Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Burnout can

  • reduce productivity
  • sap your energy
  • leave you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful
  • and you may eventually feel like you have nothing more to give 

The effects of burnout can eventually spill into every area of your life: home, work and social. It can also cause long-term changes to your body making you vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and flu. Because of this, it is important to deal with burnout straight away. 

Symptoms of burnout

Burnout is gradual. The signs and symptoms are subtle but become worse if the underlying cause is left untreated. The early symptoms could be considered red flags that something is wrong and if you ignore them, you'll eventually burn out. 

  • Physical symptoms could include: feeling tired and drained, frequent headaches or muscle pain, frequent illnesses due to a lowered immune system, and a change in appetite or sleep habits. 
  • Emotional symptoms could include: a sense of failure or self-doubt, loss of motivation, feeling helpless, trapped and defeated, a negative outlook, detachment, and a decreased sense of accomplishment. 
  • Behavioural symptoms could include: withdrawing from responsibilities, using food/drugs/alcohol to cope, isolating yourself, taking out frustrations on others, procrastinating, and skipping work or coming in late/leaving early. 

Dealing with burnout

If you simply try to push past the symptoms and continue as you have been, you will only cause further damage. You should take some time to pause and change direction by learning how you can help yourself overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again. You could use the 'Three R' approach:

  • Recognize - watch for warning signs
  • Reverse - undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress
  • Resilience - build resilience by taking care of your physical and emotional health