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Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Key Points

  1. Burnout symptoms encompass physical, emotional, and mental health issues and vary from person to person.

  2. Emotional symptoms of burnout include emotional exhaustion, detachment from work, lack of accomplishment, and irritability.

  3. Physical symptoms of burnout include fatigue, sleep disturbances, frequent illnesses, and physical complaints.

  4. Causes of job burnout include lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, extremes of activity, lack of social support, and work-life imbalance.

  5. Recovery from burnout involves recognizing the symptoms, establishing work-life balance, prioritizing sleep and a healthy diet, seeking professional help, taking regular breaks, practicing mindfulness and meditation, setting boundaries, reflecting on personal values, engaging in physical exercise, and exploring new opportunities for fulfillment.

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Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Job burnout, a serious syndrome resulting from unmanaged work-related stress, doesn't happen overnight. Burnout symptoms can vary from person to person, owing to differing personality traits, but they generally revolve around mental, emotional, and physical health.

Symptoms of burnout can be categorized as physical symptoms, emotional exhaustion, and mental exhaustion. Physical symptoms can range from minor issues like headaches to more severe problems, such as digestive issues. Mental exhaustion, on the other hand, is characterized by a lack of focus, difficulty in decision making, and decreased work performance. Meanwhile, emotional exhaustion manifests as feelings of negativity, self-doubt, detachment, and feeling emotionally drained.

The onset of job burnout can have a huge impact on both your personal and social life. This is why it's crucial to be aware of the burnout syndrome and its implications on your wellbeing, including your mental health.

Emotional Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout is a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, often paired with feelings of cynicism and detachment from work. It can significantly affect a person's productivity and well-being.

Emotional Exhaustion

One of the most evident signs of burnout is emotional exhaustion. This is characterized by feelings of being emotionally overextended, drained, and used up. It is a sense of feeling incapable of offering any more of oneself at work. This exhaustion can extend beyond work-related tasks and start affecting personal relationships and home life.


People experiencing burnout often feel detached from their jobs and their colleagues. They may feel a sense of not belonging, becoming cynical, or indifferent about their work. This emotional distance often leads to avoidance of tasks and responsibilities, further affecting their performance.

Lack of Accomplishment

A pervasive sense of inefficiency or lack of accomplishment is another emotional symptom of burnout. Even if they're working longer hours, people with burnout often feel they aren't achieving as much as they should, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

Irritability and Impatience

Increased irritability and impatience with colleagues, clients, and even family members is common in people experiencing burnout. Small annoyances might trigger outbursts of anger, and there might be a general intolerance towards others, stemming from the chronic stress and exhaustion.

Physical Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout doesn't only manifest in emotional ways; there are also physical symptoms to watch out for.


One of the first physical signs of burnout is a constant state of fatigue. Despite getting adequate sleep, individuals might wake up feeling tired and lack the energy to complete their daily tasks. This persistent tiredness can hinder work performance and overall quality of life.

Sleep Disturbances

Despite feeling exhausted, people with burnout may struggle with sleep issues like insomnia. This is due to the high-stress levels and the inability to "switch off" from work-related thoughts and worries.

Frequent Illness

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals susceptible to illnesses like colds and flu. This lowered immunity can result in frequent absences from work, thereby contributing to the feeling of not accomplishing enough.

Physical Complaints

Physical signs like headaches, backaches, gastrointestinal issues, and other physical discomforts without a clear medical cause could be symptoms of burnout. These physical signs often result from the body's prolonged stress response.

Causes of Job Burnout

Job burnout can be caused by various factors. Understanding these can help prevent or address burnout effectively.

Lack of Control

Feeling that you have little or no control over your work can quickly lead to burnout. This could result from a lack of the resources needed to do your job effectively, an inability to influence decisions that affect your job, or an inability to control your schedule or workload.

Unclear Job Expectations

If you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your superiors or others expect from you, you're likely to feel more stressed, which can lead to burnout.

Dysfunctional Workplace Dynamics

Working with an office bully, feeling undermined by colleagues, or working under a micromanager can contribute to job stress leading to burnout.

Extremes of Activity

When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused, which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.

Lack of Social Support

Feeling isolated at work and in your personal life might make you feel more stressed, leading to burnout. A supportive community can act as a buffer against job burnout.

Work-Life Imbalance

If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly. Work-life imbalance can also lead to burnout if all your satisfaction and self-worth are derived from your job alone.

Understanding the symptoms and causes of job burnout is the first step towards recovery and prevention. With this understanding, individuals can take necessary actions to maintain their physical and emotional health, achieve a better work-life balance, and manage workplace stress more effectively.

The emotional and physical toll that job burnout takes can be quite severe, but recognizing the signs and addressing the causes can lead to a healthier, happier work life. Self-care practices such as getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and seeking social support can go a long way in mitigating burnout and maintaining well-being. If you're already experiencing burnout, it's crucial to seek professional help to manage its effects effectively. You're not alone, and there are resources available to help you through it.

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14 Tips on How to Recover from Burnout

1. Recognize the Symptoms of Burnout: Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first essential step to address it. If you're constantly feeling exhausted, cynical, detached, and unproductive at work, you might be experiencing burnout. Physical symptoms like frequent headaches or stomachaches, and emotional symptoms like feeling hopeless, may also indicate burnout.

2. Create a Work-Life Balance: Workplace burnout often happens when work takes over your life, leaving little time for anything else. Establishing a balance between your professional duties and personal life is crucial in addressing burnout. This could involve setting boundaries with your working hours, dedicating time to family life, hobbies, or activities that help you relax and disconnect from work.

3. Establish a Healthy Sleep Schedule: Restorative sleep is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental health. Lack of quality sleep can accelerate burning out as it leaves you feeling constantly tired and incapable of handling daily stresses effectively. Establish a routine that allows for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to help your body and mind recover from daily stresses.

4. Follow a Healthy Diet: Nutritional choices can have a significant impact on your energy levels and mood. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide the nutrients necessary to combat the physical effects of burnout.

5. Seek Professional Help If Necessary: If you feel overwhelmed by feelings of burnout and struggle to manage it yourself, it's crucial to seek professional help. Therapists and counselors can provide strategies to manage stress, cope with workplace issues, and address burnout effectively.

6. Incorporate Regular Breaks Into Your Daily Routine: Regular breaks, both physical and mental, can help prevent exhaustion and promote productivity. It could involve a brief walk, some stretching, or a few minutes of mindfulness practice. These breaks can help reset your focus and lower your overall stress levels.

7. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness involves staying in the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Regular practice can enhance your resilience to stress and reduce the risk of burnout. Meditation, like progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises, can also help manage stress levels.

8. Reframe Your Perspective Towards Work: Your attitude towards your job can contribute to or alleviate feelings of burnout. If you find your work meaningless, it might be time to seek aspects of your job that you like or value and focus on those.

9. Build a Supportive Network: A strong support system of colleagues, friends, and family can significantly alleviate feelings of burnout. Their support can offer a different perspective, help you feel less alone, and provide emotional support when things get tough.

10. Set Boundaries in Your Personal and Work Life: In today's always-connected world, it's easy to blur the lines between work and personal time. Setting clear boundaries can help ensure that you have time to rest and recover from work-related stresses.

11. Reflect On Your Personal Values: If your work is not in alignment with your personal values, it can contribute to burnout. Reflecting on what truly matters to you can guide changes in your work life, such as seeking a job that better aligns with your values or advocating for changes in your current role.

12. Make a Change If Necessary: If you're constantly feeling burnt out despite making lifestyle adjustments, it might be necessary to consider making more substantial changes. This could involve seeking a new job, transitioning to a different career, or reducing your workload.

13. Engage in Regular Physical Exercise: Regular physical activity can help manage stress levels, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels, all of which can help combat burn14. Explore New Opportunities That Challenge Your Creative Side and Instill a Sense of Fulfillment: Burnout can often result from a lack of fulfillment or stagnation in your current role. Consider exploring opportunities that challenge your creative abilities, such as a new project, hobby, or even a new career path. It can be anything that stirs your passion, keeps you engaged, and makes you feel positive about your accomplishments.

Addressing burnout takes time, patience, and the willingness to make changes in your lifestyle. While these tips can significantly aid your recovery, it's essential to remember that recovery doesn't happen overnight. However, with consistent effort and a focus on self-care, it's entirely possible to recover from burnout, reclaim your well-being, and regain control over your work and life.

3 Types of Burnout Recovery

Job burnout is a distinct illness that can have occupational consequences if not properly addressed. Recovering from burnout requires time and a proactive approach towards self-care and well-being. Remember, everyone has a unique journey towards recovery, and what works for one person might not work for another. It's essential to listen to your own needs and seek professional help when necessary. ## Other Considerations in the Recovery Process

1. Short-term Recovery:

This involves immediate changes such as taking a break from work or reducing your workload. Short-term recovery focuses on immediate relief from stress and burnout symptoms.

2. Long-term Recovery:

This involves substantial changes in your lifestyle or work situation. It may involve finding a new job, moving to a different city, or changing your career entirely.

3. Preventive Measures:

This focuses on the changes you make to prevent burnout from occurring. This could be setting boundaries at work, developing stress management skills, and maintaining a balance between work and personal life.

Another essential aspect of burnout recovery is the need to understand and reflect on personal values and goals. Sometimes burnout can result from working too long in a job that doesn't align with your core beliefs or aspirations. If this is the case, exploring new opportunities might be an essential part of your recovery process. This could involve seeking a new job or engaging more with activities that stimulate your creative side or align with your personal interests.

In some cases, it may be necessary to seek medical advice to ensure there isn't an underlying health issue contributing to the feelings of exhaustion. It's important to remember that burnout is a legitimate medical diagnosis that should be taken seriously, and it can have serious implications for both mental and physical health if not adequately addressed.

Regular check-ins with yourself can also be a helpful tool in the recovery process. Paying attention to your mental state and levels of stress can help identify the early signs of burnout and allow for prompt intervention. This could involve changes in the workplace, such as reducing workload or delegating tasks, or changes in your personal life, such as seeking more social support or investing more time in hobbies and interests.

In the recovery process, it's also crucial to remember the role of self-care. This can mean different things for different people. For some, it might mean taking time each day to read a book or spend time with a best friend. For others, it might mean taking up a new hobby or investing time in physical exercise.

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Experiencing burnout isn't a personal failing but an indication that certain aspects of your work or life require consideration. Whether it's a heavy workload, managing too many responsibilities, or dealing with a sick family member, these stressors can rapidly lead to a state of burnout. The key is to recognize that these factors are a part of life and can be managed. Remember that it's not only entirely possible to overcome burnout but also to regain more control over your work-life balance.

Recovering from burnout is seldom a rapid process. It often necessitates a systematic review of numerous life areas and implementing significant changes. The journey can feel overwhelming, especially when daily stress takes a toll on your emotional energy. However, remember that you're not alone in this journey. Many co-workers and individuals in your social contact may also experience burnout, reminding us that it's a widespread issue and not a solitary struggle.

Adopting mindfulness practices can help manage stress levels effectively. These practices provide a means to relieve stress and replenish emotional energy, allowing for more constructive and positive responses to challenging situations.

Improving sleep habits is another crucial aspect of recovery. Quality sleep provides the body and mind with an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate, equipping you better to handle the coming day's demands.

Building supportive relationships both in and outside of work can provide a much-needed buffer against stress. Having a network of people who understand your experiences can offer both practical advice and emotional comfort.

While it may seem a daunting task to make these changes, especially when you might feel hopeless, it's crucial to remember the rewards of this investment: a life marked by well-being, satisfaction, and equilibrium. With the correct strategies and supports in place, you can successfully navigate the challenges of burnout. This journey can lead you to emerge on the other side feeling rejuvenated, empowered, and better prepared to handle life's inevitable stressors.


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