Learn how to recognise the signs of burnout, and get tips and strategies to help you cope.
Burnout is a term that describes feelings of long-term exhaustion, both mental and physical, as well as disinterest with work. Caused by excessive and prolonged stress, burnout makes you feel overwhelmed and drained. You may also feel like you can’t complete simple daily tasks.
You may develop burnout if you have focused all your energy on your work for a long time and neglected other areas of your life, such as your health, family and friends.
Burnout is usually associated with work-related stress, though it can manifest in other areas, for example caring for a sick relative.
People who are feeling tired and stressed may feel as if they are experiencing burnout, but not all feelings of work-related stress are burnout. Feeling burnt out is different to feeling stressed and anxious about work, though some of the symptoms and signs are similar.
People who have burnout often experience the following symptoms for a long period of time:
- Emotional exhaustion – feeing constantly tired, drained and low in energy
- Stomach pains, digestive issues and headaches – physical symptoms are common in people with burnout
- Negativity – feeling negative and cynical about work and colleagues
- Concentration difficulties – as well as lacking in creativity.
People who have burnout may also begin to disengage from work, perform worse at work and feel negative about their job.
Feeling stressed and anxious, on the other hand, tends to be less extreme than burnout. People who feel stressed about work may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t feel the intense mental exhaustion and lack of motivation that people with burnout feel.
“If you’re experiencing burnout, the good news is that it is possible to overcome your symptoms and recover.”
If you’re experiencing burnout, the good news is that it is possible to overcome your symptoms and recover.
Here are some strategies for coping with burnout:
- Give yourself a break – make time for yourself and do something that will make you relax and feel happy, like playing a sport or exploring somewhere new
- Set boundaries for work – prioritise what you can do, and try not to accept too many commitments
- Limit your access to work-related emails – these days, we have 24/7 access to our emails which isn’t helpful for people with burnout; limit your exposure to work emails after hours
- Spend time with your loved ones – enjoy the company of the people who make you laugh and bring out the best in you
- Eat a healthy diet – a good diet can boost your mood and energy levels; aim to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy, and reduce processed foods
- Exercise regularly – exercise will boost your physical and mental health, and help you to switch off from work-related stress
- Reduce alcohol and coffee – stimulants like alcohol and coffee can increase feelings of stress and anxiety
- Practise good sleep habits – try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Burnout can lead to ongoing fatigue and chronic stress, so it’s important to see a health professional or a GP if you feel you may be at risk.
If it is an emergency, call 000.