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Burnout: What It Is and How To Overcome It

Burnout What It Is And Things You Can Do To Overcome It

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion due to prolonged or excessive stress. If you’re experiencing burnout, you may find it challenging to work, perform at your usual level, complete tasks and fulfill obligations – from the office to family obligations.

If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for individuals to function well in their daily lives. By identifying the symptoms and causes of it, you’ll be able to recognize burnout in yourself, your colleagues, or your loved ones. And, more importantly, you’ll be able to take preventive action.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a psychological response to prolonged work stress and is defined by feelings of exhaustion. It’s a constant state of feeling depleted of your energy, time, and purpose.

The truth is, burnout is a growing concern. In a recent survey, researchers found that 77% of people have experienced burnout at their current job, while 69% felt that their employers weren’t doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout.

Essentially, burnout reduces your willingness and ability to do your job well. As a result, those experiencing burnout feel less productive, creative, disengaged, and are more likely to fall into absenteeism.

Burnout vs. depression

There’s a clear distinction between burnout and depression. While burnout is more work-focused and makes you feel resentful towards your workplace or job, depression’s focus is inward.

However, it’s essential to note that people who are burnt out can still show signs of depression. They may feel that their struggles at work reflect their skills and abilities and success. This results in the loss of interest in things they used to find enjoyable.

While some signs are more evident than others, there are always hints leading to burnout. Generally speaking, look for changes in behavior. If you recognize the signs earlier on, you can take action to prevent them from spiraling any further.

Signs and symptoms of burnout

Loss of confidence. If someone is convinced that their work will always be rejected or appear more tentative than usual, it could be a sign of burnout. In some cases, this can trickle into someone’s personal life, and appear to believe that they’re incompetent, disliked, unwanted somewhere.

A change in socializing at work. A person can feel lethargic and disconnected from others around them. If someone suddenly appears exhausted more often or skips out on doing their hobbies or passions, it could be a sign of burnout. It can also be why someone becomes cynical about their work, coworkers, or position within their company.

A change in general behavior. If a person suddenly appears disinterested or unspirited at work compared to their usual demeanor, it could hint that they’re becoming disengaged, which is a characteristic of burnout.  There could be a sudden change in eating habits at home, whether eating more or less.

Emotional exhaustion. Rather than just feeling tired, burnout doesn’t go away with an extra cup of coffee or energy drinks. It’s a constant state of fatigue, leaving people feeling drained, unable to cope, and lacking the energy to get their work done. At the same time, they may have trouble sleeping due to stress, anxiety, and contempt for their jobs.

Physical illness. Burnout can manifest physically due to the increase in chronic stress. Too much exposure to chronic stress can present as frequent headaches, digestive issues, body aches, and lower immune system functioning. If someone is taking more days off than usual, it could be a sign of burnout.

What causes burnout?

Having a high-stress job doesn’t always lead to burnout. If stress is managed well, there may not be any ill effects.

According to a 2018 study, employee burnout has a few leading causes:

Unreasonable time pressure. Employees who feel like they have enough time to get their work done are 70% less likely to experience burnout. On the other hand, individuals who cannot gain more time, such as healthcare professionals like physicians, firefighters, and paramedics, have a higher risk of burnout.

There’s a lack of communication or support from a supervisor. A quality relationship between supervisor and employee can act as a buffer against chronic stress. If an employee feels supported by their superior, they are 70% less likely to experience burnout.

Lack of role clarity. According to a recent study, only 60% of workers know what’s expected of them. But when expectations are constantly changing, employees get exhausted by trying to navigate what they’re supposed to be prioritizing.

Unmanageable workload. When the workload feels overwhelming and unmanageable, even the most high-spirited, motivated employees can feel hopeless. Feeling constantly overwhelmed without a break can quickly result in burnout.

Unfair treatment. If an employee feels like they’re being mistreated at work are more than double susceptible to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment can include things like:

  • Favoritism
  • Unfair compensation
  • Mistreatment from a coworker

How to overcome burnout

Although the term “burnout” sounds like a permanent condition, it can be overcome.

There are a few ways to overcome and decrease the risk of burnout. However, regardless of the strategy you choose to utilize, you’ll know you’re on the right track if you feel more energetic, engaged, and improved performance on the job.

You can start by approaching the human resource department about issues you’re having in the workplace or talking to a supervisor about any problems that can be incredibly helpful.

In more extreme cases, a change in position or getting a new job entirely may be necessary.

Here are a few other ways you can overcome burnout:

Try to regain perspective. Take a step back. Having a large amount of responsibility combined with a heavy workload can leave you feeling defeated. If you feel yourself becoming helpless or listless, take a time out and reflect. Take stock of what your priorities are, and break things down into smaller, manageable tasks.

Learn to say ‘no.’ We often assume that people know how we’re feeling. But if you don’t say anything, your boss or colleagues won’t know you’re reaching your breaking point. Know your limits, and say no when needed. While it’s easier said than done, your future self will thank you.

Develop healthy coping strategies to stress. Self-care strategies, such as eating a healthy diet, getting quality sleep, and exercise, can help you reduce some of the effects of working a demanding, high-stress job. In addition, when your body is in a state of anxiety or stress due to burnout, your body can over-produce hormones like cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. By implementing a CBD OIl into your self-care routine, you may be able to help bring your levels back into balance.

CBD can help you:

  • Regulate appetite
  • Get better quality sleep
  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Boost your mood
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Reduce pain and inflammation

Remember to take breaks. This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Honor your brain’s natural peaks and valleys, and take breaks throughout the day. Whether you get up and stretch once an hour, get a cup of coffee, or take a few deep breaths, it is up to you. While it may seem like taking breaks isn’t a productive use of your time, you’ll find that you’ll get more done and reduce your overall stress by doing so.

Check-in with your expectations. Having unrealistic expectations of what gets done in a day can quickly get overwhelming. So if you’re feeling tired one day, allow yourself to do what you can. Pushing yourself past your limits is a recipe for burnout. Remember, nobody can do everything all at once. Not every day will be perfect—and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Reconnect with your purpose and satisfaction in what you do. If you can’t see the big picture or lose sight of why you do what you do, It’s easy to get burned out. Find your reason “why” you’re doing what you do to get excited again. If you’re having trouble identifying that in your current position, try working on something a bit different; the change of pace might be precisely what you need.

Re-establish your social connections. People need one another, so remember to put socialization back into your daily schedule by setting up plans for the weekend, going on coffee dates with friends and coworkers, or calling loved ones.

Reach out if you need additional support. If you’re experiencing or approaching burnout, don’t stay quiet. Burnout can be a lonely, isolating place, but you don’t need to go through it alone. If you’re having difficulty finding a way out or suspect that you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, seek professional treatment.


Burnout is something that all of us can experience at some point in our lives, but it can be overcome. By understanding how it occurs and understanding the signs, you can tackle problematic situations early on and take the proper steps in preventing burnout from settling in.

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