I want to quit: Is it time, or is it burnout?

Emily Starbuck Gerson

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man who wants to quit work

Have you ever left a horrible meeting or ended a brutal workday thinking, “That’s it, I want to quit”? It’s a sinking feeling, especially if you had high hopes for this job or don’t have a back-up plan.

We all have some stressful work days here and there that make us wonder if this is the right job for us and want to walk out. But if you fantasize frequently about submitting your resignation letter, it may be time to pause for reflection and figure out the root cause of your distress.

This desire to quit or flee is common for super stressed workers, especially those entering or experiencing burnout. Depending on your situation, quitting could be the answer — but it might not be the best solution.

Understanding the “I want to quit” feeling 

Most of us have muttered that we want to quit at some point in our career. When things get hard, when you feel like you’ve had enough of that job, or you’re just ready to move on to something else, you might want to resign. We’ve been there, and we get it. Sometimes you hit a breaking point, and nothing sounds better than putting in your notice and being done with that place and those people.

In some cases, quitting could be the right answer to your frustrations. For example, at Flourish, we’ve observed that leaving a job can be the best move for people who need to escape a toxic work culture or whose work was truly misaligned with their passion. After finding a workplace with a healthier culture, or a job that better fit their passions and skills, they no longer felt that desire to quit.

But the frequent feeling of “I need a break” or “I want to quit” could also be a sign of impending or current burnout. We often see people who quit their jobs not because of anything related to the job itself, but because of the relationship they have with their work. If you quit your job solely on account of that, you might carry the same issues with you into your next job.

We’ve seen many people get burned out, quit their jobs, find a new one they’re excited about, and then three to six months later, end up back in the same spot. It wasn’t the job, but the fact that they have an unhealthy relationship with their work.

Before you walk away in haste, it’s really important to take a beat and dive deep to figure out what’s driving your urge to quit. There may be more to it than you think. You can make changes that will make your existing role more manageable.

How to uncover your drive to quit 

If you’re currently daydreaming “I want to quit” or have been through this cycle before, we suggest taking these steps before you take any action:

  • Pause, reflect, and listen to your inner voice. When you’re busy, stressed, and anxious, you may not give yourself time to just be still, think clearly, and feel whatever comes up.
  • Grab a notebook and write down what’s working well for you right now, both broadly in your life and at your job specifically.
  • Imagine where you want to be, including the things you want or need that might be missing from your life right now. Do it your way; you could write in a journal about it, create a vision board, close your eyes and visualize it, etc.
  • Identify the gaps between the status quo and where you want to be, and commit to making one change that will help you get there. Think about how you can make it a habit and build it into a routine. For example, maybe you will meditate every morning for 10 minutes before you start your workday so you can begin the day feeling calm, centered, and less reactionary, or do it as you end the workday to wind down. Perhaps you decide to stop checking work emails as soon as it’s dinner time with your family.

Addressing underlying burnout

It’s possible you will uncover that you are just plain burned out, and one new healthy habit isn’t enough to put you back on track.

Burnout is a form of chronic emotional stress that usually develops from an unhealthy relationship with work. If you don’t have solid boundaries in place and find yourself working too much, or you bring work home with you and don’t carve out enough quality time for yourself and your loved ones, you can enter burnout territory.

If you think burnout is at the root of your desire to quit, you’re not alone. According to a new survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America, three-quarters of workers have experienced burnout on the job. Additionally, it found 40% have experienced burnout during this pandemic, and the researchers think this is in part due to people working longer hours and facing increased anxiety. At Flourish, we believe this is also due to a lack of boundaries from working at home, in addition to fears about job security with the current economic crisis.

Regardless of the source of your burnout, it can lead to a slew of physical, mental, and emotional consequences. These include poor sleep and mood, difficulty waking up and feeling motivated, struggling to maintain relationships, feeling depleted and exhausted all the time, increasing your consumption (food, alcohol, caffeine, Netflix, etc.), and losing self-confidence.

The good news is that burnout is not permanent, and it is reversible if you’re willing to do a little introspection. At Flourish, we specialize in helping people address and alleviate burnout. For a limited time, we’re offering free one-on-one calls with new clients to diagnose burnout and create a custom action plan. Click here now to learn what’s causing your burnout and the steps you can take, starting today, to feel re-energized, motivated, and like yourself again.

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