How to Apply Positive Psychology to Overcome Burnout in the Workplace

Sean Dadashi
Sean Dadashi

Sean is the co-founder of Rosebud, an AI journal for personal growth.

April 29, 2024

Burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue in the modern workplace, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy, burnout can take a significant toll on our well-being and job performance. However, the science of positive psychology offers practical strategies to help us prevent and overcome burnout. In a recent podcast episode, I spoke with Micha Tomoff, a psychologist and expert in positive psychology, who shared valuable insights on applying these principles in the workplace.

Recognize the Signs of Burnout

The first step in addressing burnout is recognizing its symptoms. Micha noted, "Burnout is basically, and this is really simplified, I guess, but for me, burnout is losing the energy to take care of yourself, to put up boundaries, to stand up for yourself, to have the things on your mind that are doing you good, but to just get emerged into the things that are draining yourself." Pay attention to feelings of emotional exhaustion, detachment from work, and decreased productivity. Identifying burnout early allows you to take proactive steps to address it before it escalates.

Take Responsibility for Your Well-Being

While organizations play a role in creating a healthy work environment, it's essential to take ownership of your well-being. Micha emphasized, "It doesn't have to be a big thing that you're doing. It's just a daily habit of checking in with yourself, knowing what you're good at, what is giving you energy and making time to, you know, squeeze that in." This means prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and advocating for your needs. Remember, your well-being is not only important for your personal health but also for your ability to perform at your best professionally.

Prioritize Vitality-Giving Activities

Engage in activities that replenish your energy and bring you joy. Micha suggested, "Make a list of exercises that give you energy. For me, for example, it's going to the sauna or having a hot bath. And most of the people know what is giving them energy, but they just don't do it. So it's again, not a thing of, I don't know what gives me energy. It's like, how do I make time?" Incorporate these vitality-giving activities into your daily or weekly routine, even if it means blocking out time on your calendar. Consistent self-care practices can help buffer against the effects of stress and prevent burnout.

Set Boundaries and Communicate Needs

Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Micha shared an example: "Some people are calling me or are in coachings with me and they're asking, so how can I get some fresh air? You know, I'm just sitting in front of my computer and then we are talking about, so yeah, are there any meetings that are not really necessary for you to be? And you can be on the phone taking a walk outside, maybe, you know, through the forest, for example, if you live close by one." Be proactive in communicating your needs to your team and supervisors. If you're feeling overwhelmed, discuss ways to redistribute workload or adjust deadlines. Remember, it's okay to say no to non-essential tasks to prioritize your well-being.

Practice Mindfulness and Self-Reflection

Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine to manage stress and gain clarity. Micha noted, "Self-reflection and taking ownership of your feelings, that's probably one of the hardest things, I would say, but for me personally, one of the most relieving and freeing things that I could have done." Take time each day to check in with yourself, acknowledging your emotions and needs. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or journaling, can help you stay grounded and maintain perspective in the face of work-related stress.

Foster Positive Relationships at Work

Cultivate supportive relationships with colleagues and engage in acts of kindness and appreciation. Micha shared, "It makes a huge difference if you go to a meeting and you're only tackling the bad stuff that is happening, or if you take even five minutes to appreciate your people specifically by saying, 'Hey ... Mark, I really appreciate you and you used your strength of humor there how you turned the client around ... I really, I like that.'" Expressing gratitude and offering support to coworkers not only improves team morale but also creates a network of mutual support that can buffer against burnout. Regularly engage in positive interactions, even if it's a simple gesture like thanking someone for their hard work or offering to lend a hand on a project.

Reframe Challenges as Opportunities for Growth

Adopt a growth mindset and view setbacks as opportunities for learning and development. Micha emphasized, "For me, the most important learning was to let go of the feeling that you can control everything ... how do you deal with rejection, for example, how do you deal with being surprised by life?" When faced with challenges or failures at work, instead of getting discouraged, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this experience? How can I grow and improve moving forward?" This mindset shift can help you maintain a sense of purpose and resilience, even in the face of work-related stressors.

Burnout is a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted approach. By applying positive psychology principles, such as prioritizing vitality-giving activities, setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, fostering positive relationships, and adopting a growth mindset, we can build resilience and prevent burnout in the workplace. As Micha Tomoff highlighted in our podcast discussion, small daily habits and a commitment to self-care can make a significant difference in our well-being and professional success.

Remember, overcoming burnout is a journey that requires patience and self-compassion. By consistently implementing these strategies and seeking support when needed, you can regain a sense of enthusiasm, purpose, and fulfillment in your work. It's also important to recognize that burnout is not a personal failing, but a response to chronic workplace stress. Advocating for systemic changes, such as more realistic workloads and supportive policies, can help create a more sustainable and healthy work environment for everyone.

To learn more about applying positive psychology to overcome burnout, be sure to listen to the full podcast episode with Micha Tomoff here. By prioritizing your well-being and implementing these evidence-based strategies, you can not only prevent burnout but also unlock your full potential and thrive in your professional life.

Overcome Burnout with Rosebud
Try Rosebud Journal free →