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Mental Health: Preventing Burnout in Your Career

Preventing job burnout is crucial to good physical and mental health. It is also critical to recovery. Long hours at work and a “workaholic” approach to your career are the quickest ways to derail a healthy lifestyle. If you have struggled with alcoholism or a drug use disorder, job burnout can also undermine the hard work you’ve invested in overcoming your addiction and living life in recovery. To protect your health and your sobriety, you need to find and maintain a good work-life balance.
two men talking with paper taking notes

Preventing burnout is tricky because it can creep up on you in stages. After a few too many 10-hour days, you might start skipping your workouts. As the grueling days multiply, you might start drinking an extra cup of coffee every morning (or afternoon) to keep going, and the caffeine starts disrupting your sleep. Once that happens, a deep sense of fatigue can set in. Then it becomes harder to drag yourself to those support group meetings you’d been attending to work your recovery program.

All of this, compounded by work-related stress, can lead to depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, which eventually can lead to problems at work and in other areas of your life. For some people in recovery, job burnout can lead to relapse.

Recognize Burnout Symptoms Before They Harm Your Health and Your Sobriety

Many behaviors that are overdone or taken to extremes can lead to negative consequences — just as addiction can. A career that drives you too hard and takes over a majority of your time and your thoughts can interfere with other important areas of your life, like family and relationships, exercise and relaxation.

Overwork and job burnout can also have repercussions on your physical wellness, contributing to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, obesity and type 2 diabetes, among other illnesses.

For the sake of your health and your sobriety (not to mention your career), it is important to recognize burnout symptoms early so you can take proactive steps to revert to a more reasonable schedule that allows you time to rest and recharge, and regain your equilibrium before you start to crash and burn.

8 Signs of Job Burnout

  1. You are dragging yourself into the office each day
  2. Once you arrive at work, you have trouble getting started or staying focused
  3. You lack energy, so your level of productivity has become inconsistent
  4. You have become more irritable at work and at home, sometimes losing patience with co-workers or family members
  5. Even if you are ticking off items on your “to do” list, you lack real job satisfaction
  6. You have either lost your appetite or have started eating more snacks and treats in an effort to feel better
  7. You are more critical at work — both of yourself and others
  8. You’ve started suffering from aches and pains: headaches, backaches, etc.

If you recognize some of these burnout symptoms in yourself, take action. Some steps you can take might include speaking with a supervisor about reducing your workload or schedule, considering co-workers to whom you can delegate some of your tasks, asking your company if you can work from home one or two days per week to reduce your commute time (and replace those hours with exercise and/or attending support meetings), and seeking a therapist or sponsor with whom you can discuss your problems in order to relieve some stress.

Once you find feasible ways to ease up on your workload, you should also be able to cut back on your caffeine intake, which will allow you to get more sleep.

Finally, you may need to adjust your attitude toward work and career by taking a step back and relinquishing a bit of control. The entire company will not fall apart if you are not the one doing every task or spending all your time there. Things may not run quite as smoothly, but sometimes you have to accept a little imperfection in the name of good health and lasting sobriety.


Job burnout: How to spot it and take action. Mayo Clinic, September 2015.

The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Posted on August 7th, 2017
Posted in Articles

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