Some projects can really take it out of you. You’ve been working for 10+ hours a day, brainstorming new ideas as you brush your teeth in the morning, and thinking about the best way to pitch as you climb into bed at night. Your focus, creativity, and problem-solving abilities have been put to the test—for hours, days, and weeks on end.
And now, it’s time for a vacation. Well, that is, if you define vacation as a Sunday afternoon to yourself to do laundry and grocery shop, before it’s back to the office Monday morning.
Unfortunately, you don’t always get a break when you need it most. So, how do you stay sane at work when you’re coming off of a big project or a particularly stressful season? Battle your burnout on those rough days (or weeks) with these five simple ideas.
1. Take a Lunch Break (Or Better Yet, a Walk)
When you’re exhausted, it can be tempting to just stay at your desk through lunch or spend that extra 10 minutes you have browsing Facebook. But save being glued to your computer screen for the times when it’s unavoidable—and make yourself get a change of scenery. I promise, it’ll be much more refreshing, and it will probably even make you more productive when you get back to your seat.
Better yet, if you have some degree of flexibility in your hours, take advantage of it. Can you work from home one day a week, or from a coffee shop? At my last job, I found a lunchtime yoga class and negotiated coming in a half hour earlier two days each week to attend it. It helped me get physically out of the office, not to mention stay sane—and my zen attitude totally benefited the office.
2. Manage Up
You’re likely facing burnout because you’re no slacker—and you’ve been putting 110% effort in, all day, every day.
But does your supervisor know that? Hopefully, the answer is yes, but if not, this is a good time to draft up a recap of the project you’ve been working on, outlining your work and results. Making sure your boss stays apprised of your innovation and extra hours will pay dividends in future evaluations (and may even land you a morning off).
Also make sure you make notes for your own use, so you can update your resume or discuss your work in future interviews. Plus, just seeing all of your accomplishments on paper is a great way to boost your mood and remind you of the great work you’ve done.
3. Contextualize Your Work
When you’re burned out, every part of the daily grind can seem unbearable, but remember that there are (hopefully) things you really like about your job. Whether it’s research, design, or working with clients that really makes your day, allotting some of your hours to your favorite parts of the job, particularly the stuff you haven’t had time to do recently, will give you the “it’s all worth it” feeling.
Not loving any aspects of your workload right now? Step back and think about how you’re contributing to your company as a whole, and the broader impact of its mission. Hopefully, you’ll find that it’s a great reason to keep going.
4. Reach Out
Sometimes when you feel surrounded by work, it’s because, well, you’re surrounding yourself with work. So, be deliberate about taking time before work, after work, or on your lunch break to step away from the office. Call your significant other, your mom, or your best friend, and ask what’s going on with them, avoiding the temptation to discuss anything even remotely work-related. Your job may be your focus for the rest of the day, but for a few minutes, move it to the backburner and focus on something (anything) else.
5. Reward Yourself
Finally, even when you don’t get a vacation day, think about other ways you can reward yourself for everything you’ve accomplished. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to frozen yogurt each afternoon, or pick out a new pair of shoes.
If you can, plan a quick staycation—a concert, spa day, or even just 45 minutes that you’ll wholeheartedly devote to the new issue of US Weekly by the pool. Having something to look forward to outside of work can keep you going, and will help ensure that even though you work 9-5 (or, let’s be honest, 8-8), you get at least a little bit of true time off.
Unfortunately, burnout happens even to the best of us. And, while a week-long vacation isn’t always in the cards right away, finding simple ways to mix up your routine, reward yourself, and focus on your results can help get you through until then.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author