7 Signs You’re Burning Out

Posted June 24, 2019, by Elesha

Burnout isn’t just feeling ‘over it’ at work. It’s prolonged psychological stress that can have a debilitating effect on your career and personal life. Burning out is serious; it’s not something that can be ‘fixed’ by taking a day off here and there. Here are 7 signs you’re headed for burnout – don’t ignore them!

The Difference Between Stress And Burnout

“Burnout is the car crash you don’t see coming.” – Stacey King Gordon

At work, stress finds us all at some point. While stress and burnout are closely related they’re not actually the same thing but the line can get blurry as to where stress ends and burnout starts.  

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as more than stress, but that burnout starts as a normal stress response.

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” World Health Organization

Burnout is complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged stress which can lead to depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue.

There’s a loss of meaning and a sense of hopelessness in burnout that isn’t associated with ‘normal’ levels of stress. Burnout occurs as the final stage of chronic stress – when all your emotional, physical, and mental resources are totally tapped out. 

7 Major Signs You’re Burning Out


Burnout people are exhausted people.

Burnout kills physical vitality and energy – those who were once a human equivalent to the energiser bunny can struggle to even get out of bed. Just making it to work and getting through the day feels like a mammoth task.

Reduced Performance

When you’re burning out, even basic work tasks become a struggle. At this point, you’ve stopped caring and mistakes, missed deadlines and important tasks are all slipping through the cracks. The projects that used to get you excited don’t light you up anymore and chronic procrastination becomes part of your daily routine.

Anger and Anxiety

When anger and anxiety become habitual workday emotions it’s a red flag you’re spinning towards burn out. Small things trigger a tidal wave of anger – you find yourself lashing out at colleagues and levels of conflict are rising at work and at home.

Anxiety is a constant presence too whether it’s about something specific, like a looming deadline, or just a formless feeling of dread.

A Sense of Hopelessness

One of the big differences between regular stress and burning out is a sense of hopelessness. When you’re burning out, you’re simply getting through the day and going through the motions without motivation or meaning. This sense of hopelessness can spiral into serious depressive and anxiety disorders.

Physical Symptoms

Aside from exhaustion, burnout will make itself known with physical signs including tightness of chest, tense muscles, stomach, and digestive issues, headaches, and dizziness. Because you’re running on empty, your immune system will take a hit and become more vulnerable to colds and infections.  

Trouble Sleeping

Insomnia and other sleep-related issues go hand in hand with burnout. Irregular sleeping patterns and lack of sleep can make you feel super emotional and mentally slower which only perpetuates the other symptoms of burnout.

Withdrawing from Social Activities

Finding reasons to excuse yourself from social activities and spending more time alone can also be a sign you’re burning out. Social isolation can increase the sense of loneliness and feeling that others don’t understand what you’re experiencing.

How To Avoid Burning Out

Coming back from burnout is possible but prevention is better than the cure; here’s what you can do to guard against burnout in the office.

Learn To Set Boundaries

Burnout can sneak up on those who don’t put boundaries in place or know how to say “no”. Personal and workplace boundaries define how we allow ourselves to be treated by others, and the truth is if you don’t protect yourself from becoming a burnt out ‘yes man’ who will?

By setting and communicating your professional boundaries you make it clear to others what you can and can’t do. Be polite but firm when turning down unreasonable or unimportant requests from colleagues and stay consistent with your actions – don’t buckle just because you’re having a ‘good’ day.

Take A Daily Tech Break

Incessantly checking your work email and being available to colleagues at all hours is a recipe for burning out. You need to give your mind space to breathe and a chance to switch off from work-related stress. Turn your work device to flight mode when you leave the office and don’t look at it again until you’re back at work the next day.

Find Time To Exercise

Physical activity, whether it’s hitting the gym, running, yoga, walking or even gentle stretching is a guaranteed stress reliever. Exercise lifts your mood, takes your mind off ruminating thoughts, helps release physical tension and boosts your energy levels. Even if you can only find 10 -15 minutes in your day to squeeze in a fast walk around the block, make it a priority!

Get Out Of Your Own Head

We know one of the symptoms of burning out is withdrawing from social activities – this means spending more time alone in your own head. Not a good idea! Even if you can’t muster up the energy for a group situation, at least check in with a friend one on one for a coffee. It’s a chance to get your mind off work and give yourself a mental breather.

Ask For Help

If you feel like things are spiralling out of control, ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness and no one expects you to be superhuman. Talk to your boss or have a confidential conversation with your HR rep to put some practical strategies in place at work to help ease the burden before it’s too late.

Have you experienced or are you headed for workplace burnout? 


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