How To Set Boundaries To Avoid Burnout

4 min read
Evidence based
Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa
By Monisha Vasa, MD Updated on 2024 Jan 23

Burnout is a harsh reality for millions of Americans – especially in the age of remote working. In a survey by Indeed1, over 52% of respondents experienced burnout in 2021 – over half of the workforce in the US are feeling mentally exhausted in their jobs!

However prevalent, burnout isn’t always easy to spot from a first-person perspective. That’s why it’s essential to keep a lookout for a few signs that you might be pushing yourself a little too hard:

  • Emotional exhaustion and difficulty to regulate your responses to stressful situations at work
  • Physical fatigue, especially in sedentary jobs
  • Difficulty concentrating, finishing tasks, forgetfulness
  • Decreased work performance – no matter how hard you try, you can’t keep up with those deadlines!
  • Job dissatisfaction as a slow burn

Many people experience one or a few of these symptoms at work. While it takes some effort, you’ll save yourself a lot of nerves if you put down rigid boundaries for yourself.

We’ve found 4 boundaries you can start implementing in your life now to avoid the consequences of burnout:

Boundary #1: Identifying your priorities

This applies both inside and outside of work.

You can start implementing this boundary at work by being very clear about who you report to and openly and honestly talking about your bandwidth to identify which tasks need to be done first. This way, you won’t be stuck trying to fulfill all your obligations simultaneously.

And while prioritizing at work is essential for your well-being, prioritizing work over yourself isn’t.

You and your wellbeing should be your most important consideration.

A good way of prioritizing yourself is being aware of your mood, stress, and anxiety levels.

Keeping a mood journal with entries describing the causes of your mood day to day makes you more present and aware of those factors as they are happening.

Rather than putting pen to paper, it’s a lot easier to use an app to keep your mood journal, to help yourself prioritize the things that lift your spirits daily.

Boundary #2: Taking time off when you need it

Your yearly PTO is there for a reason – to get the rest and relaxation you need to keep functioning as a human!

Even though the workload might seem never-ending, and you like to think that your company will fall apart if you leave just for a day – taking some time off is possible and necessary for your wellbeing. 

Taking time off might improve your physical and mental health, improve your relationships with people important to you outside of work and boost happiness.

But you don’t need to disappear for an entire week and travel internationally to reap the benefits of time off. Incorporating even a few minutes of off-time a day will significantly decrease your chances of burning out.

Meditation and mindfulness apps like Sensa offer quick relief exercises that help you calm your anxiety or reduce your stress levels by deep breathing or grounding.

Boundary #3: Managing your time

Managing your time is incredibly essential, especially when you’re being pulled in many different directions, including work, family, friends, and personal time.

If you do put in the effort to create some time management habits, you will find that you can pack a lot more into your day.

Focusing on allocating the appropriate amount of time not only ensures that you use your time productively – it also helps you stop before you get too tired or overwhelmed with an activity.

Using a calendar to plan your time is the most efficient way to keep track of what you’re doing and allow yourself the balance that a varied schedule brings. Using an app that offers this type of calendar, in which you can either fill your days with pre-existing activities or add your own, has proven to be the best option for planning your time, as it’s always on hand, on your phone.

Boundary #4: Identifying your limits

When you’re in a working environment, it’s easy to get carried away by your company’s desire to grow as quickly as possible, as much as possible.

Increasing workloads, long hours, and taking up additional tasks due to not being enough people on the team to delegate to will push your boundaries in terms of how much effort you’re going to put into your work.

While it may be beneficial for you to go the extra mile for a pay rise or promotion, to stay productive for a long time and not burn out, you should set hard limits for how much you can take on.

Even though it might be hard to measure whether you’re trying too hard based on your workload, you should rely on how you feel to determine whether you’re doing too much.

A good way to do that is by using the Sensa app to complete assessments, which can give you a clear view of your stress, anxiety, and depression levels.

So, what to do to avoid burnout?

While everyone has a different strategy, it’s crucial that you have something that fits your personal needs.

By identifying what’s important, planning your time wisely, taking breaks, and setting your limits, you’ll be on the right path to avoiding burnout.

And even if you think you don’t have the skills or time to look at your life and see how you can improve it, Sensa makes it easier to make these critical, sustainable changes that may leave you calmer and better adjusted in the long term.

Psychiatrist and Sensa consultant dr. Monisha Vasa

Dr. Monisha Vasa is a board-certified psychiatrist and wellness consultant with a thriving private practice in Newport Beach, California. She’s actively engaged in supporting physician mental health at UC Irvine and City of Hope National Cancer Center.