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Recognising the signs of burnout


It is a myth that burnout only happens to people in certain jobs.

In fact, burnout can happen to anyone who does any type of work, whether it’s in an office or from home. Burnout doesn’t just happen when you’re stressed and tired – it also happens when you feel undervalued, unappreciated or bored with your job. And if one part of your life starts to burn out, other areas can too. All this means that burnout is about much more than just feeling tired at work! It’s time to take action before burnout turns into chronic exhaustion and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

What is burnout?

Overwork and burnout can be linked. It is a feeling of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion brought on by excessive and long-term stress. When you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to cope with continuous demands, it’s known as burnout.

It’s important to recognise that there are also varying levels of feeling burnt out – it can be natural at the end of a large project to feel burnout. Or spending prolonged periods of time focused on a single task can cause a sense of burnout. To some degree, it’s your mind and body telling you that you need to take a break.

It is a mental health condition that happens when you’re overextended in your personal or professional life, and the pressure becomes too much. It’s not something to take lightly, burnouts can lead to chronic exhaustion, depression and anxiety.

How burnout can happen

Burnout can happen for many different reasons, like working too hard or feeling like you don’t belong in your job. It’s also common if you work remotely and feel disconnected from your coworkers. Burnouts can also happen when co-workers are unsympathetic towards your workload or unrealistic expectations are set by clients.

If dealing with clients within your business – setting realistic expectations from the outset is a very effective way to help prevent burnout. If a client understands what they can and can not expect from you, it is easier to push back on requests that may lead to you stretching yourself and ultimately leading to burnout.

There are many reasons burnouts can happen and they can vary in their intensity. It is important to remember that burnouts are natural and you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed if you find yourself in burnout. They can happen for many reasons such as:

  • Unreasonable workload expectations
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Feeling unappreciated at work

If burnouts become chronic and last longer than a month, there is a potential for mental health issues that might need outside support. This can include counselling and antidepressants.

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Recognising the signs of burnout

If burnout happens to you, it can be easy to try and power through the situation. You might not notice how bad burnout is affecting you until all of a sudden stressful things start piling up. When burnouts happen, they’re often marked by high stress levels, irritability and negativity that starts to impact your life at home and work.

Common symptoms include:

An illustrated image of person standing next to a large, unhappy face
  • Development of an escapist mentality
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Obsession over problems at work or in life
  • A pessimistic outlook on work and life
  • Physical symptoms intensify and/or increase
  • Self-doubt
  • Social isolation
  • Behavioural changes
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic stomach or bowel problems
  • Complete neglect of personal needs
  • Continuation or increase in escapist activities
  • Desire to “drop out” of society
  • Desire to move away from work or friends/family

Signs of burnout may also include a loss of motivation, increased irritability, and negativity. Burnouts can also cause physical symptoms to intensify or increase such as chronic headaches or stomach pains. Burnout can impact your life outside of work too, leading to social isolation and neglecting your personal needs.

Effects of burnout

Burnout, whether in your personal or professional life, isn’t a minor thing that we need to figure out how to simply get over. It can be a complex and impactful reality that can lead to other negative consequences in many areas of your life.

When you’re feeling burned out, it doesn’t take much for tensions to run high at home or in your workplace. You might find yourself snapping more or nitpicking at the things that used to make you happy.

If your burnout is impacting your professional life, the effects will become more obvious. They can affect job performance whether it’s working slower than usual, having issues with concentration or taking on less challenging work tasks.

Initially, you may put the effects of burnout down to pushing yourself to complete a project or taking on that extra task to help further your career but don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking “you can keep going”. If left ignored the effects of burnout can lead to serious consequences both physically and emotionally. Some of the early physical symptoms can include; headache, stomach pain, dry eyes and backache.


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Coping Mechanisms for when you have a burnout

There are many burnout coping techniques you can try. Find what works for you and your burnout. These coping mechanisms were pulled from this article about burnouts.

  • Take care of yourself by doing things that you enjoy outside of work
  • Find a hobby or sports that you love. You may find that it is helpful to think about what hobbies or sports are fun for you
  • Do not neglect your health
  • Do not be afraid to talk to someone when burnout comes up
  • Stay connected with your friends and family – reaching out to them when burnout is coming up can help prevent it from becoming worse
  • If burnout is chronic, consider speaking with a therapist or other mental health professional

If burnouts start to become a regular issue, it’s important to seek professional support to prevent further chronic health issues from developing. You might need counselling or medical treatment if you find yourself experiencing symptoms.

Remember – you don’t need to cope with this alone

You may be feeling burnt out lately, but there are plenty of ways to turn things around. Give yourself the opportunity for self-care by finding time to meditate or do something you enjoy outside of work. And if you still feel like you’re not getting anywhere, it might be time to ask for help. If your boss is unsympathetic, consider reaching out to HR or an organisation like Big Orange Heart who can offer some guidance on the next steps.

Reach out to a trusted family member, friend or colleague and talk about your feelings. Be sure to do it in a safe way. Talking about your feelings isn’t always an easy task, we have some tips on how to talk about mental health.

Be sure to listen to your body – mentally and physically.

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