I’m So Burned Out – Should I Quit My Job?
by Ami Kunimura, Ph.D., MT-BC
Founder, The Self-Care Institute
One common question that comes up in the experience of occupational burnout is some version of this:
I am so burned out. Should I quit my job?
There’s no easy answer to this, and the process of exploring this question is just as important as the answer itself.
What can help in the process is asking more specific questions.
Here are seven questions to contemplate if you are considering leaving your job due to burnout:
1. Are you in an abusive or extremely toxic work situation at work that is compromising your safety, your physical health, or your mental health?
If you are, then give serious consideration to leaving soon. Make a plan to leave, even if it is an imperfect one.
2. What are you quitting if you leave, and what are you quitting if you stay?
Think about what quitting means on either side of this decision. You could be giving up something by leaving or by staying.
In reflecting on this, neutralize the word “quit” and try to remove negativity from it. Quitting can seem like something bad, but it’s not. Quitting is not the same thing as failure. When quitting is a conscious choice, you can stand in the power of that choice.
3. How much of your burnout is due to your work, how much of burnout is due to yourself, and what are the root causes of burnout for you?
If burnout is mostly due to your specific work situation, then looking for a new work situation might be a good idea. However, if burnout is due to something that is more about you (such as a tendency to overwork yourself, having difficulty with saying no, lack of boundaries, or lack of self-care) then trying to make changes within your current situation might be worth trying because burnout may occur in any job.
Most of the time, burnout is due to a combination of work and personal factors, so weigh these factors out while considering the root causes of burnout for you. This matters because burnout may likely show up again in another job or situation if the root causes are not addressed. Sometimes quitting one’s job alleviates the symptoms of burnout but may not be a solution to burnout.
4. Have you clearly asked for what you need?
Burnout often happens when one’s needs are not met. Sometimes this is due to not getting proper support at work, and sometimes this is due to not giving yourself what you need.
Many times, you’ll need to ask for what you need more than once. This includes making clear requests to others and to yourself. A clear request is one that specifies an action or change that is needed and a timeframe in which this change needs to take place.
5. Can you take some time off before making a decision to leave your job?
Whether it’s taking an afternoon, a day, a week, or a month off, see if you can get a mental break from work so that you have some cognitive resources to think through this decision. It can be hard to make decisions in a state of burnout and getting even a little space from your work can be helpful to think things through.
If you cannot take any time off, that is also information for you to work with.
6. Besides quitting your job, what also needs to change?
Burnout is a signal that something needs to change. Sometimes this might mean a job change, but not always. What other changes can be made besides quitting your job?
Sometimes this is a personal change that needs to be made. Or, this might mean sitting down with your boss or your partner and discussing different boundaries around your role at work or at home.
7. Who can help you make an unbiased decision about your career?
Be careful of making a decision all alone in a state of burnout. Making a major life decision in a state of depletion and through the lens of burnout may not be the best idea.
Get support in figuring this out and take the pressure off of yourself for having to know the right answer right away. Talk to a therapist, counselor, coach, mentor, or friend who can give you an unbiased opinion. You can get the support of your family and workers but know that even if they have your best interests in mind, your decisions impact them and that might influence how they are able to support you.
Even though it can be hard to make a decision in a state of burnout, sometimes burnout is a place where a major life decision is needed. This can be why it can be so hard to figure out whether you should leave your job, so sometimes all you can do is make the best decision you can with the information and support that you have now.
The decision to leave your job due to burnout is not a question that necessarily has a right answer or wrong answer. Remember that the process of exploring this decision will provide you with information to work with.
So, take a deep breath, and exhale. Whatever decision you are working through right now, be kind to yourself in the decision-making process. Speak to yourself with compassion and have patience as your mind and your heart work out what’s best for you.
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