Burnout: How to Avoid It. How to Know When You Are Burned Out and What to Do About It.


A high workload and deadline pressure are part of everyday management. Who doesn’t sometimes feel overwhelmed or drained? But when relentless work stress pushes you into the debilitating state we call burnout, it’s a serious problem that affects not only your own performance and well-being, both on and off the job but that of your team and your organization as well.

Hard data on the prevalence of burnout is elusive as it is not yet a clinical term separate from stress. Some researchers say that only 7% of professionals are severely affected by burnout. Others have documented rates as high as 50% in medical professionals and 85% in finance professionals. Research has also linked burnout to many negative, physical, and mental health outcomes, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety, and increased alcohol and drug use. In addition, burnout has been shown to create feelings of worthlessness and alienation, undermine the quality of relationships, and reduce long-term career prospects.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with constant demands. As the stress continues, you slowly lose the interest and motivation that drove you to take on a particular role.

Burnout reduces productivity and drains your energy, leaving you increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and angry. At some point, you may feel like you have nothing left to give.

The negative effects of burnout extend to all areas of life, including household, work, and social life. Fatigue can also cause long-term changes in your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, burnout is important to treat immediately.

Are You on the Way to Burnout?

You could be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Worrying about work or life at home seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You are exhausted all the time.
  • You spend most of your day doing tasks that you find boring or overwhelming.
  • You feel that nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

Who Will Be Burnout?

Burnout can happen to anyone who is constantly exposed to high levels of stress. Professionals such as first responders, doctors, and nurses are particularly vulnerable to this health condition.

In addition to work-related burnout, nurses can also experience this type of extreme burnout. A recent study found that just like doctors and businesspeople, moms and dads can have burn out.

Personality traits such as needing control, perfectionism, and “Type A” characters can also increase the risk of burnout.

What Are the Signs of Exhaustion?

Concerned about burnout but not sure of the signs? We’ve put together a list of symptoms for you to use as a guide.


Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. Physical symptoms may include headaches, abdominal pain, and problems eating or sleeping.


People with burnout tend to feel overwhelmed. As a result, they may stop connecting with and trusting friends, family, and co-workers.

Escaping fantasies

Dissatisfied with the never-ending demands of their work, people with burnout may have dreams of running away or going on vacations alone. In extreme cases, they may turn to drugs, alcohol, or food to numb their emotional pain.


Burnout can make it easier for people to lose their temper with friends, co-workers, and family members. Coping with normal stressors like preparing for a work meeting, taking the kids to school, and completing chores around the house can also seem insurmountable, especially when things don’t go as planned.

Common diseases

Burnout, like other long-term stresses, can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds, flu, and insomnia. Burnout can also lead to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

The Difference Between Stress and Burnout

Burnout can be the result of unrelenting stress, but it’s not the same as too much stress. Stress generally involves too much pressure that overwhelms you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that they will feel better if they get everything under control.

Burnout, on the other hand, is not enough. Being exhausted means feeling empty and mentally drained, unmotivated, and beyond worry. Those affected by burnout often see no hope of a positive change in their situation. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibility, burnout is a feeling of complete dehydration. While you’re usually aware that you’re under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Causes of Burnout

Burnout often comes from your job. Anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk of burnout, from the hard-working office worker who hasn’t had a vacation in years, to the exhausted homemaker who must take care of kids, chores, and aging parents.

Burnout isn’t just caused by a stressful job or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your free time and how you see the world can play as big a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home requires.

Causes of Work-Related Burnout

  • Feeling that you have little or no control over your work.
  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work.
  • Unclear or overly demanding work expectations.
  • Work that is monotonous or unchallenging.
  • Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment.

Causes of Burnout Lifestyle

  • Too much work without enough time to socialize or relax.
  • Lack of close relationships and support.
  • Taking on too many responsibilities without enough help from others.
  • Not getting enough sleep.

Personality Traits Can Contribute to Burnout

  • Perfectionistic tendencies: nothing is good enough
  • Pessimistic view of self and world.
  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.
  • Powerful Type A Personality.

Dealing With Burnout

Whether you see the warning signs of impending burnout or are already past your breaking point, trying to break out of burnout and move on as usual will only cause more emotional and physical damage. Now is the time to stop and change direction by learning how you can help yourself overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again.

Dealing With Burnout Requires the “Three Rs” Approach:

  • RECOGNIZE: Watch out for warning signs of burnout.
  • REVERSE: Undoes damage by seeking support and managing stress.
  • RESILIENCE: Develop your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.

Dealing With Burnout

Tip 1: Reach out to other people. When you’re exhausted, problems seem insurmountable, everything seems bleak, and it’s hard to find the energy to worry, let alone take action to help yourself. You have a lot more control over stress than you think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and bring your life back into balance. One of the most effective is reaching out to others.

Socializing is the natural antidote to stress, and talking face-to-face with a good listener is one of the quickest ways to calm the nervous system and relieve stress. The person you are talking to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors; They just must be a good listener, someone who listens carefully without being distracted or judgmental.

Tip 2: Reach out to those closest to you, such as your partner, family, and friends. If you open, you won’t be a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to trust them, and that will only strengthen your friendship. Try not to think about what is burning you out and keep the time you spend with your loved ones positive and enjoyable.

Tip 3: Be more social with your co-workers. Building friendships with the people you work with can help you avoid burnout in the workplace. For example, when you’re taking a break, try to involve your co-workers instead of focusing your attention on your smartphone or plan social events together after work.

Tip 4: Limit your contact with negative people. Hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain will only affect your mood and attitude. If you must work with a negative person, try to limit the time you spend together.

Tip 5: Connect to a cause or community group that is meaningful to you personally. Joining a religious, social, or support group can provide you with a place to talk to like-minded people about coping with daily stress and make new friends. If your work area has a professional association, you can attend meetings and connect with others who face the same professional needs.

Tip 6: Make new friends. When you feel like you have no one to turn to, it’s never too late to start making new friends and expanding your social network.

Rethink the Way You See Work

Whether you have a job that takes your breath away or one that is monotonous and unfulfilling, the most effective way to combat workplace burnout is to quit and find a job you love. Of course, for many of us changing jobs or careers is far from a practical solution, we are thankful to have a job that pays the bills. Regardless of your situation, however, there are still steps you can take to improve your state of mind.

Try to find value in your work. Even in some day-to-day jobs, you can often focus on how your role is helping others, for example, or providing a much-needed product or service. Focus on the aspects of work you enjoy, even if it’s just chatting with co-workers over lunch. Changing the way, you think about your work can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.

Find balance in your life. When you hate your job, you look for meaning and fulfilment elsewhere in your life: in your family, friends, hobbies, or volunteer work. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.

Find friends at work. Strong attachment in the workplace can help reduce monotony and counteract the effects of burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with throughout the day can help relieve the stress of a demanding or unfulfilling job, improve your job performance, or simply help you get through a tough day.

Take a break. If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use your sick days, take a temporary leave of absence, anything that gets you out of the situation. Use your free time to recharge your batteries and find other methods of relaxation.

Reconsider Your Priorities

Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to reflect on your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what truly makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Setting limits. Do not exaggerate. Learn to say “no” to requests in your time. If you’re finding it difficult, remember that saying “no” means saying “yes” to the commitments you want to make.


Being exposed to constant stress can lead to exhaustion. Feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and isolation from friends and family can be some of the signs. However, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can prevent this state of stress.

Burnout can be avoided by making self-care a part of your daily routine. Even if you work late hours, study for exams, or babysit small children, remember to spread a little joy every day.

Go for a walk, talk to a friend, or watch a funny show on TV. Small self-care gestures like these can prevent stress from turning into something more serious like burnout.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.