Signs of Burnout and When to Get Help

Burnout is a serious issue which the World Health Organization (WHO) now recognizes as a legitimate

medical condition.   While it’s normal to feel very  tired or stressed occasionally due to work, burnout is much more serious and should be recognized and treated as soon as possible. Below are the most common symptoms:

Exhaustion  —  feeling tired occasionally is perfectly normal, especially during busy or challenging times at work.  However, feeling tired all the time or most days is not normal and may progress to feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.  If you feel completely depleted and dread the thought of work, you may be experiencing burnout.

Insomnia —  many of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but frequent difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep is a sign of trouble. Insomnia can be very difficult to overcome. Sleeping pills may not be the answer and it’s important you do not come to rely on them to get the sleep you need.

Fuzzy thinking  — what starts as difficulty focussing may evolve into being so unable to concentrate that you have trouble making even simple decisions,  determining priorities and completing tasks.

Physical symptoms — the mind and the body are inextricably linked and so it’s no surprise that burnout can make you feel physically unwell.   A tight chest, heart palpitations, headaches, and stomach upsets are the usual culprits. Speak to your doctor if any of these symptoms persist or are severe.

Loss of appetite — missing a few meals on occasion can happen to any of us, but forgetting to eat or becoming uninterested in food is a sure sign of burnout.  A lack of good nutrition only adds to the physical aspects of burnout so it’s important to address unintentional weight loss and take steps to maintain a healthy weight.

More frequent illnesses — when your body is exhausted and especially if you are also not eating or sleeping properly, your immune system is weakened.  You may find you are more prone to colds and flu and even other more serious illnesses.

Depression — this is a very common symptom of burnout and can vary in degree from feeling sad to feeling overwhelmingly depressed, worthless and hopeless.   Depression is a serious mental health concern and you should seek professional help to feel better.

Anxiety — while we all feel anxious on occasion, chronic anxiety is a symptom of burnout which can cause us to feel edgy and tense and unable to cope with things that normally we’d have no difficulty with at work.

Anger —  at the early stages of burnout, you may find yourself irritable and that interpersonal relationships become tense. Later,  angry outbursts and serious arguments can occur, and not just at work. This can destroy relationships and careers and must be addressed.  A professional counsellor can provide assistance.

Loss of enjoyment — this can start out with not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave, but it can extend into other areas of your life. Without intervention, you may find you don’t enjoy the things or people that once made you happy and fulfilled.

Pessimism — this can start with negative thoughts including negative “self-talk”  but can progress to trust issues with those around you. Eventually, you may feel that you cannot depend on anyone.

Detachment — feeling disconnected from others or your environment is a sure sign of burnout. Detachment involves removing yourself physically and/or emotionall from your job or other obligations and can result in calling in sick, not returning calls or coming in late to work.

If you are experiencing burnout, or feel you are at risk of burnout, it’s important to act quickly.  Professional help is available to treat this common issue and get you back on track.