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Experiencing and Dealing with Burnout

The feeling of overwhelming exhaustion, coupled with daunting daily tasks and a lack of motivation -  creating a sense of disconnection from various aspects of your life.

These are common experiences of burnout. Burnout can feel like a deep, persistent sense of exhaustion and a loss of enthusiasm for things that used to bring you joy or fulfillment. It is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress and overwork. It can lead to feelings of disillusionment, lethargy, and a lack of motivation (NIH, 2020).

Types of burnout:

Burnout can manifest itself in many ways and can have a significant impact on a person's overall well-being and quality of life. There are three major types of burnout:

• Emotional burnout: This type of burnout is characterized by feelings of emotional exhaustion, detachment, and cynicism. People who experience emotional burnout often feel overwhelmed, drained, and unable to manage their emotions (Mutiwasekwa, 2019).

• Physical burnout: Physical burnout is characterized by fatigue, lack of energy, and physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal problems. Prolonged physical burnout can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness.

• Mental burnout: Mental burnout is associated with cognitive difficulties such as brain fog, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. Individuals experiencing mental burnout may also feel a sense of hopelessness, pessimism, and loss of creativity (WebMD, 2024).

What sets burnout apart from stress and depression:

Although they can coexist, it's important to note that burnout distinguishes itself from stress and depression. While stress is a natural response to a challenging or threatening situation, burnout is a chronic state of stress, characterized by excessive emotional, physical, and/or mental exhaustion over an extended period that hasn’t been effectively managed, resulting in a sense of emotional numbness, reduced motivation, or diminished caring.  Stress can make you feel overwhelmed, but burnout leaves you feeling exhausted and depleted (Ciampi, 2019).

Burnout often resembles depression, but there’s a crucial distinction: burnout can often be eased with rest or time off, whereas depression, being a clinical condition, typically requires therapy or medication. Burnout tends to be associated with a specific area of life, like work, caregiving, or other demanding activities, whereas depression entails persistent feelings of sadness and loss across all aspects of one's life (Schonfeld et al., 2018).

What causes burnout?

There are several factors that may contribute to experiencing burnout (Saunders, 2019). Common causes include:

• Excessive workload: Being constantly overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities

• Lack of control: Feeling like you have little control over your work or personal life

• High expectations: Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or feeling pressure to perform at a certain level

• Lack of support: Not having a strong support system or feeling isolated can make it more difficult to cope with stress and prevent burnout

Burnout related to work:

It has been found that burnout is often related to factors in one's work environment. This may include being overwhelmed by high performance expectations and making personal sacrifices for the sake of one’s job. Additionally, a toxic work environment can negatively impact your well-being. On a more personal level, burnout may arise from feeling disconnected from the work one does, especially if daily tasks and routines differ significantly from one’s expectations. A values mismatch, where one’s work doesn't align with personal beliefs, can also contribute to burnout. Furthermore, burnout may be a sign for having outgrown the current role,feeling underutilized or in the right position. Symptoms of restlessness, lack of challenge, or disengagement may indicate readiness for a new career opportunity.

There may be many reasons for experiencing work-related burnout. It's important to ask oneself what  it may signify and what changes need to be addressed (Wiens, 2024).

How to deal with burnout:

The first step towards recovery is acknowledging that you’re experiencing  burnout -  recognizing the struggle and its source. Paying attention to how you spend your time, assessing your feelings during activities, and evaluating their value  to your well-being can help identify tasks, people  or situations that negatively affect your mental health. By reorganizing your daily schedule to prioritize energizing activities and incorporating breaks in your daily routine you can replenish your physical,emotional and cognitive resources. Maintaining good sleep habits, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, social interactions, and engaging in fulfilling activities are essential for restoring vitality.

Setting boundaries is crucial. Boundaries are your personal guidelines for how you wish to be treated and the limits you set to safeguard your time, energy, and emotional well-being. Learn to say "no" prevents additional stressors from worsening burnout, allowing time and space for rest, recharge, and recovery.

It's also helpful to get support. This may include talking about your feelings and experiences with friends, family, or a therapist to help in processing and coping with stress. Delegating responsibilities and asking for help when necessary helps prevent overwhelm.

Ultimately, recognizing the signs of burnout and taking steps to manage it is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being and preventing long-term consequences. By implementing healthy coping strategies and seeking support as needed, you can effectively manage burnout and enhance your quality of life.


Ciampi, R. C. (2019, December 6). Stress and Burnout | Psychology Today. Psychology Today.

Mutiwasekwa. (2019, August 13). How to Deal With Emotional Burnout | Psychology Today.

NIH. (2020). Depression: Learn More – What is burnout? In National Library of Medicine. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

WebMD. (2024, March 5). Burnout: Symptoms and Signs. WebMD.

Saunders, E. G. (2019, July 5). 6 Causes of Burnout, and How to Avoid Them. Harvard Business Review.

Schonfeld, I. S., Bianchi, R., & Palazzi, S. (2018). What is the difference between depression and burnout? An ongoing debate. Rivista Di Psichiatria, 53(4), 218–219.

Wiens, K. (2024, January 16). Your Burnout Is Trying to Tell You Something. Harvard Business Review.

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