yourself.

Many people struggle with depression; you’re not alone. Take that first step. Find what works for you, and the motivation to continue forward will come. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

Last medically reviewed on December 22, 2014

There are so many reasons I love working from home. I spend all day with my dogs and can watch reality television over my lunch break. It’s the dream.

But I’ll be honest: it isn’t always the most motivating spot to crank through my to-do list. When there’s no urgent need to change out of my sweatpants and the couch is only a few steps away, it can be tough to buckle down and get my work done.

There are plenty of days when I struggle to muster any motivation—when I stare at a menacing, blinking text cursor for five minutes before I manage to so much as reply to an email.

So, what do I do on those days when I’m feeling totally tapped out of energy and focus? Well, it depends on what I identify as the root cause of my laziness.

Here are some common reasons why you might get lazy working from home, as well as how to deal with them:

Reason #1: You’re still in your pajamas.

The “working in your pajamas” cliché is one you’ll hear a lot when you work remotely. But it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. While I’m all for being comfortable, I’ve found that my motivation levels typically enter a steady nosedive if I roll out of bed and head straight into my home office—without bothering to do so much as change my clothes or brush my teeth.

If you think about it, it makes sense. How can you possibly generate some enthusiasm for getting work done when you’re wearing exactly what you slept in?

Do This: I’ve made a habit of taking some time to get ready before I ever sit down at my computer, and I recommend you do the same.

Do I make myself look as polished as I would if I were heading into a normal office? Definitely not. But even taking a few minutes to wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on some fresh clothes makes me feel a little more awake and like I’ve officially switched into “work mode.”

Reason #2: You haven’t left the house in days.

Cabin fever is a real thing, and being hit with the brutal realization that you haven’t set foot outside in several days is always sort of jarring.

I know firsthand how easy it is to stay trapped in your home office bubble, especially when you feel like your work is really flowing (and you don’t want to put on real pants). But take my word for it—eventually you’re going to hit a wall. If you’ve been staring at the same surroundings for days on end, it’s only natural that your mind is going to start to wander and your energy is going to lag.

Do This: It’s time to get yourself out of the house. Take your dog for a walk, run an errand, or grab your laptop and head to a local coffee shop to work for a few hours. Even just a brief change of scenery can work wonders for refreshing your perspective and your motivation.

Reason #3: You’re burnt out.

Maybe you’re being too quick to point your finger and call yourself lazy. In fact, maybe you’ve just done too much and now you’re plain ol’ exhausted.

There are plenty of studies that cite how remote workers are far more productive than their in-office counterparts, because they don’t have nearly the same amount of distractions. However, you can only operate at maximum efficiency for so long before your levels run too low. Perhaps the reason the couch is calling your name so strongly is because you’re just tapped out of energy for now.

Do This: You deserve a break. If your schedule offers you this sort of flexibility, step away from your desk for a little bit—even if it’s just for a half hour. You might be surprised by the amount of good that does you.

Reason #4: You’re distracted.

When you’re working from home, you might not have to deal with the standard office distractions. There are no deskmates having phone conversations at ridiculous volumes or colleagues randomly popping by your desk. But that doesn’t mean that your work environment is totally distraction free. Your own home offers plenty of tasks and other shiny objects that can sidetrack you.

It’s hard to focus on your to-do list if you feel like something else—whether it’s emptying the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry, or even changing that lightbulb in the bathroom—is hanging over your head.

Do This: You know that task or chore that’s nagging at you? If it can be accomplished in a reasonably short amount of time (we’ll say less than a half hour), just go ahead and do it right now.

Believe me, that will be a whole lot more productive than trying to push it out of your mind for the next few hours. When you work from home, it’s far too easy for the lines between your professional and personal life to become blurred—and it can be hard to muster up your motivation when you’re working only a few steps from where you sleep.

The first step is to identify exactly why you’re running low on determination, and the above four reasons are incredibly common (been there, done that way too many times). Once you pinpoint the culprit, use this advice to tackle it head on and then return to your to-do list with a newfound sense of energy.

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

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How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

Time and time again, I hear people say the phrase “I’m burnt out”, whenever they feel drained. Getting tired and feeling drained happens when you’re working hard, and I understand this. However, you’re not burned out. You simply lack the motivation to keep fighting.

Think about it, when you’re really passionate about something, how can you feel burnt out if your passion is supposed to be what lights your fire? There have been countless days that went by when first starting my own business that I simply wanted to sleep in all day. I was physically and mentally tired from balancing collegiate studies and my own company. But, every single time I remembered why I was working so hard in the first place, that fire was relit under me.

Below are 4 ways to keep that fire under you lit and push you to achieve your goals :

1 . Reread your goals

Rereading your goals can go a long way. While working hard and constantly pushing forward, you’re so focused on how hard the work is sometimes, that you forget to visualize the end results. You should have both short-term and long-term goals. Each goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. If it meets these requirements, when you do reread your goals, you will get a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency is what will help you get out of your “burn out.” It basically reignites the fire.

2 . Go back to that dark place

Some individuals may disagree with me on this one. I understand the concept of having a positive outlook on life and never looking back. However, I also believe that one of the best ways to stay motivated includes thinking about the negative things as well. When I first started my business, my sole purpose was to provide the most value I can, because I knew that an increase in revenue would automatically follow by me helping people.

Whenever I would feel “burnt out”, I thought about how I felt when I had no source of income. Trust me, it’s not a good feeling. That was a very dark time for me. No matter what your motivation was to make a change, go back to that place and think about how it made you feel. Hopeless? Inferior? Good, always remember that.

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” – Carol Burnett

3 . Think about the naysayers

I don’t know about you, but proving people wrong is a big source of motivation for me. Imagine if you quit at whatever stage of life you’re currently at. Now, think about the people who will say “ I told you that wouldn’t work ”, once they get news of you giving up. Not something you want to experience, now is it? My point exactly. The last thing you want is for the naysayers to get what they always wanted, which is your failure just to prove them right. Don’t even give them the satisfaction. If this doesn’t motivate you to keep pushing, I don’t know what will.

4 . Think about everyone you’re letting down

Although most individuals have at least one person betting against them due to jealousy, envy, or some other reason, you all have someone rooting for you also. The last thing you want to do is let them down whether it’s your mom, dad, children, spouse, etc. If you stop now, you won’t be able to buy your mom that big house or support your family like you always promised. You will feel as if you let them down by not being able to do so.

Whoever these people may be, just think about them for a moment. How happy will they be when they get word that you tried your hardest and succeeded? And on the other hand, how disappointed will they be when they find out you got ‘burnt out’ and stopped pushing? I don’t know about you, but I would rather hear “I’m so proud of you”, than hear “Well, maybe that wasn’t meant for you.”

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to the surface.” – Alexander Graham Bell

As you can see, there is no such thing as burning out. Majority of individuals who experience burnout aren’t motivated. Whenever you feel this way, more than likely you just need a little extra motivation to relight that fire. There’s nothing wrong with that, we all need it. Do whatever you have to in order to get your head in the game again. Continue to spark the lion within by any means necessary.

PublishedВ 8:02 AM ,В September 18 2020 GMT+1
| Last updatedВ 9:26 AM ,В September 18 2020 GMT+1

Earlier this week, in the middle of a particularly bleak day of feeling totally drained, I wondered why – out of everything that’s happened since March – it was now that I felt the most sh**tty?

Over the last couple of weeks, all I’ve wanted to do is sleep more, I’m struggling to find the energy to complete the smallest of tasks, and motivation to exercise and socialise is completely AWOL. I can’t even keep on top of texting people back.

I feel completely burnt out, but I’ve barely done anything.

If you’re feeling burnt out, there’s a reason why (Credit: Unsplash)

In a quest to find out why, I did a quick poll of friends and family and – surprise, surprise – I found the large majority felt the same.

“I feel so drained, but I just don’t know why. I just feel like I can’t be bothered to do anything,” said one friend.

Another agreed: “I feel like I put all my energy into getting through these last six months, with the prospect that if we pulled together and cracked on, this would all be over by now. Or at least it would feel much better. Now it’s not – in fact – it looks like we’re going back into it somewhat.”

It seems like we’ve all put so much emotional energy into simply surviving 2020 that to put it bluntly, we’re exhausted.

But as TV psychologist Emma Kenny explained when I spoke to her this week, “that’s okay – and normal”.

It’s normal to feel like this, Emma tells me (Credit: Pexels)

“There’s an area of your brain called the prefrontal cortex which is for high functioning thinking, but the one thing it struggles with is any kind of anxiety or stress which is meant to be momentary,” she told Tyla.

“So, your prefrontal cortex gets impaired by the stress [. ] which leaves you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted and lethargic. And when it’s consistently impaired, it makes you feel like you’re out of sorts.

“On top of that I think we’re all missing home – whether that’s being surrounded by the people we love but also the streets we recognise, the cities we love, our normality.”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seen September as being a fresh start, a new season. Growing up, it marked the new school year, full of new experiences and challenges. Buying a new pencil case felt as good then as buying a new winter coat does now. Added to that, it’s the beginning of the run up to Christmas (aka the best time of year).

There’s something about September; it just feels good.

September usually feels like a fresh start (Credit: Unsplash)

But this year is markedly different. With the novelty of working from home wearing off, the prospect of a Christmas spent playing charades over Zoom and the – dare I even say it – idea that this could continue on into next year, this month doesn’t feel like a fresh start at all.

In fact, it feels like the beginning of another uphill battle, one we’ve collectively endured far too much of this year. But Emma explains there are things we can do to move out of this mindset.

“It’s completely rational to not want to go through this again,” she told Tyla. “People are feeling like they don’t have the emotional capacity to manage it and I think there’s a recognition of trying to protect our futures, the economy, and get back to some normality.

“However, you never think you can achieve something until you’ve gone through it, it’s just the way we are. We always have this anticipation fear. It might not be nice but you will survive. The main thing is to focus on the every day things you can control.

We’re in a new season, but it doesn’t feel like a fresh start (Credit: Unsplash)

“Don’t think about the long-term problem, think about the short term solution which is having power over your individual day. How can you take the small wins? For example, the things you can be grateful for, the people you can spend time with, the food you enjoy, they are really important.

“Even though things might change for a period of time, in the end it will return to normal. And the other thing is, sometimes I think in the midst of chaos, we create the most change and growth. There’s a lot of positives you can take.”

For now, I’m focussing on the one thing that always cheers me up – hunting down a new winter coat and dreaming about my first pumpkin spice latte of the year (coming to Starbucks next week FYI).

If you, or someone you know would like help or support for mental health issues, please visit mental health charity Mind’s website here or get in touch with the Samaritans here.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

When you’re in the zone at work and trying to juggle many things at once, it’s easy to experience burnout. You had an ambitious moment and decided to work till seven instead of clocking out at your usual 5:01 p.m., or took on one too many projects because you thought you could handle the impressive work load, and then you find yourself conking out like a zombie once you get home and feeling like the cycle won’t end.

It’s great to want to achieve a lot, but you have to realize you can’t do four jobs at once. But the thing is that that realization usually comes a moment too late, when you’re stuck feeling the aftermath of a burnout. So how do you recharge when you’re burnt out? Well first of all, it’s time to take a little me-time. That doesn’t mean taking all your sick days and flying to a beach for a couple of days—I appreciate that not everyone can do that. From simple tasks you can do at home, to small tweaks you can weasel into your schedule while you’re are work, below are seven ways you can recharge while you’re feeling burnt out.

1. First Thing’s First: Set Boundaries

Part of the reason you feel burnt out in the first place is because you have too much on your plate. So for the first step in remedying this situation, set up some boundaries so, moving forward, this won’t happen as often.

According to Brené Brown, PhD, self-development writer at Oprah, “I’ve finally learned that just because I can do something does not mean I should. Sure, I could take on another car pool. But that doesn’t make it a good idea. The next time someone asks you to do something, consider whether you’re doing it out of obligation or to prove your worth. And set boundaries that reflect what’s really important.” It’s tempting to take on more projects or tasks to show others that we’re a go-getter or that we add value to the team or friendship, but don’t do it to the point where you’re falling dead on your bed every night. Set up boundaries.

2. Find An Activity That Doesn’t Require Thought

Whether that’s swimming, painting, cooking, or reading a book, start to unwind from burn out by doing something that’s border-line mindless and lets your thoughts drift. Your brain needs some off time.

Brown suggests, “Find an activity that centers you and then make time for it—no matter what. If it feels uncomfortable at first, that’s OK. Cooling down takes practice.” If you feel like you should be doing something on you to-do list and feel guilty about indulging in some mindless activity, ignore it. Burn out doesn’t get eased with more tasks; it gets eased by powering down.

3. Make A List Of What You Enjoy Doing At Work

Not everyone can take a week off to recharge or take a long evening reading on the couch. For moments like those, fight off burn out by making a list of the tasks you really enjoy doing at work, and then only focus on those during a period of time. That way it won’t feel like the pressure of work, but rather something you really like getting your hands into.

Trent Hamm, financial writer at The Simple Dollar offers, “What tasks make you feel fulfilled at work? What ones do you actually enjoy doing? Think of the pieces of your job that make you feel productive and make you feel like you’re actually contributing in a positive fashion, then list several of these.” Tackling these will feel more fun than work, and will give your mind a break from the usual pressure and stress.

4. Do Something Totally Frivolous

To combat that weary feeling of burn out, do something completely frivolous to perk yourself up. You know how you sit a little straighter when you get a present? This is the same idea. Buy that dress you’ve been eyeing, buy yourself a giant cupcake during lunch, marathon a favorite TV show for a whole evening — whatever it is, do it because it makes you happy.

Career writer Erinn Bucklan at Time says, “Splurge on yourself with a little TLC. Whether this means booking a spa appointment or tickets to a hot show you’ve read about, it’s time to renew your appreciation of the world you’ve worked hard to build for yourself.” Enjoy the fruits of all that hard work and give your mind a rest with something frivolous. It’ll perk you right up.

5. Shake Up Your Routine

Sometimes all you need to do is shake up your routine a little in order to fight off those dregs of fatigue. According to the Huffington Post, “It could be as simple as walking a new route to work or actually starting that blog you always said you would. New experiences open your mind to new ways of thinking and perceiving, which in turn make you happier.” So go somewhere new for lunch, or call up a friend during break rather than checking emails. Maybe take one of those wine and painting classes after work rather than tying up loose ends, or forget typing up reports during the evening and go get fancy cocktails instead. Just shake up your usual routine and you’ll feel the burn out start slipping away.

6. Pat Yourself On The Back

Working hard but not getting any recognition for it is a sure fire way to make you lose your motivation and feel yourself burning out. According to lifestyle writer Martha C. White at Time, “One hallmark of burnout is feeling overwhelmingly cynical and not deriving any satisfaction from your achievements. If that sounds like you, make it a point to take the time to recognize the effort you’re putting in at work.” So take a moment to pat yourself on the back — admit what a fabulous job you’ve been doing and how all this hard, intense work is paying off. You deserve it; let yourself be recognized!

7. Get Off The Grid

To truly fight off burnout, when you get home and are ready to relax, take yourself completely off the grid. Leave laptops in backpacks, leave your phone in your nightstand, don’t even think about checking emails — just completely disengage.

According to health writer Paisley Hansen at self-development blog Nectar Collective, “The Internet is now easily accessible from almost anywhere through our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, and that can lead to work and other obligations blending into every aspect of our lives. To combat burnout, try staying off your smartphone or tablet when it’s not necessary. ” Your Instagram comments and urgent emails from work can wait. You’re at home, it’s your time off. And you need some me-time.

So just relax a little, and take time to focus on you, even though that may seem totally foreign to you. It’ll be worth it.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

It was exciting. Exhilarating. Intoxicating, even.

The high of building a new business, chasing your dream with child-like abandon, taking back control of your life.

That satisfying sense led you through the spiked gates and narrow path of starting your empire, then just a vision. But where it’s left you is not where you expected — lost, confused, without purpose.

You don’t know which way to go anymore.

The path before you is muddled or lost altogether. You struggle to sleep at night, wondering what your 12-hour days are for.

Was it really worth it? Am I crazy to have tried?

Maybe the W-2 grind was better suited to my sorry soul.

But, of course, you’re made of tougher stuff.

You’re not ready to throw in the towel. You know that business has ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and so too does your internal motivation.

You don’t need to quit.

You need to remember why you started.

It’s worse than you think…

You’re not the only one.

You’re not the only entrepreneur who lies awake at night, contemplating the dark recess of your unlit bedroom, wondering why you’re working so hard, whether it was worth it — chasing your “dream”, or so you called it.

Truth is, you’re one among many.

Just last week, I had a day full of discouraging and mismanaged events, a day that left me feeling discouraged and empty.

You know what I’m talking about — the kind of day you hope to not repeat anytime soon, the one that doesn’t just hurt your motivation, but collapses something deeper inside you, soul or spirit, maybe.

The kind of day that makes you sick to your stomach with discouragement.

In the midst of those bouts, messages from Grant Cardone and other “entrepreneur-inspire-ers” springs on us like a lion waiting to finish off a wounded doe.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

And the truth is, he isn’t wrong. Building a business does take hard work, perseverance, grit — continuing when stuff gets tough, pushing through the mind-numbing and motivation-killing days into a more promising future.

But that advice is mostly worthless for entrepreneurs who are already building their business.

Sure — college kids with too many parties to attend might need to hear Gary Vee’s messages.

Click to learn how Call Porter can help you grow your business with less work (FREE demo)

As it is, entrepreneurs (the people who are actually building businesses) suffer from depression, ADHD, addiction, and bipolar disorder more than everyone else.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

And while you could make an argument that the lure of entrepreneurship attracts people with mental disorders, I think it’s equally likely that the hustle of entrepreneurship creates mental-health ailment symptoms.

In other words, it’s not you.

But you can escape it. Not the pain or the hard work, of course, but the soul-crushing nights that threaten to completely annihilate your passion — those, you can escape.

And it’s simply a matter of not suffering in vain.

Suffering in vain is about the worst thing you can do…

I did a quick Google search for “quotes about suffering.”

Then I went to the “Images” tab.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

These are some of the quotes I found…

  • “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”
  • “Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.”
  • “God knows what is best for us. There are times when we need the sunshine. There are times when we benefit by the storm”

What do all of those quotes have in common?

Well, they all reveal a fundamental human tendency — to find meaning when things get tough, to believe that suffering doesn’t happen in vain.

And it’s not just a tendency, but a need.

Because without purpose or meaning behind the things happening to you, behind the things you’re working toward, it’s all pointless.

It’s all discouraging.

You see, you don’t feel burnt out because you’re working too much or even because you’re working on the wrong things. You feel burnt out because you’ve lost your sense of meaning. You’ve lost the “why” behind what you’re working on.

You don’t, after all, lie in bed at night thinking “I’m working too much.” You lie in bed thinking “What’s the point of working so much?”

You’ll still have hard times, times when you want to quit, but find your “why?” and climbing over those high walls will be much less challenging, and much more satisfying.

A purpose-driven life is the only life worth living…

The author of Are You Fully Charged? wrote “The odds of being completely engaged in your job increases by 250% if you work on meaningful projects each day.”

No surprise there.

But what creates the meaning behind those projects?

Not the work, itself, but the perception of that work.

In the case of a 9-5 grunt, positive or negative feedback from management at least partly serves to indicate how meaningful an employee’s work is.

But in the case that you own a business — in your case…

you make the work meaningful.

And you do so by finding your “why?” and regularly revisiting that purpose.

How to find motivation when you're totally burnt out

My “why?” — the purpose that keeps me going when a key employee quits, when a high-paying client jumps ship, or when discouraging voices remind me why I’m less capable than I originally thought — is to provide freedom for my children and wife, to give them the life they deserve, to spend more time with them every day and to enjoy life while we have it.

Your “why?” might be similar. Or it might be totally different.

It might be about surfing everyday on the beach in Tahiti, or it might be about buying a private jet.

Whatever it is, find it, write it down, look at it every day, and use it like armor when you’re feeling discouraged.

You’re doing what you’re doing for a reason, but you’re the only one who can find that reason.

And once you find that tangible purpose, you can rekindle your passion even when the going gets tough. And the going always gets tough.

Throughout our careers, we may find ourselves in a role that takes more from us than it gives in terms of money, happiness, or energy–sometimes, it’s all three.

At first, waning job satisfaction might not be noticeable, clouded by day-to-day demands and expectations. But at some point, though, you become aware that you’re surviving–not thriving–at work.

Maybe you no longer believe in the mission or identify with your co-workers. Your enthusiasm dwindles.

Regardless of what causes the realization, you know one thing for certain: A change is necessary. Maybe it’s time for a new position. It’s more likely, however, that you’re ready for an entirely new career.

But finding a new job, let alone a dream job, can be tricky. For example, making time to interview is tough when you’re balancing a heavy workload or traveling all the time. Not to mention, changing careers can be hard when you’re facing burnout brought on by your current position.

It’s a paradox many career changers face: How do you tackle a major transition when your time is nil and your energy levels are already low?

This dilemma’s often accompanied by the temptation to opt for a quick solution: find a position in the same field at a different company. While these options are attractive in the moment, you’ve got to resist the urge to skip over the important work called self-evaluation. Unless you stop and take an honest look at what’s causing your unhappiness, you’re likely to repeat history wherever you go.

However, by taking small steps and tending to your emotional well-being throughout the process, you can make a successful transition.

Shore Up Your Emotional Reserves

If your job’s drained you to the point of burnout, lifting yourself out of your career rut and back into a positive place is the first task at hand.

Like other emotional stressors, burnout responds to reframing. Shifting into a growth mindset helps you see possibilities where there once were only dead ends.

When the going gets tough, and you doubt your ability to manage a career change amidst a daunting workload, try taking the perspective of a good mentor. What advice would you give to another overworked person in your shoes? How would you advise a burnt-out friend?

The best answers often come from within and it’s likely you already know where to start: Give yourself permission to take your time. Big decisions, such as leaving a job or deciding to strike out on your own can and should be thoughtful and deliberate. Assure yourself that you can and will take action, and that once you do, things will get better.

Ask Yourself the Important Questions

It’s all too easy to blow through life on auto-pilot, never spending time honestly exploring what you really want in a career. But people don’t succeed by migrating to a particular industry or job. They thrive by exploring their strengths, motivations, likes, and dislikes.

To ensure that you forge ahead based on a thoughtful appraisal (rather than blindly following what you think others say you “should” be doing) employ an honest self-evaluation. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What would I rather be investing my time and energy in?
  • What is my personal mission?
  • What are my top three values?
  • What pivotal experiences have made me who am I today?
  • What obstacles stand in the way of me making a career change?
  • What strengths can I draw on during my transition?

These big, open-ended questions are specifically designed to provoke creative thinking and help you get in touch with the roots of your personal preferences and natural drives. You won’t arrive at the answers overnight, but the more you think about them, the more you’ll gain the clarity you need to get unstuck and move forward with your transition.

Stop Second-Guessing Yourself

Often, when you’re forced to make a decision that pushes you beyond your comfort zone, fear rears its head. You may worry about the future or become preoccupied with whether you’re making the right decision. At times, you’ll probably face self-doubt and wonder whether things at work are really as bad as you’re making them out to be.

This is an example of a thought trap known as the sunk-cost bias. In short, this is simply our innate loss aversion popping up. We mistakenly rationalize that because so much has been invested in our current path, to change course now would be a waste. But the truth is, the cost of doing nothing–of staying in a job that depletes you–is much higher. Studies show that sticking it out despite your unhappiness leads to emotional exhaustion, illness, and burnout.

Instead of dwelling on what you’ll lose, imagine a career that makes you feel challenged, happy, and fulfilled. If that vision looks, feels, and sounds better, shift your efforts away from focusing on sunk costs and look toward your new trajectory.

Act, Don’t Intellectualize

While the process of clarifying your values and your strengths is important, these discoveries are useless without follow through. Action is the antidote to self-doubt.

Rather than overthinking what you should do to pursue your passion, look for low-risk, micro-learning opportunities that you can accomplish in the few spare hours that you do have. You can start as small as joining a Twitter chat hosted by an organization you’re interested in or committing to sending one email a week to a someone whose career path you admire. Maybe, if you can find the time, you volunteer on the weekends to test drive a new role.

This experimental approach helps you take incremental steps toward a career change in little time without a ton of effort. In the process, you may make connections with inroads to your dream job, short-cutting the traditional (read: long and draining) interview process. You’ll also gain a better sense of answers to questions like: Do I enjoy this work? Do I want to pursue this path further? What other opportunities am I curious about?

I won’t kid you and say that discovering your career happiness formula–the trifecta of finding what you’re good at, what you find meaningful, and what gets you paid–happens overnight. Or that it’s simple and easy, especially when you’re already under a lot of stress.

As long as you’re vigilant about maintaining healthy boundaries and are ruthless with self-care, you can make it through this transition time. In fact, you may find that as your strengths come into alignment with your work, you’ll gain energy and momentum along the way. That’s the difference between a job that drains you and one that lights you up.