Published: April 19, 2024

Student and professer

The end of the semester can be a stressful and difficult time for many staff and faculty members. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or struggling to finish out the academic year, here are a few tips that can help you identify burnout, manage it and find support. 

What is burnout?  

Burnout describes a generalized condition that can manifest when we feel overly stressed, overwhelmed, overloaded or anxious about our work or life.  

Here are some of the most common symptoms of burnout: 

  • Feeling mentally, physically or emotionally depleted or exhausted  
  • Developing cynicism or negative feelings towards your work, teams or projects  
  • Distancing yourself from tasks or responsibilities 
  • Losing motivation to do tasks or assignments  
  • Difficulty concentrating  
  • Missing deadlines  
  • Impacts to your work performance, relationships or overall engagement at work 
  • Disconnecting from others, feeling isolated or lonely  
  • Difficulty sleeping, changes in eating patterns or an increase in substance use  
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or irritability   
  • Feeling chronically stressed, anxious or overwhelmed  
  • Feeling dissatisfied 
  • Lacking meaning and purpose 

Keep in mind that burnout can show up differently for people, and you may not experience every symptom listed above. However, it’s important to identify these symptoms and take note of which ones may be affecting you most. This can make it easier to know when you’re struggling or need to seek additional support. 

What causes burnout? 

Burnout is a unique experience for everyone. This is because we each face a unique set of stressors in our work and lives. Identifying possible sources of stress or burnout can be a helpful step in pinpointing possible solutions and seeking support. 

Here are some of the most common reasons for burnout: 

  • Unmanageable workload or overall volume of tasks and projects 
  • Lack of clarity around your role or responsibilities 
  • Limited communication or support from team members or supervisors 
  • Overstimulating or ‘fast-paced’ work environments 
  • Tedious work that feels repetitive, boring or doesn’t resonate 
  • Student behavior or academic deficits 
  • Changing classroom environments (e.g., AI) 
  • Lack of control over responsibilities at work or at home 
  • Compassion or care-giving fatigue 
  • Changes in organizational culture or structure 
  • Lack of recognition or feeling underappreciated or overlooked 

If any of these factors resonate with you, here are some strategies that can help you (and your colleagues) recover from burnout and find support. 

1. Give yourself (and others) grace 

Many of us may assume that burnout is a personal issue that could or should be resolved through resilience or willpower. However, it’s important to recognize that burnout is a collective experience that often involves structural or cultural factors within teams and departments. 

When you’re feeling burned out, focus on what is realistically within your influence of control. It’s also important to recognize that your colleagues may be feeling the way which can help you open the door for meaningful conversations and communal support. 

2. Evaluate your expectations 

All of us want to do well at work. However, it’s important to remember that you can only do so much with the resources, time, energy and support that are available to you. For instance, it may not be realistic to meet every deadline if you aren’t given enough time or take on additional responsibilities if you don’t have team support. 

Expectations related to our jobs may come from our supervisor or department, but they can also come from us. Take some time to identify work expectations and ask yourself: 

  • Are these expectations realistic or achievable? 
  • Where might these expectations be coming from? 
  • How are these expectations impacting my life outside of work (e.g., mental health, relationships, free time, etc.)? 
  • Which of these expectations are within my control? 
  • Is there a way for me to find support for those that feel out of my control? 
  • What might good ‘enough’ look like for me? 

Asking yourself these types of questions can help you identify areas where you may need to adjust your expectations or adjust how you perceive work.  

3. Focus on what is in your control 

We may not always have control over how our team operates or what our jobs look like.  

This lack of control can contribute to feelings of burnout. Instead of focusing on what may be outside of your control (like workload or deadlines), try to refocus your time and energy towards the things that you do have a say in. 

Here are some examples of things that you may be in control of: 

  • What extra responsibilities or projects you take on 
  • How you delegate responsibilities or tasks among your team 
  • How you interact with your coworkers or supervisors 
  • How you structure your courses to match your teaching style 
  • How you spend your free time away from work 
  • How you interact with work notifications or requests after-hours 
  • When and how you reach out for support 
  • How much sleep you get each night 
  • Who you spend time with at work and outside of work 

Sometimes, it may also be helpful to relinquish control over certain things. For instance, once you’ve completed a project or submitted an assignment to your supervisor, it is in their hands. 

4. Practice delegating 

Have you ever felt like you’re the only one who can do certain things at work? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, these types of assumptions and feelings may be causing you to experience over-responsibility where you take on more than you can reasonably handle.  

That’s why it’s important to practice delegating tasks among your team. You may not be able to give up full control right away, but seeking support from your colleagues can help you manage projects more effectively. It can also build trust, as you’re demonstrating that you trust the abilities of others on your team to do good work.  

5. Diversify your time 

While it may seem counterintuitive, it can be helpful to take breaks from our work responsibilities. In fact, stepping away and reallocating our time can help us feel better, stay motivated and find purpose in our lives and jobs. 

This is because burnout can cause us to lose sight of the things we really care about. It can also make everything we do feel like a chore, which isn’t very productive.  

Diversifying our time may look different for each of us. Here are some examples of what this might look like: 

Living life outside of work: You may choose to dedicate more time to other areas of your life outside of work, like friends, family, hobbies or leisure. Finding meaning in your time away from the office can help reduce stress, enhance your sense of fulfilment and bring joy to your life. 

Pausing between projects: Stress can be a positive feedback loop, especially when we find ourselves jumping from project to project. Instead, it may be more helpful to allow yourself to take a break and reset between projects. After you’ve finished one, step away and take a deep breath before moving onto the next thing. This may look like going for a walk, grabbing coffee with a colleague or spending time completing lower-stress tasks. 

Getting away: Research shows that over half of all U.S. workers leave vacation time unused each year. However, vacation time can provide a variety of benefits that can help you feel better in the long run. If you feel too overwhelmed or uncertain about taking time off, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help you prepare before you leave, leave work behind and make a smoother transition back to work. 

6. Reach out for support 

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or don’t know what to do, start the conversation with your colleagues and supervisor. They are often the best resource to help address work-related issues and succeed.  

If you want additional support, there are campus resources available for all staff and faculty. 

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

FSAP provides a variety of free mental health services for CU Boulder staff and faculty, including workshops, support groups, same-day appointments, short-term counseling (including family and couples counseling) and more. Staff and faculty can take advantage of FSAP services without taking sick leave or paid time off. 

Ombuds Office

The Ombuds Office can help staff and faculty identify options to resolve disputes, determine appropriate courses of action and aid in the informal resolution of workplace conflicts or other concerns. They also provide confidential consultation services.


WorkWell helps oversee a variety of health and wellness programs that are aimed at supporting staff and faculty and fostering a sense of belonging on campus. You can get involved by attending classes, events and more.


AcademicLiveCare provides access to free online counseling and psychiatry appointments. Staff and faculty can access services for free, regardless of their health insurance plan or coverage.  

*This program does not provide emergency or crisis services. 

Wellness Workshops

The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) provides free workshops to help staff and faculty find support and improve their wellness. Workshop topics include sleep, healthy eating, support groups, parenting, estate planning, homebuying, retirement planning and more.

Thriving Campus

If you are looking to connect with a local provider in your area, Thriving Campus can help you connect with a variety of providers based on specialization, needs and insurance. 

Mentorship programs

Did you know that staff and faculty members can work with a professional mentor on campus? Here are a few to check out: