How to Spot Burnout and What to Do About It

How to Spot Burnout and What to Do About It

The past year and a half has been a trying time. There’s no denying that. If you’ve come to this point and you’re feeling a little fried; burnt out even, that is more than understandable.

Spending months at a time with your stress levels hitting maximum levels will take a toll on your mind and your body. And even without a global pandemic to contest with, life can be challenging as hell.

But for all this talk about burnout, how well do we really understand it? What is it? How can you tell if you’re experiencing it? And how do you avoid that nasty piece of work?

Let’s get into it, shall we?

First of all, what does ‘burnout’ entail?

According to, the term “burnout” was coined back in the 1970s. It was created by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger who used it to describe “the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in ‘helping’ professions” – this would include doctors and nurses, for example.

Informed Health shares that nowadays, burnout is used to describe anyone feeling exhaustion to a point where they are “unable to cope”.

“Possible causes include feeling either permanently overworked or under-challenged, being under time pressure, or having conflicts with colleagues. Extreme commitment that results in people neglecting their own needs may also be at the root of it,” they write.

What are the effects of the experience?

Headspace shares that there are loads of physical signs you may be experiencing burnout. The mindfulness resource lists symptoms like “exhaustion, insomnia, and elevated stress hormones”. According to Informed Health, “alienation from (work-related activities)” and “reduced performance” are also key signs of burnout.

While, on their own, some of these symptoms can seem fairly manageable, Headspace stresses that they can lead to decreased immunity and other serious health conditions like heart disease.

What are the key signs of burnout?

This is an interesting one. If you ask me, I’d suggest speaking to a mental health professional or your doctor if you’re concerned you may be experiencing burnout. If you’re worried about it, it’s always worth seeking support.

However, Informed Health does state that there are questionnaires like the “Maslach Burnout Inventory” that attempt to recognise burnout. These are not used by doctors, however.

There is also no official definition for burnout, so diagnosis can be tricky. Some of the symptoms are similar to those experienced with depression or chronic fatigue (and more conditions). For this reason, it’s best to speak with a medical professional about how you’re feeling.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health, finances, mindset and sense of security can’t be underestimated. And while extended lockdowns are necessary, there’s no denying the impact on our mental health can be significant.

For that reason, it’s important to understand that there is always support available and as Headspace writes: “Beware: taking on burnout solo is flirting with disaster”.

Please do not ignore the signs of burnout.

What can you do to help?

There are loads of ways you can give yourself a mental and physical break. As Shape writes, practices like mediation; “gentle movement” like yoga or stretching; speaking with someone (a psychologist or loved one); stepping outside to recharge, and taking some time alone in silence are all particularly helpful.

It’s important that especially now, we work to separate home and work life. Take regular breaks (enjoy your lunch!) Go for walks. Stop for a breather. You deserve a rest; be sure to allow yourself that.

If you or a loved one is in need of support, help is always available. Call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

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