Burnout 101

 Signs and Symptoms of Burnout:

It is not a stretch to assume that many of us, even before the pandemic, were experiencing overwhelming and pervasive stress. Now, with trying to navigate a world impacted severely by COVID-19 it can be easy to feel like balance, hopefulness and positivity are distant companions and too far out of reach. If stress is excessive and prolonged it can transform into burnout, which is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. This state zaps energy, interest, and motivation and reduces productivity substantially while increasing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, cynicism and resentfulness.


Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout:

Withdrawing from responsibilities                               Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope

Isolating self from others                                            Taking out frustrations on others

Procrastinating responsibilities                                    Skipping work, coming in late, leaving early


Physical signs and symptoms of burnout:

Feeling tired and drained most of the time                 Frequent headaches or muscle pain/tension

Lowered immunity and frequently getting sick           Noticeable changes in appetite/sleep habits


Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout:

Sense of failure and self-doubt                                   Loss of motivation

Feeling helpless, trapped, defeated                            Increasingly cynical and pessimistic

Detached (feeling alone in the world)                         Decreased satisfaction, feelings of –

accomplishment and purpose


These negative impacts end up pouring into every area of one’s life such as work, home life, and social life. Essentially, experiencing burnout feels like being all dried up of any energy, motivation, and care and concern for responsibilities. While work-related stressors are large contributors of burnout, other factors such as lifestyle (i.e., working too much; lacking opportunities for rest and socialization; lack of close, supportive relationships; taking on too many responsibilities with little to no help; lack of quality sleep) and personality traits (i.e., perfectionistic tendencies, pessimistic view of self and the world, need to be in control of self and others, high-achieving and Type A personality) play a role.


Tips for Dealing with Burnout:

It is important whether you are experiencing the creeping onset of burnout or whether you are in burnout’s grip to pause and change direction. To continue to push through the exhaustion and other symptoms will only cause further emotional and physical damage. It is possible to feel more healthy, balanced, and positive again, but it requires intentionality and prioritizing self-care.


  1. Reach out to those closest to you – find the balance between confiding with your trusted, safe people about what you are experiencing and making time to enjoy positive and enjoyable experiences with them.
  2. Limit your contact with negative people – be selective with who you spend time with as you are already feeling compromised and overwhelmed. It can be more detrimental to spend a great deal of time with people who are negative and cynical.
  3. Connect with or join a community group that is personally meaningful to you – such as religious, social, or support groups that can provide you a space to talk, feel known and cared for as well as engage with other like-minded individuals and have opportunities for enriching conversation.
  4. Take time off – recharge your battery and take an opportunity for a personal mental health day. You matter.
  5. Find balance in your life – look for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life, such as in your family, friends, hobbies, or voluntary work. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.
  6. Set boundaries – don’t overextend yourself. While it may be hard to say “no” it is necessary to start practicing and learning how to say “no” to requests on your time. This allows you to protect your time and say “yes” to commitments you want to make.
  7. Nourish your creative side – try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby that has been put on the back burner. It is helpful to choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.
  8. Set aside relaxation time – engage in relaxation techniques such as yoga, guided meditation, and deep breathing activities. These techniques activate the body’s relaxation response which mitigates the body’s stress response. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/guided-meditation
  9. Prioritize sleep – feeling tired can further impair your mental and emotional health and can exacerbate burnout by diminishing the brain’s response to alertness, attention, decision making, and cognitive processes.
  10. Prioritize movement and exercise – cardiovascular exercise (i.e., jump rope, dancing, power walking, swimming, running, cycling, rowing, etc.) has been found to increase well-being and decrease psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion. Resistance training (strength training) is noticeably effective in increasing well-being and personal accomplishment and to reduce perceived stress
  11. Be mindful of what you put in your body – diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption, nicotine can all have a huge impact on mood and energy levels throughout the day.

-Carlyn Joseph