How to Recognise Burnout Symptoms

Published On: August 23, 2022

Defined by WHO (World Health Organisation), ‘burnout’ is a state of exhaustion. This affects us both physically and mentally following a prolonged period of stress or emotionally exhausting situations. This is not a problem that will disappear on its own but can get worse if the underlying cause is not addressed.

Burnout is common when people are overworked and under-slept in relation to their jobs. You will lose the energy to work to the best of your ability, and the demands of your job will seem overwhelming when they usually aren’t.

This will have a domino effect on the rest of your life, such as relationships, socialising, mental health, and physical health.

Research has shown an increase in work-related burnout following COVID-lockdown. Working from home affects the balance between business and pleasure, as working in a place we see as relaxing can have negative results.

Often, there is no ‘clocking out’, so people feel pressured to start earlier or finish later, struggling to switch their minds off after they have finished. It can also be hard to motivate yourself to start work if you have other responsibilities that you would normally leave until you got back from the office.

The Common Symptoms and Signs of Burnout

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In March 2021, 1 in 5 adult workers in the UK said they felt they were unable to manage the stress of work. 46% of UK workers felt more prone to stress, meaning they get stressed more easily, than they did over a year ago.

Research has shown that women and young adults are the most impacted by stress and pressure. [1]

The usual symptoms of burnout are:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling drained
  • Feeling detached or alone
  • Being pessimistic or in a low mood
  • Self-doubt about work or other parts of life
  • Procrastination and difficulty concentrating
  • Overly emotional
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Unsure about what will make you feel better
  • Confused as to why you feel this way

Many of these symptoms parallel those of anxiety and mild depression, so it can be confusing and difficult to understand the underlying problems. [2]

How does this develop if left untreated?

  1. Disassociation and alienation from work or responsibilities
  2. Break down from emotional exhaustion
  3. Underperforming

What Causes Burnout?

Teen 1

Burnout is not only work-related, but can be the result of a combination of pressures, responsibilities, and chronic stress: [3] [4]

1. Money and finances

Unfortunately, money and finances dictate much of our lives. Without money, especially if you have more than just you to look after, life can become overwhelming. If you are living ‘hand to mouth’, or constantly working to pay bills, money is always on your mind.

If this is the case for you, try to plan your budgets and work with a spreadsheet so you don’t keep revisiting the worry in your head. Think about government benefits if your income is too low or you cannot work for some reason.

2. Working from home

Working from home is one of, or if not THE biggest contributor to burnout. Without a walk or drive to the office, your schedule too flexible and you may lose sight of important routines.

You will find yourself less mentally prepared to start work as you walk from your bedroom to the kitchen in your pajamas.

The biggest problem with working from home is boundaries. There is no ‘finish time’, unless your online platform actually closes at 5pm. You will continue working and feel guilty when you’re not, causing burnout.

Try to set a structure to your day, such as exercise or mindfulness beforehand. Make sure you are working away from normal responsibilities, so find a room where you can’t see the washing up or cleaning baskets. Take regular breaks for tea and lunch, and set time and work boundaries.

3. Isolation and loneliness

Lockdown was a difficult time for everyone around the world. Feeling lonely has a dramatic impact on mental health, as even introverts are better off socialising occasionally to reinforce relationships with people. Loneliness can be caused by overworking, social anxiety, and struggling to fit in.

Loneliness and isolation can cause burnout but can also be a consequence of burnout. When we feel overwhelmed, the last thing on our mind is making more plans with friends or taking on more work. We often want to be left alone to try and feel better, but this can exacerbate loneliness and affect mental health even more.

4. Sleep

Many people base their day on how they slept. Sleep has an impact on how we feel physically and mentally, as we function best on around 8 hours sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make us moody and can lead us to underperform at work.

If you are struggling to sleep, try these steps:

  • More exercise – outdoor if you can
  • Set up a bedtime routine without tv or phones
  • Mindfulness – try meditation or calming music

5. Relationships

It can be difficult trying to manage relationships, be that love, family, or friends. It is important to manage your own well-being and mental health whilst juggling responsibilities and work.

Sharing struggles with loved ones can prove challenging whilst others are going through tough times, as you may feel overwhelmed by other people’s problems and your own.

Maintaining the relationship you have with yourself is as important as having a relationship with others.

Take time for self-care outside of work and others, making sure you have time to look after your mental and physical well-being. If you are struggling with a relationship, be sure to make time for each other, including being present. Listen to what they have to say, and share struggles, no matter how big or small.

6. Caring for other people

Looking after parents, friends and family can be a difficult responsibility. You may feel like you are not giving them enough attention or neglecting usual responsibilities. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect balance’, as everyone’s situation is different. Remember to make time for yourself and get your priorities in place.

7. Physical health

Physical health can contribute to burnout. Remaining calm, happy, and relaxed is important on the days it is possible. Eating a balanced diet and exercising can release endorphins that help us maintain our well-being. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, and drink lots of water.

Who is Prone to Burnout?

Support Group

The PLOS Journal (Public Library of Science) states that work burnout happens when people use ineffective coping strategies to balance out stress, if they use any coping mechanisms at all. There are three types of personality that seem to be prone to burnout, and all three types of personality will overlap with one another.

The workaholic is performance and job oriented. Workaholics often struggle with the balance between work and general life, prioritising work over other responsibilities. This leads to a lack of self-care and neglecting important relationships.

Overworking is difficult to stop. You, your boss, and your colleagues have become accustomed to the amount of work you can get done over a period of time.

You have met these expectations constantly; without saying ‘no’ to more tasks, the load of responsibility is always placed on you. This type of mental cycle is called a ‘performance-orientated value system’.

If this sounds like you, try to keep track of what the ‘normal’ working hours are and what is usually expected of someone at your level. Time spent being busy is not always time spent being productive – write down your priorities and what comes first.

The people-pleasure often neglects other aspects of their life to keep people happy, whether that is a manager, colleague, family member, or friend.

When someone is always worried about what people are going to say or think about them, all of their focus is tied to the person of focus that day. This means everyone else in the room does not get the required attention.

Perfectionists struggle with burnout when they strive for perfection and high standards. Flawless results don’t always occur, so high standards can sometimes be damaging.

This doesn’t mean that you should put less effort into work and relationships but try to remain realistic.

How to Prevent the Risk of Burnout

Adventure Therapy

Work-related stress and chronic workplace stress are warning signs that you will burn out. Burnout symptoms are characterised by energy levels and can often lead to damaging medical conditions.

Severe burnout leads to mental exhaustion, and loss of motivation, and has negative impacts on social interactions. Symptoms of stress mirror clinical depression and anxiety, changing your quality of life.

Getting the right life balance can prove difficult, specifically following COVID lockdown. Personal accomplishments and job performance often come head-to-head, creating bad habits, overworking, and other burnout symptoms.

There are multiple levels of burnout, caused by a high-stress environment, faced-paced environment, and focus on academic performance. It is difficult to maintain a positive attitude when your levels of energy are low.

However, there are multiple ways to prevent the risk of burnout, or to help get back on track following a burnout diagnosis. Burnout is not permanent if you address the underlying cause – if you are feeling burnt out, something needs to change. [5] [6]

If you are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by work, try talking to your supervisor or welfare officer and tell them how you are feeling. This can involve asking for less work or having some time off – switching to a new job or new work routine can help you feel less burnt out.

It can also be helpful to manage your stress levels at home. If you are working from home, try these strategies:

  • Wake up at the normal time you would to get into the office
  • Try exercise or mindfulness before you start work
  • Work in a neutral environment, either a home office or a quiet coffee shop. Working next to loved ones or in a busy home environment will not help concentration levels and will act as a distraction.
  • Keep to a healthy diet and exercise routine
  • Take the usual office breaks for lunch
  • Stop work at the usual time (eg. around 5/6pm)
  • Introduce a good bedtime habit, calming down before bed without laptops and phones

If you work full time and less work is not an option, think about taking a holiday in the near future without taking your work with you. This may only be a temporary relief but may calm your mind down.

Burnout means you feel overwhelmed, but you have more control than you think.

You can take active and positive steps to reduce the feelings that accompany burnout, such as:

  • Social contacttalk to someone about how you are feeling
  • Chat to your colleaguesare they feeling the same? Can they help?
  • Spend less time with negative people if people are making problems out of nothing, it may be best to focus on more positive things
  • Join a community support groupthere are plenty of online or in-person groups that help people that suffer from burnout quite often
  • Reframe the way you look at stress stress does not have to take over your life, it is not an irreversible disease. This can be managed by you and you only
  • Make a planplan where you want to be and how you’re going to get there
  • Find a better work/life balance if you are working from home, create a new plan to give you the space and time to focus on work and relaxation
  • Take time offworking too much burns people out.
  • Re-evaluate priorities and set boundarieswhat do you want and need to put first?
  • Relax and get quality sleep – the quality of sleep and relaxation enhances performance
  • Exercise and nutritionby releasing natural endorphins that make us feel happier and less stressed, this might help you manage workloads and other forms of stress
  • Avoid too much nicotine and alcoholalcohol and smoking can induce anxiety

Burnout is characterised by both mental and physical symptoms. Emotional exhaustion is a warning sign of ‘burnout syndrome’. These feelings of exhaustion can implement a lack of clarity and extreme tiredness.

By stepping back and looking at how you are navigating the stress in your life, you will be able to pinpoint the cause of your exhaustion.

Whether it is work or another stressful circumstance, remember to be kind to yourself. Life is not easy nor is it simple, but people are here to help you.

Burnout is common, and more people suffer from it than we think. Work-life has changed, so we have to adapt to it.




[3] Wigert B, Agrawal S. Employee burnout, Part 1: The 5 main causes. Gallup.


[5] Demerouti E. Strategies used by individuals to prevent burnout. Eur J Clin Invest. 2015;45(10):1106-12. doi:10.1111/eci.12494



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