Many different factors can cause a person to feel tired at work. There are several steps you can take to reduce fatigue and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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Work can wear you out, whether your job requires physical labor or not. There’s more than one way to feel tired, and the daily demands of your job can leave you physically and emotionally weary, even if you spend your days behind a desk.

Other stressors — such as relationship issues, financial worries, or health concerns — can intensify the strain. And then there’s COVID-19.

If you’re still going in to work, you might find that you feel extra-exhausted from the added stress of worrying about potential exposure to the new coronavirus on the job.

If you now work from home, you might feel slightly safer — at the cost of greater pressure to blur the boundaries between work and home.

Long story short, it’s all too common to feel tired from working, especially during times of crisis and difficulty. You may not be able to quit your job completely, but you don’t have to watch your energy reserves slowly dwindle away, either.

There are several ways to recognize exhaustion.

A few of the most common symptoms of work fatigue include:

  • feeling exhausted
  • having negative, pessimistic, or cynical feelings about your job
  • It can be difficult to complete tasks.
  • feeling less confident in your work

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it is time to start identifying any factors that may contribute to your fatigue and make changes to your routine to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

If work has you feeling a little more exhausted than usual, a good first step might involve taking a look at any habits potentially contributing to your fatigue.

“Maybe you feel too tired after your shift to do anything but use your phone. You stay up late to give yourself more time to relax, but it’s hard to drift off when you get to bed.”

“You can’t seem to find the energy to go for a hike, see your friends, or cook a meal.”

Small changes can be key to reducing fatigue and preventing burnout, including:

Regular exercise can also make a difference, as backward as this might sound. If you aren’t up for a full workout, no problem. Even a brisk walk around the block can help boost your energy levels and mood.

You might feel more prepared to deal with challenges when you leave work devices on throughout the evening and weekend, or if you check your email after you finish work.

It can be hard to leave work when you are working from home because coworkers or customers know you can always be reached. You will never find time to replenish if you are always on the clock.

If you’re expected to handle work concerns outside of your scheduled hours, talk with your supervisor about setting some clear boundaries around times you aren’t available.

You may have to work late because of your heavy workload. This is part of the territory.

But consider whether you tend to volunteer for extra work to keep others happy or avoid guilt trips. If so, polite refusals when you’re at capacity may serve you better in the future.

It’s also a good idea to discuss options for workplace support with your supervisor or human resources office. It’s tough to be productive when you feel drained or burned out.

Everyone benefits when you show up rested and energetic.

“It’s always good to ask for help when you have too many tasks to complete.”

You might worry that requesting support suggests weakness or incapability, but remember: Your employer likely wants you to do the best job possible. They can’t support you in achieving that goal unless they know how you’re really doing.

Here are a few other things to do.

  • Talk to your supervisor: When you have too much work to complete alone, an informed supervisor can help by reassigning certain tasks or finding a coworker who can assist you.
  • Avoid taking on responsibilities you can’t handle: Accepting extra work may seem like a good way to earn respect and positive regard, but this won’t do you any favors if it leaves you exhausted and miserable.
  • Stay present: It’s important to make an effort to avoid letting your usual responsibilities slide and avoid checking out at work, even when you feel tired or bored. Knowing you did your best can promote a sense of accomplishment and leave you more motivated.

You might not have the energy for anything after a long day of work. When you feel drained, challenge yourself to do something different from time to time.

There is nothing wrong with watching a show or playing a video game while relaxing. More hobbies can leave you with a sense of deeper satisfaction.

To feel more rejuvenated by your time off, consider starting a garden, picking up a book, or doing one thing to improve your living area every day.

Other possibilities might include:

  • Creative activities include art, music, writing, or crafts.
  • Home improvement projects are done by people.
  • Spending time outside.
  • Academic study includes learning a new language or taking a class.

Prioritizing physical and emotional needs is an important part of creating balance between your work and personal life.

Taking good care of yourself can improve resilience and strength, making it easier to manage challenges as they come up.

It is easier to maintain a positive outlook when you feel physically and emotionally sound.

While getting enough sleep and eating well do have an impact, self-care goes beyond these basic needs. It might involve:

You can learn more about creating a self-care plan.

Keeping stress to yourself can make you feel worse.

You might worry that you are burdening others by talking about something, but think about how you would feel if a loved one were in your position. You would probably want to help them if you could.

Friends and family might not have the ability to directly relieve your fatigue, but they can still offer support by listening and helping out in small ways, especially if you’re vocal with them about what you need.

Your roommate might encourage you to make dinner by inviting you to help them make it. When you have had a long week, your mother might bring a bag of groceries.

Simply knowing you have support from your loved ones can increase feelings of belonging and connection, making it easier to detach from work when the day is done. Feeling less tethered to your job can, in turn, help you relax and recharge more successfully.

An easy but repetitive workday can leave you feeling drained and mentally numb. Changing up your routine can make a difference.

There are some things to try.

  • Switch the order of your daily tasks: Work on less challenging tasks in the morning, when you feel freshest and less likely to zone out. Save more stimulating tasks for the afternoon to keep you out of a post-lunch stupor.
  • Be mindful: Take a few minutes of each break for a quick meditation, walk, or breathing exercises. These can help you feel more refreshed than other break activities, like catching up on social media or scrolling through the latest news.
  • Consider alternative workstations: You could try using a standing desk or replacing your chair with an exercise ball. If possible, vary your environment throughout the day by working outside or near a window on sunny afternoons.
  • Talk with your supervisor about flexible scheduling: Some people find they work better at certain times of day and prefer an earlier or later start. Other prefer to work 4 longer days in order to take a 3-day weekend.

You have taken steps to address your fatigue, but workplace circumstances still drain you, and your employer has been less than supportive of efforts to create change. What are you going to do next?

It may be time to consider another job or career, one that allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Without this essential balance, the situation will likely only get worse.

You might find it hard to show up mentally when you are not present, and you may take little pride in your work. Your relationships with family and friends may be affected by your exhaustion.

Sometimes, lingering tiredness is just a normal outcome of working, but exhaustion — physical or emotional — can have other causes, too.

If you have other unexplained symptoms, including pain, changes in appetite, or stomach distress, it’s a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider to rule out other concerns.

A therapist can help you understand why you are tired.

Career guidance and counseling can be offered by your therapist if you are thinking of a career change. They can direct you to resources that are helpful.

“You don’t need to wait until you’re empty to replenish. It is harder to recover strength after you burn out.”

Making time to recharge and drawing a darker line between work and home life — visualize this line in Sharpie, not pencil — can help you manage stress before it knocks you down completely.

If you start to feel exhausted, it is best to talk with a healthcare professional.


Crystal Raypole worked as an editor for GoodTherapy. Her interests include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. She is committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.