Heal Your Way

What are the signs and how can we recover?

What is Burnout?

More and more of us are searching for information about burnout, burnout signs and symptoms and how we can recover from burnout.

To put it simply, burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.  It’s when you just can’t do any more, your energy, hope and passion are gone, and you’re left empty.     

There are three burnout components to look out for:

  • Emotional exhaustion is feeling tired and fatigued at work (it can result in absence from work).
  • Depersonalisation can present as cynicism or ‘uncaring’, even hostility, toward others.
  • Reduced personal accomplishment  is when you feel nothing you do at work is worthwhile. This can lead to a lack of motivation and poor performance.


The WHO defines Burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon‘, but the term is being used more and more for areas outside of the workplace, such as relationships, friendships, coronavirus etc., and the dialogue around burnout is opening up as more of us start to feel it.

A lot of us are familiar with stress, but whilst stress leads to burnout, they are two different experiences.  Stress is when you are doing too much, so you’re too alert, maybe you’re on overdrive trying to manage things, whilst burnout is the feeling that you can’t do any more. 

So what are the signs of burnout? 

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

There are a number of burnout signs and symptoms to look for in ourselves and others.

How many of the following burnout signs do you recognise?

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Headaches/muscle aches
  • Digestive issues
  • Low sex drive
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Using food, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Take a moment to consider the signs of burnout above.

Do these burnout signs apply to you? Do they apply to someone you know?

If you do recognise these burnout symptoms and think you or someone you know is suffering from burnout, what can you do to help?

How Can We Prevent and Help Burnout?

  1. If you think you might be experiencing burnout then approach your manager, a member of HR or a trusted colleague to talk about your concerns. This is a common workplace problem so it’s important that a culture of engagement and compassion is encouraged. The more we openly talk about burnout we also help to reduce any stigma associated with it.  More and more workplaces are putting in steps to help employee’s wellness, recognising the importance that a happy and healthy team plays in their companies’ productivity. 
  2. Talking is a really important tool in helping with issues we are experiencing including burnout.  So speak to your manager, or your colleagues, share how you feel with your partner or consider professional support from a counsellor, therapist.  If you are concerned speak to your GP. There are also mental health organisations (such as www.mind.org.uk)  that can help.
  3. What is the culture in your workplace? Do you encourage each other to go home on time or are those who get in early and leave late rewarded? Can you speak to your managers about email policies for outside working hours? Some companies have meeting free days, so their employees can focus on their tasks/projects without the disruptions of meetings.
  4. Try to pinpoint the underlying causes of your burnout e.g. you might be taking on too many tasks without prioritising; or family problems are making it difficult for you to concentrate. Strategies will need to be put in place to tackle each of these, e.g. if it’s due to working longer hours then these will need cutting back. Identify specific ways of reducing your stress load so you can cope better with the demands of work and home.
  5. Time management skills may help you manage stress and workload.   Popular tools such as the Eisenhower Matrix can help.
  6. Learning to say no to tasks can help manage stress in the lead up to burnout.   
  7. Look at your life in terms of how balanced it is.  Are you spending enough time with friends and family?   How can you make more time for exercise and self-development?
  8. Exercise/moving is a great way to help us manage stress and finding connection with nature can help when we feel burnout. Going for a run or a walk might feel like the last thing you want to do when you are feeling burned out or stressed but it can really help your body release the stress energy and boost your mood.
  9. Finding connection is really important when are feeling burnout. This could be connection with nature, or connection with your family, friends or a connection with your spirituality or God, or simple human connection with the person who works in the local shop or restaurant.
  10. If you are still feeling burnout it might be time to ask yourself, are you in the right role?   Can you remember what you enjoyed about your job when you started? What did you value? What are your values?  How does your job meet them?

By putting measures in place and talking openly when we feel overwhelmed, stressed or burnt-out at work, we can help ourselves and others. 

Resources and Links for Further Help with Burnout:

https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/  this is an comprehensive site with a huge library of work mental health resources.

https://www.mind.org.uk/  Mind is an excellent resource for employers and employees and anyone with mental health concerns.


https://www.ted.com/talks/emily_nagoski_and_amelia_nagoski_the_cure_for_burnout_hint_it_isn_t_self_care#t-350781 a discussion with Emily and Amelia Nagowski on Burnout.

Burnout: How can Heal Your Way help ?

If you would like counselling to help with a work related issue or you are a company who would like to discuss how we can help you, email [email protected]

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