Recent studies by Gallup report that 89% of workers feel burned out.
According to the American Psychological Association, 77% of workers reported experiencing work-related stress in the last month, and up to 57% reported the negative impact of work-related stress that is sometimes associated with workplace burnout.
What’s even more concerning is that 70% of workers say that their employer does absolutely nothing to alleviate their burnout.
It’s truly important to know the signs to not only spot and treat burnout but also try to prevent it.
Table of Contents
What is Burnout?
If you have experienced burnout, you know that it is more than workplace stress, it is emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged, often extreme amounts of stress. It can lead to emotional detachment, cynicism, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
Trying to power through burnout is like ignoring the check engine light in your car—it might work for a bit, but eventually, the whole thing just breaks down.
Burnout isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a signal from your body and mind that things are not okay. Pushing through might give you a short burst of productivity, but it’s like borrowing energy from tomorrow to survive today. Sooner or later, that debt catches up with you.
You might confuse burnout because they have similarities but this is how you can set them apart:
Pay attention to the duration of your symptoms. Burnout is typically a long-term condition, while stress can be short-term or long-term.
Consider the severity of your symptoms. Burnout symptoms are typically more severe than stress symptoms.
Think about the impact of your symptoms on your life. Burnout can have a significant negative impact on work, relationships, and overall well-being, while stress may have less of an impact.
If you are unsure whether you are experiencing burnout or stress, talk to a doctor or therapist. They can help you assess your symptoms and develop a treatment plan.
Burnout is more likely to occur when you feel like you have no control over your situation. Stress can also be caused by a lack of control, but burnout is more likely to develop if you feel like you are constantly being overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Burnout is more likely to lead to feelings of detachment and cynicism. Stress can also make you feel negative and pessimistic, but burnout is more likely to lead to a loss of motivation and feelings of hopelessness.
Burnout can have a more significant impact on our physical and mental health. Stress can also have negative health consequences, but burnout is more likely to lead to chronic health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
What Can Cause Burnout?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to burnout, including:
Heavy workload: When you have too much work to do and not enough time to do it, you are more likely to experience burnout.
Lack of control: When you feel like you have no control over your work or your life, you are more likely to experience burnout.
Unrealistic expectations: When you are constantly being pushed to do more than is humanly possible, you are more likely to experience burnout.
Lack of support: When you don’t have the support of your manager, colleagues, or friends, you are more likely to experience burnout.
Poor work-life balance: When you don’t have enough time to relax and recharge, you are more likely to experience burnout.
The classic symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but they may include:
Fatigue: You feel tired all the time, even when you’ve had enough sleep.
Difficulty concentrating: You have trouble focusing on tasks and completing them.
Irritability: You are easily frustrated or irritated.
Cynicism: You become negative and pessimistic about your work and your life.
Reduced sense of accomplishment: You feel like you’re not making a difference and that your work is pointless.
Physical symptoms: You may experience headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, and other physical symptoms.
Mental health problems: You may be more likely to experience anxiety and depression if you are burned out.
What are the Risks of Untreated Burnout?
Untreated burnout has substantial risks, such as physical health concerns, mental health issues, and problems with personal relationships. From a physiological standpoint, prolonged stress associated with burnout can compromise the immune system, making you more susceptible to health issues. Mental well-being is significantly compromised, often leading to heightened anxiety and an increased risk of depression.
Besides health, burnout affects your professional life and career. It can impact your work performance, decision-making abilities, creativity, productivity, and efficiency. One way to spot burnout is when small, easy tasks at work require a lot of concentration and effort. If you feel exhausted and uninspired to do anything, it might mean you need to start the burnout recovery process.
Also, relationships within the workplace may suffer due to frequent irritability, a loss of patience, and a general sense of detachment.
Think of this, you have a certain amount of energy available to you for the day. As you get more and more burned out your energy levels become lower and lower. You will notice that you have less patience with tasks and people, you might even notice that you snap at others. The bottom line is that you have less mental bandwidth to focus on what you need to do.
The Different Stages of Burnout
As mentioned above, burnout happens due to prolonged stress, over a longer period of time.
Not all burnout looks the same and depending on which stage of burnout you might need a different recovery approach.
Let’s see what are the stages of burnout so you can spot which one applies to you:
1. The Honeymoon Phase
In this stage, everything feels fine. You feel excited about work, you are motivated and your focus, energy, and productivity are on point.
2. The Stress Stage
As the name suggests, in this phase you start experiencing stress in your life. You might feel bored or unchallenged at work. You might notice a decrease in energy levels, focus, and productivity.
3. Chronic Stress Phase
You start to experience stress every day and it really takes a toll on your mental health. You start to feel negative about work and become more irritable.
Chronic stress makes you feel exhausted and fatigued and you have a hard time concentrating, making decisions, and completing tasks. You begin to have problems with sleep(you sleep a lot more or have trouble sleeping), your eating patterns change and you begin to feel overwhelmed and manage stress poorly.
5. Habitual Burnout
This is the stage where burnout becomes a part of who you are. You might not complete tasks at work, and your relationships with people close to you or coworkers become strained. You become detached and feel like you don’t have any purpose or meaning in what you do.
When you find yourself at this stage you might need to talk to a mental health professional, as this stage is linked to depression. Moreover, a study “Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” conducted that people with burnout were 63% more likely to develop depression than people without burnout.
How to Recover from Burnout
Burnout recovery is a process that takes time and can require different approaches from person to person. It can vary due to the stress levels, personal health, or existing health conditions and the support system available to you.
Prioritizing, self-care, and setting boundaries are 3 things that will make a difference as soon as you start your burnout recovery journey.
Self-Reflection and Awareness
The first step to burnout recovery is being aware. Severe burnout can make you feel so overwhelmed that being stressed is your new normal. It’s important to spot the tell-tale signs and symptoms of burnout in order to start doing something about it. You find yourself having a lot of the common symptoms of burnout and they are a constant problem.
Set Clear Boundaries
Establish boundaries to protect your time and energy. Identify tasks or people draining your resources and set limits. Saying “no” when necessary is a must.
Make Time for Self-Care
Make self-care a non-negotiable priority. Dedicate at least 30 minutes daily to activities that nourish your mind and body, whether it’s meditation, exercise, or engaging in hobbies. Not dedicating time to yourself will not help you do more, it will further drain your energy. Remember, self-care is normal and you should not feel bad about it.
Prioritize More Efficiently
I know, you might have so many responsibilities at work and at home. But the truth is that you can’t do everything. Prioritize tasks based on importance. Use The 0-10 Rule for decision-making and scaling task priority. Focus on your nines and tens—the most crucial activities. Avoid focusing on less critical tasks that can wait. Do what you can and communicate your workload capacity.
Seek Support and Connection:
Don’t face burnout alone. Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues. Share your experiences and concerns. Connection creates emotional support and resilience.
Communicate with Clarity:
If leading a team, provide clear instructions and expectations. Clarity reduces stress for team members experiencing burnout. This stands true when it comes to communicating your boundaries and capacity at work. Be firm, but polite, and see if you can delegate or shift priorities in order to stick to the desired timeline.
Continuous Monitoring and Adjustments:
Regularly assess your well-being. Be open to adjusting strategies based on evolving needs. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires adaptability.
Professional Assistance if Needed:
If burnout persists or intensifies, consider seeking professional help. Mental health professionals can provide tailored strategies and support for comprehensive recovery.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from Burnout?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Recovery from burnout depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the burnout, the underlying causes, and your coping skills. However, with time and effort, most people can recover from burnout and return to a healthy and productive life.
How to Prevent Burnout
With rising levels of burnout and work-related stress, it’s important to not only treat but try to prevent burnout. Making sure you can identify the stages can help you recover much faster before burnout takes over your life.
Considering things like stress management techniques, prioritizing self-care, and spending time on what matters to you and makes you happy can really help with preventing burnout. Burnout recovery techniques such as prioritizing and setting boundaries are excellent when it comes to preventing burnout as well. This way you’ll be less likely to fall back into burnout.
Here are some tips that can help you prevent burnout:
Set realistic expectations for yourself. Don’t try to do too much at once, and don’t be afraid to say no to commitments that you don’t have time for. Sometimes the stress that comes from within can lead to burnout as much as outside factors. Don’t be so harsh and have compassion on yourself.
Take breaks throughout the day. Get up and move around, stretch, or step outside for some fresh air. Don’t underestimate the power of a short break to regain focus and reset.
Delegate tasks when possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. Ask for help when you need it.
Take care of your physical and mental health. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, practice relaxation techniques, and focus on positive emotions.
Build a strong support system. Talk to family members or people you trust about what you’re going through. Having a support system can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
Identify your stressors. What are the things that cause you stress? Once you know what your stressors are, you can start to develop healthy strategies for coping with them.
Take control of your work environment. If possible, create a work environment that is comfortable and supportive. This may mean making changes to your physical workspace or setting boundaries with your colleagues and managers. If you work from home, the environment you’re in matters a lot when it comes to the ability to focus and overall productivity. Try to make it as best suited for you as you can.
Find a work-life balance. Make sure to schedule time for yourself outside of work. This will help you to relax and recharge, and it will make you more productive when you are at work.
Take vacations. It is important to take vacations, even if it is just for a few days. Vacations can help you to relax and de-stress, and they can give you a chance to come back to work refreshed and motivated.
Remember, burnout is a serious condition, but you can prevent it. If you look out for these things you can reduce your risk of burnout and live a healthier life.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress. It is often characterized by feelings of detachment, cynicism, and a reduced sense of accomplishment. Burnout can have a significant negative impact on work, relationships, and overall well-being.
Some common symptoms of burnout include:
Reduced sense of accomplishment
Physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, and muscle tension
Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression
Burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Lack of control
Poor work-life balance
Toxic work environment
Lack of recognition
Lack of opportunities for growth
There are a number of things you can do to prevent burnout, including:
Set realistic expectations for yourself.
Take breaks throughout the day.
Delegate tasks when possible.
Say no to commitments that you don’t have time for.
Take care of your physical and mental health.
Build a strong support system.
If you are experiencing burnout, there are a number of things you can do to recover, including:
Acknowledge that you are burned out.
Prioritize your tasks.
Make time for self-care