» Community » Community Blog » Signs of Burnout and How to Avoid It: From a ...
Page options
Oct 16, 2023
Signs of Burnout and How to Avoid It: From a Freelancer Who Knows

I am a fellow remote worker who regularly writes on interior design and home-related topics. I also run Rosstopia, a website focused on home office design and strategies.



Signs of Burnout and How to Avoid It: From a Freelancer Who Knows


There’s no doubt about it; remote work is a beautiful thing. You can wear what you want, avoid that dreaded job commute, and work in ways that are best for you. All of these benefits do wonders for productivity, but remote work also brings new challenges, and one of them is a biggie. Burnout affects 86% of employees who work from home. I was one of them.


I recently celebrated my fifth anniversary on Upwork. When I started, I had just begun my journey into remote working and didn’t think about burnout. Unrestricted access to work soon led me straight into it. My productivity tanked, and the quality of my work diminished, making my growth a steep, uphill battle.


Some solutions helped me through it; some didn’t. Interestingly, the ones that did also took my job performance beyond what it had been. By adding the strategies to my daily routine, I climbed to a 100% Job Success score and achieved the coveted Top-Rated badge on Upwork. Best of all, there’s no burnout in sight. I learned that much of the answer lies in recognizing the signs and adjusting daily routines to achieve a healthier and more balanced life.


Here are ways to spot burnout and strategies I found that help you get out of it and prevent it from coming again.


Signs of Overwork and Burnout


If any of these signs seem familiar, burnout may be heading your way. Keep an eye out because they can be challenging to spot on your own.


  • Social Isolation: This is easy to fall into and important to fix. As much as I hate to admit it, since I am an introvert, people need people. Isolation negatively affects your mental and physical health, leading to burnout.
  • Longer and Later Work Hours: If you work longer than usual, it could be a sign of bad things to come. That determination to complete orders and keep income flowing can lead to longer hours that deplete your energy and focus and reduce the quality of your sleep.
  • Skipped Meals: The rush to meet deadlines or time spent in deep concentration can throw off your eating routine. Food is a fuel for success. Without it, you’ll run on fumes.
  • Physical Pain: Stress and prolonged sitting can lead to muscle and joint pain that makes work feel arduous. Your body acts as your barometer by telling you when you are working too long. Listen to it closely.
  • Less Motivation to Exercise: The energy spent toward long and stressful work hours can zap your energy and reduce the quality of your sleep, both of which reduce your desire to exercise.
  • Inability to Detach: The harder and longer you work, the harder it is to detach from it. You aren’t a computer; you need time away to refuel.
  • Mind Haze: Overwork will cloud your concentration and reduce your drive, making work more challenging while zapping your energy.
  • Faded Passions: If you feel less interest in your work and personal life, it could be a sign of stress and overwork, which often go hand-in-hand.
  • Reduced Creativity: The blend of mind haze, faded passions, and less energy can affect your creativity, an important part of growth.
  • You Can’t Say "No": That desire to increase your income and grow in your job may lead to not knowing your boundaries… until your body sets them for you.
  • You’re More Cranky: If you start to see yourself snap at others and feel less patient and more irritable, it may be a sign that your body and mind have had enough.


Solutions for Overwork and Burnout


These solutions have done me a world of good. The more that I combine together, the more good they do. 


Stay Social 

Socializing is vital from a fundamental human perspective. It helps you maintain a healthier immune system, improve your stress response, and retain cardiovascular health. Loneliness alone can lead to early death and physical problems.


Committing to time in your calendar for family, friends, and coworkers ensures a healthy balance of work and play and teaches you that one doesn’t sacrifice the other; in fact, they improve your performance by clearing your head and enhancing focus. You also learn new perspectives, work tips, and work/life strategies while understanding you aren’t alone in your journey, easing pressure that often leads to compulsive work.


Adopt Regular, Healthy Eating

Consistent eating fuels your performance, and I discovered this firsthand. I switched to eating less sugar, drinking plenty of water, and having one coffee session daily while mixing healthy snacks and meals to keep my energy up. I found that I worked longer and was less moody. Treat meal breaks as sacred. The more you do, the routine becomes unconscious. 


One trick that also helped was precooking meals. Batching the cooking saved me an immense amount of time while obligated me to eat the healthy food I made.


Establish a Work Routine

Set defined work hours and hold yourself to them. Even if you stroll to your desk an hour late, keep a set number of hours per day to avoid overworking.


Set Clear Priorities

A long task list can leave you struggling with which direction to turn first, leading to stress and anxiety and causing you to overwork. Here are a few ways to tackle the problem:


  • Prioritize Your Tasks Carefully: Set time aside to organize your tasks each day by what is truly important or painful. Then, tackle those items first. Also known as the Eat That Frog technique, this strategy immediately drops stress, making other tasks fall like dominos.
  • Delegate: No one is perfect. Something you aren’t good at is someone else's specialty. Look for tasks that take the most time and effort, and hire someone who can do them quickly and easily.
  • Break tasks into smaller subtasks: Doing this replaces the heavy feeling of stress with a more freeing, positive emotion, fueling you through your day.
  • Adopt the 5-minute rule: If you are paralyzed by your task list, try working on one of the tasks for just five minutes. Once you get going, you’ll work on it longer than you thought.


Adopt the Pomodoro Technique

When I first heard of this technique, I was skeptical, but after trying it, this strategy has remained a primary tool in my workday for years. Here is how it works:


  • Work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.
  • After completing four cycles, reward yourself with a 25- to 30-minute break.

This technique is your productivity power-up, preventing burnout by giving your mind the rest it deserves.


Learn to Say “No”

Yes, Job growth is important, but like a buffet dinner, you can have too much of a good thing. Limiting your workload is not a denial of money but a way to protect your sanity. Find your limitations and stick to them.


Have a Shut Down Routine

Use an alarm to indicate when to shut down your workspace. Organize the next day's tasks, clean the desk, turn off your computer and lights, and close the door or any open work areas. Once your desk is "shut down," transition from working to relaxing by doing things like walking or visiting friends. You’ll find that the entire process is surprisingly therapeutic by calming the mind and reducing stress. You will also be less prone to returning to your desk - a nasty habit I got into.


Exercise Regularly

Take exercise as seriously as work because it improves physical and mental endurance. You will also have less body pain at your desk and feel less stress. Working out brings a healthy endorphin boost.


Your exercise doesn’t have to be an intense gym session. Any level of exercise helps. A brisk walk, a simple and quick home workout, and yoga stretches are effective solutions. Best of all, working from home allows you to choose a time that works better for you. My favorite time is a non-peak gym hour.


Distract Your Brain After Work

The human brain never stops, but it does need time away from one train of thought - in this case, work. Doing that is sometimes easier said than done. Here are some ways to help you do it.


  • Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness is like a superfood for your brain. You can achieve it through meditation, deep breathing, and short walks. The actions declutter your mind, reduce stress, and rejuvenate your mental faculties. In other words, they calm the waters for improved productivity and focus. You will also experience fewer emotional ups and downs, helping you handle tasks easier and get more done. The worry simply won't be there.
  • Find Another Activity: I find watching a few TV shows, reading a book, or diving into a hobby helps. Anything that takes your mind away from work will do.
  • Keep a Note Pad or Note App Handy: This solution isn't often listed, but it's been a great one for me. When work ideas come flooding in after work, jot them down quickly. This ensures you don’t forget it while also freeing up your mind so you can get back to relaxing.


Relax a Few Hours Before Sleeping

Whether you practice mindfulness techniques or spend time in front of the TV, give yourself a few hours before bed; otherwise, you may have trouble sleeping and even experience nightmares. I find that two hours is the magic timeframe - even when work gets crazy.


Listen To Your Body

This is another technique similar to mindfulness and, in fact, is part of meditation practice. Listen to your body and spot signs of trouble, like headaches, tense muscles, and sickness. Unfortunately, shaking them off won’t work and may worsen the symptoms. You can then address them through exercise, stretching, and calm meditation.


Use These Tools to Keep Burnout From Flaming Up


The above tools have helped me maintain balance, energy, and clarity of mind, improving my work performance. They can do the same for you. As you adopt them, you will find that they are easier to do than you think. You will experience positive effects in just a few days, putting you back on track to improved growth and earning that Top-Rated badge.



Connect with Ross on Upwork