How to deal with Burnout

Burnout is becoming increasingly common as work demands continue to increase, technologies always keep us connected, and economic uncertainties impact fields of work across society. By definition, burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged high stress levels. It’s the result of neglecting your mental health and well-being for too long.

The impacts of burnout can be devastating, leading to poorer job performance, cynicism, anxiety, depression, weight gain or loss, high blood pressure, weaker immune system, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping, among other issues. That’s why it is so vital that we all understand the causes, signs, stages, and solutions to beating burnout before it takes control of your life.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover:

  • What burnout is and the common symptoms
  • The main causes and those most at risk
  • How to recognise if you are experiencing burnout
  • Practical steps to start overcoming burnout
  • Long term strategies to prevent burnout from recurring
  • When it’s necessary to seek professional help


This guide aims to help you regain your passion, energy, and joy both at work and home. By creating a healthy work-life balance and addressing issues early on, beating burnout is possible.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress over time. According to psychologists in the UK, the key components of burnout include:

  • Emotional exhaustion – Feeling drained, depleted, and used up by your work, lacking energy or motivation
  • Mental fatigue – Feeling tired, slowed thinking processes, lower productivity, reduced performance, difficulty concentrating
  • Physical symptoms – Headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, digestive issues, fatigue, lowered immunity

Burnout develops gradually over an extended time period. The 3 main stages of burnout are:

  1. Chronic stress – The early warning signs aren’t obvious yet. You may feel a bit irritable and restless.
  2. Onset – Clear symptoms begin to show. Reduced joy, withdrawal from responsibilities, escapism behaviours.
  3. Crisis – Everything comes to a boiling point. Serious mental, emotional and physical consequences occur.

Some of the most common causes of burnout include:

  • Excessive workloads and unrealistic deadlines
  • Poor work-life balance and boundary issues
  • Toxic work environments and difficult management
  • Low social support from colleagues
  • Lack of autonomy, control and decision making in your role
  • Mismatched values, skills and interests with your job
What is burnout?

High stress jobs like nursing, teaching, social work, customer service, and CEO/management roles have some of the highest burnout rates. However, burnout can impact anyone. By learning its causes, signs, and solutions, you can overcome burnout and prevent it from recurring in the future through better self-care strategies.

Signs You May Be Experiencing Burnout

Burnout sort of sneaks up on you, getting progressively worse over time. Here are some of the most common signs that may indicate you are burnt out or on the path to burnout:

Emotional symptoms

  • Feeling detached, numb or lacking emotion
  • Sense of sadness, anger or irritability
  • Lacking motivation or passion for your work
  • Feeling disillusioned or resentful
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope

Mental symptoms

  • Impaired concentration and memory
  • Finding it hard to switch off from work
  • cynical, negative outlook
  • Feeling like tasks require more effort
  • Making more mistakes and poorer decisions

Physical symptoms

  • Feeling constantly exhausted
  • Frequent headaches or stomach issues
  • Lowered immunity – catching more colds
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Change in weight – gain or loss

Work performance

  • Decline in productivity and output
  • Procrastination and struggle meeting deadlines
  • Taking longer to complete routine tasks
  • Calling in sick more often

If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms consistently, you may be burnt out. The longer the symptoms persist unchecked, the worse the effects on your mental and physical health.

Steps to Overcome and Prevent Burnout

If you recognise signs of burnout in yourself, it’s vital to take action to address it. Here are some of the most effective steps you can take:

Assess your triggers

Take time to identify the specific situations, work demands or stressors causing you to feel burnt out. Keep a log of tasks, interactions or times when you felt particuarly stressed. Determine patterns in what triggers your burnout symptoms.

Set healthy boundaries

Don’t take on excess work beyond your limits or agree to unreasonable deadlines. Learn to say no to additional responsibilities that leave you overextended. Be protective of your personal/family time outside of work.

Take regular holidays and breaks

Ensure you take your full holiday allowance each year. Disconnect from work completely and recharge. Consider taking mini-breaks or long weekends every 2-3 months too.

Prioritise self care

Make time each week for restorative activities like getting a full 8 hours sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising or trying yoga/meditation. Quick self-care strategies like taking a walk outside or having a hot bath can relieve stress as well.

Creating a Healthy Work Life Balance

In addition to the steps above, making long term changes to achieve better work life balance can prevent reoccurring burnout.

Set realistic goals

Don’t overcommit yourself. Set sustainable goals and daily task lists that don’t demand unrealistic levels of output. Building in flexibility helps.

Work within your limits

Don’t sacrifice sleep, breaks or holidays in order to work more. This leads to diminishing productivity over the long run. Prioritise work you can complete to high standards during normal working hours – then disengage.

Manage your time effectively

Audit how you currently spend your time. Identify any areas of wasted time throughout the day. Create schedules, reminders and calendars to use your time more intentionally. Say no to unnecessary meetings or calls.

Stay socially connected

Make time for nourishing personal relationships with friends, family, and community outside of work. Feeling lonely or isolated can worsen burnout, while social bonds empower you manage stress better.

Get outdoors

Connect with nature by getting out first thing in the morning, during lunch breaks or after work. Studies show being outdoors has restorative benefits for mental health.

A few key adjustments to your work style and lifestyle habits can prevent reaching that crisis burnout stage in the future. But if symptoms persist despite your best efforts, seeking professional support may be needed.

When to Seek Professional Help

While you may be able to reverse the early stages of burnout through improved self-care, there comes a point when symptoms can overwhelm your ability to cope. Seeking help from a professional is advisable if:

  • Your burnout symptoms persist despite changing jobs or taking steps to improve your work life balance over several months.
  • You find yourself taking frustrations out on colleagues, friends or family.
  • Burnout is manifesting as severe depression, anxiety or physical health issues.
  • You start to have suicidal thoughts or an “out of control” feeling.

Types of support to consider:

  • Talk therapy – Counselling, life coaching and group support provide tactics to manage chronic work stress. Therapists impart tools for improving thought patterns, developing healthier coping mechanisms, better communication tactics and more. Speaking with others who have recovered from burnout can inspire hope.
  • Medication – If burnout in manifesting as severe mental health issues like depression or anxiety, prescription medications can alleviate symptoms. Anti-depressants, sleep medication or anti-anxiety medication may provide relief.
  • Mindfulness and movement – Practices like daily meditation, yoga therapy, art therapy or breathwork aim to calm the nervous system and provide a healthy outlet for stress relief. Exercise is also vital for physical and mental health.

Recovering from burnout takes time. Be patient with the process and yourself. With consistent self-care strategies and professional support, many people make a full recovery. Reassess what’s important and make positive change.