What is Burnout and How Do You Fix It?

Do you feel like your mind takes a vacation every time you try to think? Or are you taking longer to complete an assignment you used to take a shorter time? Most are the times we wake up and drag to the bathroom ready or not to face the day. Without realizing it, we exceedingly burnout our bodies in the name of a better future.

After all, we feel we’re solving a solution we took several years to study about, a few months in placement, and other few months’ job hunting. So when you finally get that job, you give all your efforts, including the time you’re supposed to sleep. We work twice as much to cater to all our needs while our minds and bodies pay the price. One study shows that between 23% and 50% of workers have undergone or are currently under burnout. Clearly, burnout is an issue in our societies. It exhausts us, steals our joy, and leaves us to repeat the same routines.

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What Is Burn Out?

According to Herbert Freudenberger, burn out is when your motivation to do something dwindles and your efforts towards something fails to generate the desired results. When you start feeling exhausted, unable to complete a task you once loved, hating your job, it means you’re heading to or are already burnt out. This state affects you emotionally, physically, and mentally. It reduces your productivity, and you start feeling like you can’t take it anymore. Your new life is now filled with resentment, hopelessness, helplessness, and scorn.

Regrettably, burn out spills over to other areas of your life, affecting your relationship with people at home and at the workplace. It also affects your health, thereby you become more vulnerable to illnesses.

Because of these aftermaths, it’s essential you deal with burnout, soon.

What’re the Differences between Stress and Burnout?

Where does the line separating stress and burn out apply?  Stress can increase burn out, but by no means is stress considered burnout. When a person is stressed over a situation, they often feel that everything will get back on track if they get the situation under control. Stress is when too much pressure is exacted on you, demanding your physical and mental engagement.

Burnout, on the other hand, you feel out of control and you can’t solve a problem. You feel unappreciated, empty, unmotivated, and mentally exhausted. You fail to see anything positive in your life.

Ideally, stress feels like drowning, while burnout feels like you’re already dead. It’s also easy to notice when you’re stressed contrary to when you’re burnt out.

According to Dr Sharmila Dissanaike, stress is when a person turns out looking crazy and frazzled while burnout is when a person fails to turn out.


·         shortfall of energy

·         results in anxiety disorder

·         may result in premature death

·         may lead to physical damage

·         your emotions heighten

·         you become hyperactive

·         you become over engaged

Burn out

·         you lose hope, motivation, and ideals

·         you become detached and depressed

·         makes you see life as worthless

·         emotional damages

·         blunt emotions

·         bring about hopelessness and helplessness

·         disengaged

What are the types of burn out?

When we talk of burnout, we mostly refer to professional weariness as it mainly stems from the workplace. Look at it this way, if you’ve worked in an office for several years without taking a vacation, your body and mind tire. When you also overwork and are under-appreciated, you risk burnout. But, weariness also applies to stay at home mums who tend to their kids and handle other responsibilities in the family. This means burnout does not only come from overworking or having too many responsibilities but also from personal traits and lifestyle.

According to Dr. Maslach, burn out can be classified into three categories including;

·         Organizational burnout that results from poor organization, extreme and unrealistic demands that make you feel unaccomplished, and that your job is on a hanging line.

·         Individual burnout is when you put high standards for yourself, and when you fail to accomplish your goal, you feel not good enough. You expose yourself to self-negative talks and want to practice perfectionism.

·         Interpersonal burnout is initiated by challenging relationships with workmates, unwelcoming bosses, or any other person. These relationships may compound the stress you have into a burnout.

What Are the Five Stages of Burnout?

 Here are some of the stages through burnout:

a)  Honeymoon

When you take a new job, you commit to it and record impressive results. At this point, you might expect stress as it comes with a new job if you don’t utilize positive coping strategies; the burnout stage moves to the next phase.

b)  Stress takes over

The second stage is when you start feeling stressed and less optimistic on some days than others. Stress leads to physical, mental, and emotional distress.

c)   Chronic stress

At this stage, stress becomes visible, and symptoms are more prominent than those in phase two.

d)  Burnout kicks in

Continuing with your life at this stage becomes complicated, and you’re generally weary. The symptoms are critical, and your work performance drops.

e)  Habitual burnout

The final stage is where burnout is embedded in you, and you begin to experience physical and emotional problems. Symptoms include:

·         burnout syndrome

·         chronic mental and physical fatigue

·         sadness and in worst cases depression

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Burnout?

Burnout leads to some parts of your body physically wearing out. For these cells and organs to recover, it takes time, whereas the brain takes the longest to recover. According to Science Direct, for example, one patient took more than one year and a half to recover. Recovery from burnout varies from person to person, depending on how long you have been burned out. The time could vary from several months to a few years.

What does it feel like to be burned out?

Though stress is inevitable at the workplace, ignoring stressors, brings you closer to getting burnt out. Pay attention to the following and avoid falling to the deepest part of burnout.

1)  You lose interest in your work

One of the first signs you notice your burnout is a lack of raving in the things you’re doing. When you get tired of a task, you switch to a more exciting job until you feel energized to tackle the least exciting. But when you lack impassion to do your favourite job and after doing it you feel depleted, it’s a sign you’re weary. In worst cases, the lack of interest spills over to other parts of your life, making you lose interest even in life after work.

Simply put, if you’re struggling to enjoy something you used to do, that is a red flag of weariness.

2)  You stop putting in the effort

It starts with you, putting all your efforts to achieve and exceed company goals. You even deliver quality work hours before the deadline. But, when burnout starts creeping in, you work to get by. You stop adding efforts and fail to go all the way to improve your results. You just don’t care.

This sign is common among high achievers such that when they stop putting efforts, the results are visible.

3)  Feel physically and emotionally exhausted

Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter explains in Psychology Today that burnout is a chronic state that leads to physical and emotional distress. She explains that early signs include feeling tired and lack of energy, which graduate to physical and emotional exhaustion and depletion. Do you experience anxiety about what lies ahead? Well, you could be tiptoeing into burnout.

Here are a few questions to help you determine whether on the route to burnout:

a)      Do you wake up tired even after sleeping early?

b)      Are you taking longer to prepare for work?

c)       Are you dreading what lies ahead?

d)      Do small tasks feel like they are taking more energy than you can afford?

4)  Cognitive problems

Ideally, you’re supposed to concentrate and pay attention for long. But when we’re stressed, our attention narrows to negative things that seem like a threat. In a way, this is a good thing as it helps us solve the problem. According to Dr. Ballard, people’s minds and bodies are designed to solve the problem in small bursts and return to normal.

When the stress is chronic, the narrow focus becomes the new norm, and you’re unable to return to normal functioning or paying attention to other things. You become obsessed with a problem. This results in you failing to make decisions and deprives your ability to solve problems.

5)  Experiencing detach and cynicism

You can’t love your work every day.


When the feeling of detachment and cynicism are frequently with you may be suffering from burn out if you’re looking for ways to escape your job even when you’re out with your friends, that’s a red flag. The sign may appear as trusting your coworkers and friends less, feeling uninterested and disconnected to a place or people.

6)  Feeling ineffective in all you do

Another sign you should be wary of is feeling ineffective. Self-worth is vital. When you start feeling your work doesn’t matter, lack a meaningful goal tied to the task you’re doing, overwhelmed with responsibility, it’s a sign.

 Completing a milestone is a great motivator, and it drives you to take another project. However, when you feel burnt out, you lack motivation, produce unattractive results, anger, and feel hopeless.

7)  Physical ailment

Burnout symptoms are not consistent for everyone. However, the following are physical ailment discovered from people with burnout:

·         dizziness

·         chest pain

·         headache

·         gastrointestinal pain

·         short breaths

·         insomnia

·         more illness than before

·         heart palpitations

These signs could be as a result of other illnesses, but when they exist alongside the above symptoms, you could be heading to burn out state.

8)  Less self-care

Weariness could prevent you from taking care of yourself. You turn to junk for dinner, or you fail to eat. You also lack sleep, which then results in use of sleeping pills. You start taking coffee more than usual to summon the energy to complete a task. Additionally, you look for alcohol to de-stress yourself.

Typically, you adapt to unhealthy coping strategies.

How Do You Fix Burnout?

How do you turn a situation from burnout to having more control? First, you have to remember that burn out doesn’t occur in one night. You, therefore, can’t get from it overnight. It’s a process you have to be patient about; otherwise, you risk becoming anxious, and it doesn’t help but make the situation worse.

In this case, you need to use three approaches:

ü  recognize

ü  reverse

ü  and resilience

1.   Find and recognize your stressors

The science director of Stanford center for compassion and altruism research and education- Emma Seppala- our bodies are not meant to be in high-stress mode all the time. She notes that most are the times we assume being productive means being on the go mode.

The truth is, being busy doesn’t mean we’re doing the right thing. On the contrary, it pushes you to the edge of becoming burned out. So whenever you feel being pulled towards business, take a step back and identify the stressors. Here are some tips:

·         Unrealistic deadlines

·         Interpersonal demands

·         Dealing with a new thing at work(software, tools)

While these things are part of your life, they may lead to burning out. Pay attention to the daily thing you do and identify the ones that affect your emotions. If, for example, you have an unrealistic deadline, you need to talk to your supervisor and discuss how to deliver your workload. Create a time block schedule where you delegate specific hours to work and other must-rest hours. This way, you give yourself time to rest and focus on work when you get from break.

2.   Audit your time

A time audit is understanding what time you do what and aligning it. It’s a three steps process where you begin with

   i.            Writing your intention for the day or month

   ii.            Collecting data on how you spend time

  iii.            And find out how to align the above two

If you plan to write 20 blogs in a month, find clients, and link with friends, schedule these tasks. Use a tool such as RescueTime to collect data on how you spend time in that month. The software gives you a summary of how much time you spent writing, finding clients, and friends. You can then use the information to set goals that realize your intention for the month.

3.   See whether your priorities are valid, realistic and connected to bigger goals

Not everything deserves your attention. Stop saying yes to everything asked of you. If you feel your calendar is getting jammed up, take a step back and focus on the only thing that deserves your attention. Ask yourself:

Realistic: can I do this? Do I have enough time to research and deliver within the deadline?

Valid: should I be working on this, or is it wasting my time?

Connection to long term goals: if I complete this task, will it bring me closer to long time goals?

4.   Leave work at the workplace

Stop carrying your workload to your home. Signify you’re leaving work and give yourself time to unwind the day’s tiredness. Take a glass of wine and watch a movie. Prepare a nice dinner, and don’t think about a task you failed to do. Carrying your work to your home is a way of compounding the stressor to burnout.

5.   How are you progressing?

Instead of dwelling on achieving a goal, look how far you’ve come. If you want to audit your company finances, look at the segment you’ve accomplished at the end of the day and stop dwelling on failing to complete the whole audit. Measure the value you put onto something instead of focusing on ticking your checklist.

6.   Delegate time for self-care

When was the last time you went swimming or read from your favorite author? Do you even know he/she has a new book?

For you to recover from burnout, you need to take care of yourself. How? Take enough sleep, read a book, and enjoy your hobby.

During workdays:

·         focus of breathing techniques to calm your parasympathetic nervous system

·         Take breaks in between intensive work

·         Spend your evening on a hobby to help you distress, and disconnect from work

Take a vacation even if it’s on the weekend and take a trip to rejuvenate. Take a yoga and meditation package and escape your everyday routine. If your company requires you to team-build, consider taking a rejuvenating retreat. (we can change this link)

7.   Seek support

Dr. Maslach found that people’s health, well-being, and everything regarding a human is better when they are connected with other people. It’s, therefore, essential to seek a support network to help you through your burnout recovery. While at it, ensure the type of people you seek help from understand your situation and listen to you attentively. They might not necessarily help you distress, but having someone to talk to will help you combat cynicism of burnout.