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How to avoid career burnout at 50 and beyond

Last updated 14th August 2023
4 min read

Work is one of the biggest parts of our lives, and it can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health.

After giving so much of your time and energy to your work, you may start to feel stressed, depressed or dissatisfied. This is known as career burnout.

Even if you love your job, you can't always avoid burnout.

We've put together a guide on dealing with career burnout at 50 and over, so you can minimise stress in your daily life...

What is career burnout?

Career burnout is a type of work-induced stress that can cause people to feel tired, depressed and disillusioned.

As we all cope with stress in different ways, some people may be more prone to burnout than others.

Symptoms of career burnout include:

  • Difficulty getting yourself to work or getting started
  • Lacking energy and focus at work
  • Feeling cynical or overly critical about your job
  • Being irritable or impatient with colleagues or customers
  • Experiencing less satisfaction in your job achievements
  • Overindulging in food, alcohol or drugs to feel better
  • Difficulty sleeping, or a change in sleep habits
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pain

What are the consequences of burnout for people over 50?

Burnout is a type of stress, and while people often understand how it affects mental health, the physical effects can be less obvious.

Some of the consequences of stress and burnout on your body can include:

  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension

Dealing with career burnout at 50 and beyond

So, how can you avoid career burnout later in life?

If you're experiencing the negative effects of overdoing it at work, or are looking for ways to avoid burnout in the first place, it's never too late to make a few changes.

Take a look at the steps below and see if you can incorporate them into your life.

1. Look at your job situation

Take a step back to assess your life, both at work and outside of it. Is it the job that’s causing your burnout? If the answer is yes, it’s time to start rethinking your job situation.

Are you working too many hours? Perhaps the job has become too stressful or you’ve lost your passion for it. Consider whether switching to part-time hours, changing careers or simply taking a break will help you to feel better.

Talk to your manager or team leader about how you're feeling and try working together to find a solution to avoid burnout.

2. Find purpose in your job

After time, work can become repetitive and your passion may start to dwindle. If you’re feeling unappreciated or as though your job doesn’t matter, you may be lacking in purpose.

Finding purpose in your job helps you to avoid burnout by giving you a greater sense of satisfaction.

Whether that’s taking on an exciting project, training a junior member of staff or starting a new job that involves helping others, adding more meaning to your role will help you to come home feeling energised.

3. Find your passion

If leaving your job or taking on a new role isn’t doable in your current situation, you could find something outside of work that you’re passionate about.

Going travelling, taking up a new hobby, spending more time with loved ones, volunteering for a charity or even getting a pet are just some of the things you can do for a rewarding sense of purpose in your life.

4. Take regular exercise

As well as looking after your physical health, regular exercise can help to support your mental health and get you out of a rut.

From relieving stress to helping you connect with others, there are lots of mental health benefits to exercising.

Try to find an activity that you genuinely enjoy doing, or combine your exercise with your social life by going for a walk or bike ride with a friend. The more you enjoy the exercise, the more likely you are to keep it up regularly.

5. Meditate

Taking time out of your busy schedule to meditate or try mindfulness( opens in a new tab) can be really great for your mental health.

Meditation may sound daunting, but it can be surprisingly easy. You can find lots of guides online( opens in a new tab) or even download an app( opens in a new tab) to help you get started.

You don’t need to be religious or spiritual to meditate, and you don’t have to spend hours trying to achieve a state of zen. All you really need to do is find five or ten minutes in your day to sit quietly and breathe deeply to start feeling the benefits.

6. Get enough sleep

A good night’s sleep can also help you deal with the stress of burnout. While it’s not always easy to drift off, a SunLife study found that over 2 in 5 people over 50 find reading helps them fall asleep.

You could also try having less caffeine during the day, or even listening to something relaxing while you’re in bed.

7. Do nothing

Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing you can do for your mental health.

Whether that’s taking a holiday, asking your doctor to sign you off work for a couple of months or opting for early retirement, your mind and body will thank you for the rest.

That's not to say you shouldn't address the cause of your burnout in the first place – but don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself.

Looking after yourself is the most important thing and is the first step to overcoming burnout.

What's next for me?

Dealing with career burnout after 50 can be tough. But it's an important sign that you need to make some changes and focus on what really matters in life. Visit our Life After 50 hub for guides, tips and articles on making the most of later life – so you can feel more in control and avoid burnout.

The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.