6 min read


Burnout can lead to many physical and mental symptoms that impact daily living and the ability to feel fulfilled. There are ways in which we can make small changes to help lower stress and create a healthier work-life balance.  


What is Burnout?

what is burnoutBurnout is excessive and prolonged mental, physical and emotional stress. It can cause feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, drained, constantly exhausted, and unable to keep up with life's constant demands. It can even trigger other mental health issues and physical health problems.

Burnout prevents a person from feeling productive, happy and fulfilled and can impact one’s home, job, and social life. Long-term burnout can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to catching illnesses like colds or the flu.

Implementing practices that help combat burnout is vital to prevent further physical and mental health symptoms and chronic burnout.


Types of Burnout

Psychologists have determined that there are three different types of burnout. Identifying which form of burnout one suffers from can help determine the most beneficial course of action when treating it.


Overload Burnout

Overload burnout is when people continue to work, putting more effort in almost to the point where it becomes frantic. Convincing themselves they are chasing success and that just working harder and harder will accomplish this. This comes at the cost of their health and personal life; a common coping mechanism is complaining.


Under-Challenged Burnout

Under-challenge burnout occurs when people don’t feel appreciated or useful. They are bored, feel like they lack opportunities, and have no passion or enjoyment for what they are involved in; they will often cope by disengaging from their job or other responsibilities, which can lead to further avoiding responsibilities, distancing themselves from their work or family, and increasing cynicism.  


Neglect Burnout

Neglect burnout stems from feeling helpless and incapable of dealing with responsibilities. Neglect burnout is similar to imposter syndrome, which makes people doubt their skills, talents and accomplishments and fear being exposed for their incapabilities. Coping mechanisms can include being passive and unmotivated.  


Causes of Burnout

causes of burnoutThough burnout is primarily considered work-related stress, other factors such as personal responsibilities, lifestyle, personality or mindset can contribute to the likelihood of experiencing burnout.

Anyone constantly giving of themselves, whether caring for family members and children or at their job, is already at risk for experiencing burnout through Human Giver Syndrome.  

Additionally, caring for physical and emotional health during spare time can impact how one copes with work and personal life stressors.


Job Burnout

The World Health Organization says burnout “....is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy.” Various situations can cause chronic workplace stress or job burnout.

Some examples include working in a chaotic, unorganized and high-pressure environment, lack of clarity of job expectations, overly demanding positions with too many tasks, feelings of little or no control over work, no recognition or praise for jobs well done, or doing work that’s repetitive and boring.


Lifestyle Causes of Burnout

Lifestyle choices can affect the ability to handle everyday stress and job stressors. Habits like working too much without taking time to rest, relax and socialize, not having or prioritizing close and supportive relationships, poor sleep habits, and not prioritizing self-care can all contribute to burnout.


Human Giver Syndrome

In the book called Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, they define something called “Human Giver Syndrome”  that affects women due to the micro-stressors that women experience existing in society as a woman. It is based on the social assumption that women should give all their time, energy and resources to help and care for others. These inequalities exist in childcare, caring for family members, and housekeeping.

The expectation that it is selfish for a woman to use her resources and time on herself creates pressure on women to be able to “do it all,” which leads to many women suffering in silence from burnout.  


Personality Traits Contributing to Burnout

Certain personality traits or mindsets can contribute to burnout. Traits like being a perfectionist who believes nothing they do is good enough, being pessimistic towards oneself or the world, needing to feel in control, an inability to delegate and assign tasks to others, and being a Type A personality that is a high-achiever.


Burnout Symptoms

symptoms of burnoutAmerican psychologist Herbert Freudenberger defines burnout as “becoming exhausted by excessive demands on energy, strength or resources.”

The symptoms of burnout can include physical symptoms and mental symptoms. Chronic stress and burnout can harm physical and mental health, affecting work, everyday tasks, health conditions, and overall well-being.

Though burnout can be a gradual process, it is crucial to understand the symptoms of burnout to implement measures to alleviate symptoms so they don’t progress into more chronic symptoms or illnesses.



Constantly feeling exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally is a huge indicator of burnout. Some people may even experience a feeling of dread, feeling low, or no matter how much they sleep, they still feel exhausted. This can impact work and the ability to function daily and manifest in physical pain and digestive and gut issues.


Social Alienation

Harboring frustration towards friends, work, colleagues or family. Being cynic, distancing and isolating socially from friends and family and feeling numb about daily activities are signs of burnout.  


Poor Mental Health

Anxiety disorders or depression are major signs of burnout. Still, less noticeable negative feelings can also indicate burnout, such as a sense of failure and self-doubt, feeling helpless, defeated or trapped, feeling alone and detached, lacking motivation, and a decreased sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.


Reduced Performance

Procrastination and reduced ability to perform daily tasks at work or home because of a lack of energy. An inability to perform daily tasks makes it even harder to be creative, concentrate and deal with responsibilities. This becomes a cyclical problem leading to more stress and burnout. If a person finds himself feeling tired to often, this can be a sign of burnout.


Frequent Illnesses

Burnout, being run down, loss of appetite, lack of sleep and exhaustion can have physical effects such as weakening the immune system. A side effect of this is the susceptibility to getting sick more often.

Burnout also puts the body under stress, which raises cortisol levels. Cortisol triggers the fight or flight response, which is good when there is an actual threat, but when constantly raised, it causes inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to worse, more dangerous diseases, metabolic conditions and illnesses.    



Burnout can also cause insomnia, where one might feel exhausted but unable to sleep. A lack of sleep harms health and mood, and the inability to sleep even when tired can be frustrating.


Diagnosis of Burnout

Diagnosing burnout is only sometimes straightforward as there is no single test for it. However, there are certain symptoms and signs that can help healthcare professionals make a diagnosis.

Typically, health care professionals use either a self-assessment questionnaire or a clinical interview to diagnose burnout. The self-assessment questionnaire is based on a set of standardized questions that assess the presence and severity of burnout symptoms.

One widely recognized tool is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) which consists of three subscales to evaluate emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. Other assessment scales include the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory and the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory. These measures assess the severity of burnout symptoms and provide valuable insights into the extent of the condition.

Apart from these standardized tools, a mental health professional also relies on a thorough medical examination, including a physical and psychological evaluation, to rule out other potential diagnoses or physiological causes of exhaustion.

Since burnout is typically related to work settings, clinicians also take into account the patient's occupational history, job demands, work environment, and job-related stressors.


Dealing with Burnout

Burnout prevention is crucial to help deal with and manage the symptoms of burnout. Many small practices can be implemented, though they take conscious implementation.



If the environment, whether at work or home, is causing burnout, have a conversation with someone who can provide support to help figure out how to create a healthier environment with more boundaries to protect mental and physical health.

Even being able to talk about burnout and stressors with a safe person can profoundly affect the nervous system and relieve stress.

Engaging with co-workers, reaching out to a community group, hanging out with friends and prioritizing spending time around positive people are other ways that help heal from burnout.  



Consult a mental health or health care professional for more specialized coping strategies. If burnout manifests more physically in an illness, pain, or mental health challenges, reaching out to qualified professionals is important.  



Sleep has a profound effect on mental health and physical health. Lack of sleep has impacts on mood, motivation, and memory. It is crucial to prioritize getting enough sleep.


Relaxing Activities

Relaxing activities have benefits for well-being. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, being creative, and spending time in nature all have the positive benefits of relieving stress and allowing the body to release tension.

It is also important to do activities that bring joy. This allows the body to exist in a state of relaxation and feel more motivated when returning to daily responsibilities.  



Meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing can help identify certain feelings and work through feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Breathing is a powerful tool that can help people to cope with burnout symptoms.



A minimum of 30 minutes a day or moderate to strenuous exercise has positive benefits on mental and physical health, which combats burnout symptoms and helps with sleep, focus and motivation.


Healthy Diet

Changes to diet can have an impact on energy levels and mood. Minimizing refined sugar consumption, eating more omega-3 fatty acid foods such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and limiting alcohol intake will positively impact mental and physical health. Some people may benefit from implementing supplements and adaptogens to focus on stress relief, such as magnesium glycinate, ashwagandha and lions mane.

Burnout is a complex issue that might take time to develop and notice but has dire and long-lasting consequences. Though removing stress exposure is impossible, it is important to be aware of the different types of burnout and the symptoms of burnout to reduce its impact on life satisfaction.  


Burnout: Symptoms and Signs 

Burnout Prevention and Treatment - HelpGuide.org 

3 Types of Burnout, According to Psychologists (and Signs You're Headed For Trouble) | Inc.com 

I’m not good enough – How patriarchy blindness contributes to burnout in women 

Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases 

The 7 Scary Health Effects of Burnout and What to Do About It

Burnout Research  

Occupational burnout - Wikipedia 


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