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How to Spot (And Overcome) Signs of Burnout

by BetterSleep
Jan 15 • 4 min read

Burnout is more than just stress. It’s a state of exhaustion that can be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon. For most people, work is the major trigger for burnout, but other factors can also contribute to running us down. Learn the signs that may indicate you could be facing harmful burnout, and find out what you can do about them.

What is Burnout?

The WHO describes burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Stress at work is normal, but it may become burnout when it becomes overwhelming and exhausting and leaves you unable to function.

The three main characteristics of work-related burnout are:

  1. Feeling exhausted, drained, and depleted of energy
  2. Reduced effectiveness at work or inability to complete everyday tasks
  3. Feelings of cynicism about work or mental distance from work
Burnout is Damaging

Burnout is not an official medical or mental health diagnosis, but many organizations, like the WHO, recognize it as a real phenomenon. These groups also recognize the harm it can cause when not addressed:

  • Insomnia and the consequences of poor sleep
  • Sadness or depression
  • Anger and irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lowered immunity and increased illness
How Do I Know It’s Time for a Break?

You can use several strategies to manage and reduce burnout. Relying on others for help, getting exercise, and meditating can be very helpful. But ultimately, you may need to step back and take a break from work. You can only run on fumes for so long. Here are some crucial signs not to ignore and that indicate you could use a break:

  1. You feel disengaged from your work. Normal stress should make you feel more engaged. Burnout, on the other hand, makes people feel cynical about work. It gives you a sense of dread about going in and trying to accomplish anything. Your outlook at work becomes increasingly cynical, and your motivation is low when you’re burned out. You may also feel more isolated and stop associating with co-workers.
  2. Your performance at work is getting worse. Disengagement and lack of motivation become more evident as they impact performance. Burnout can cause you to procrastinate, make careless or beginner mistakes, and lose focus on tasks. You may even find yourself calling in sick more and more often.
  3. Your physical health is declining. Burnout makes you more than just tired. It leaves you fatigued and exhausted, which is often exacerbated by an inability to sleep. You may also have aches and pains and regular illness.
  4. Your social life suffers. Burnout may trigger behavioral symptoms that extend beyond your working life. You may be burned out if you have withdrawn from friends and family or have no time for socializing. You may lash out at others, getting angry and irritable for no reason.

If you have any of these signs of burnout, take a hard look at your work-life balance. Talk to your boss or supervisor about changes you could make or the possibility of a mental health break. Reach out to friends for support and engage in self-care. Focus on a healthy diet, exercise, and getting adequate sleep until you feel rested and well again.

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