Burnout is defined as extreme exhaustion after prolonged stress. It is something that so many people deal with, but ignore in efforts to “get the job done.” In fact, it is so common that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified burnout in their International Classification of Diseases Handbook, as an “occupational phenomenon”. WHO states that burnout is identified by three specific characteristics, 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. 

Burnout can be brought on by so many factors, but most commonly in the workplace and having no support or an outlet to relieve your stress can add to the problem at hand. Our bodies have a way of giving us red flags when we have reached our capacity limits; however in efforts to meet deadlines, quotas or the expectations of others we push ourselves to exhaustion. Simply taking a short vacation or a few days off will not address the problem, but prolong getting to the underlying issue.

It is important to recognize when you are overwhelmed so that you can take appropriate action. Burnout often happens overtime and is a gradual shift in your mental state. You may not even notice the signs and symptoms at first, but when ignored it can become worse. These signs and symptoms can help you to identify and address excessive stress to prevent a major breakdown.

Emotional signs of burnout

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation

Behavioral signs of burnout

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities like work by coming in late frequently or leaving early often to avoid task
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Procrastinating with task and taking longer to get things done in general
  • Use of food, drugs, or alcohol to help cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others

Physical signs of burnout

  • Feeling tired and drained more often than not
  • Frequently getting sick
  • Frequent headaches
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns

Knowing the different levels of burnout is important, but knowing what to do to avoid them is even more important. Here are 6 small changes you can make in your life to self correct when burnout is creeping in.

To deal with burnout, turn to other people– sometimes we need to ask for help to lighten our loads. Don’t try to carry the weight of the world on your own. What you can delegate to others do that. You get no extra points in life because you carry so much in public and fall apart in private.

Control what you can– It is important to remember to control what is in your control and let go of the rest. Focusing on things that you cannot control the outcome will only bring more stress on you.

Protect your energy- Changing your own negative thoughts, people and environments can help to boost your energy. Be intentional about where you place your energy because that may be exactly what is draining you.

Set boundaries- Make sure to set clear boundaries and do not and I repeat do not overextend yourself. Find time to relax and do not let anything interpret that time. Set boundaries in all areas of your life and stick to it.

Get plenty of sleep– You need to sleep. Your body cannot function off of no sleep and that is a fact. When you are starting to feel burned out change your sleep habits and see if that helps to improve your mood and productivity.

Exercise-Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day or break. Studies show that a 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. To maximize stress relief, instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts, focus on your body and how it feels as you move. Focusing on the sensations your body is making in movement is the practice of mindfulness.

This content is informational and educational, and it does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health professional. We encourage you to speak with your health-care provider about your individual needsor visit NAMI for more information.