Anyone who's held the same job or position for a number of years may encounter the sinking feeling of burnout. You no longer feel the passion for the job you're in, and you crave something new and exciting.

Moving on and pursuing a new position, even a new career move, can be an option, but sometimes it's just not practical. In that case, you need to focus on how to quell the symptoms of burnout before they take you down.

What is Burnout?

Burnout sounds fairly harsh ... but what does it mean? According to one definition, "Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place."

When burnout occurs, productivity wanes, energy collapses, motivation disappears, and you might begin to feel cynical, resentful, even hopeless. If you experience these emotions for a number of weeks or months, you're increasingly likely to cave in and make poor decisions. In many cases, people who suffer from prolonged work burnout ultimately leave their jobs, one way (resignation) or another (termination).

While burnout can occur in any facet of life, it most commonly occurs in a person's career or job. That's because the average person spends between 35 and 50 hours a week working for an employer. When you spend that much of your time doing one thing, you're prone to "burning out."

The Primary Causes of Job Burnout

We'll discuss ways to prevent job burnout in the next section, but first let's review some of the primary causes, so that you can watch for the warning signs in your own career.

Excess repetition.
Insufficient compensation.
No environmental variance.
Little room for upward mobility.
No camaraderie with peers.
High stress with no down time.

Burnout is a very job-specific and personal phenomenon. While the six causes listed above are by far the most common, any combination of undesirable factors can potentially lead to job burnout.

Three Tips for Avoiding and Preventing Burnout

You shouldn't wait until you begin to experience the symptoms of job burnout. Even if you love your work and as if there's no way you could ever become unhappy in your current position, the following tips might be helpful.

They'll enable you to avoid burnout altogether. If you're currently experiencing possible symptoms, following these tips may empower you to overcome burnout before it ruins your career.

Use Your Vacation Days

Did you know that U.S. employees use only 51 percent of their eligible paid vacation days and paid time off? Fully 40 percent of American workers waste at least some of that time to which they're entitled.

While the survey that compiled this data noted that "company culture" and a "lack of encouragement from management to take time off" are two of the primary reasons that workers end up not making use of vacation time, many employees don't use their days because they believe they need to work all the time.

What you need to accept is that taking vacation days doesn't have to be a mark against your work ethic or character. Vacation days were designed to be used. If you aren't taking your two weeks -- or whatever you're entitled to by contract -- then you're working too much.

According to Karin Klinger, who spends her time helping IT professionals train and study, taking a break is beneficial for a number of reasons. Her top three reasons are that vacations:

By taking vacation days, you can recharge on the mental, physical, and social levels. That's incredibly important. And though you may not feel the slightest bit burned out at the moment, it'll eventually catch up with you if you make a habit of leaving vacation days on the table.

Change Up Your Routine and Environment

Sometimes avoiding job burnout is as simple as changing up your routine and surroundings. If you're working in the same cubicle for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for years on end, do you really expect to stay energized?

Most employers will have no problem if you ask to move your office every now and then. If it's good for your productivity, it's going to be good for their bottom line. If moving offices or cubicles isn't possible, try rearranging your current one or adding new decorations from time to time.

Communicate with Your Employer

Despite what you may think, your employer doesn't exist for the sole purpose of making you miserable. Any decent manager knows that happy employees are productive employees ... and that has a positive impact on the company's profitability and reputation.

As soon as you notice symptoms of burnout, set up a meeting to talk with your boss. Let management know how you're feeling and ask them if they have any ideas. Make it clear you're not giving up on the job, but you want to shake things up in a positive way.

Hiring new employees is expensive, so most employers would much rather help you figure things out than have to replace you.

Don't Wait Until You're Burned Out

Job burnout is an interesting subject because it's potentially preventable, but almost impossible to overcome once you're experiencing it. That means you can't afford to wait until you're burned out to do something.

By waiting, you're essentially putting a nail in the proverbial coffin of your career. That being said, you shouldn't feel intimidated or afraid if you begin to experience burnout symptoms.

Anyone who's been in the same career or field for a number of years is bound to experience fatigue from time to time. The key is to deal with the symptoms and find the underlying causes as soon as possible.