What is Work Burnout?

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What is Work Burnout?

Skye Kalil

Written by Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.

Kyshia Williams

Reviewed by Kyshia Williams

September 29, 2021 / Read Time 6 minutes

Everyone feels stress sometimes, but work burnout is a state of exhaustion emotionally, physically, and mentally, caused by excessive stress. When you have work burnout, you feel a reduced sense of accomplishment, lose interest and motivation, and may feel a loss of personal identity. 

Work burnout can not only affect your work, but other areas of your life, including your home life, social life, and relationships. It can make your body vulnerable to illnesses like the cold and flu. 

Work burnout is not a medical diagnosis, and is relatively new, so experts are still researching if burnout is a singular event, or caused by other conditions such as depression, or influenced by individual factors, like personality traits and family life.

Work burnout is a genuine condition and can affect your physical and mental health. Getting treatment as early as possible as soon as you recognize signs and symptoms is imperative. 

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Different Kinds of Burnout 

There are different kinds of work burnout that have varying causes and symptoms. Burnout commonly occurs from your job, but it can come from any place in your life where you are feeling overworked and undervalued. 

Here are some of the most common kinds of burnout:

  • COVID Work Burnout: This can be caused by COVID leading you to work at home and feel isolated, leading to burnout. It could also be from the additional anxiety that living through a pandemic has introduced into our lives. 

  • Work From Home Burnout: Changing your everyday life from going into an office and socializing with coworkers and clients, to staying at home all day every day can drastically shift someone's mental state. Working at home can lead to working more hours, blending the lines between work and life. Working from home has drastically shifted how people experience work and can easily lead to burnout. 

  • Working Parent Burnout: A working parent is very familiar with the feeling of being overworked and underappreciated. Balancing work life and family life can be a very difficult challenge. Getting home after working all day just to do more work at home like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children is a perfect recipe for burnout. 

Signs of Work Burnout

There can be many signs of work burnout. We have broken them down into physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. According to Help Guide, here are the signs of burnout: 

Physical signs:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time

  • Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses

  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain

  • Change in appetite or sleep habits

Emotional Signs:

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt

  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated

  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world

  • Loss of motivation

  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook

  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioral signs: 

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities

  • Isolating yourself from others

  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done

  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope

  • Taking out your frustrations on others

  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Work Burnout Symptoms

Some questions to ask yourself that may illuminate if you are feeling work burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic, are: 

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?

  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?

  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?

  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?

  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?

  • Have your sleep habits changed?

  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Work Burnout Causes

There can be many causes that can lead to burnout that vary from person to person. Some different reasons can be work-related, lifestyle, or personality traits. Here are some of the most common causes of burnout, according to Help Guide: 

Work-related causes of burnout:

  • Feeling like you have little or no control over your work

  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work

  • Unclear or overly demanding job expectations

  • Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging

  • Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment

Lifestyle causes of burnout:

  • Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing

  • Lack of close, supportive relationships

  • Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others

  • Not getting enough sleep

Personality traits that can contribute to burnout:

  • Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough

  • Pessimistic view of yourself and the world

  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others

  • High-achieving, Type A personality

How to Avoid Work Burnout

While experiencing work burnout, it can feel insurmountable, but there are things you can do to avoid work burnout! Let's talk about how to deal with work burnout before it gets to a place that is too challenging. It is crucial to tackle work burnout as soon as you recognize any signs or symptoms. As time goes on, it gets more and more difficult to deal with, so addressing the issues early is the best thing that you can do. 

The three R approach can be helpful when trying to deal with burnout. The three Rs are: 

  • Recognize: be aware of the symptoms and looking out for warning signs of burnout. 

  • Reverse: take steps to undo the damage that burnout has done by managing your stress, and creating a support system.

  • Resilience: take care of your physical and emotional health by taking action to prevent burnout from occurring again and regain your energy, focus, and sense of well-being.

Work Burnout Treatment

Treatment for burnout is all about your choices and actively putting fuel in your tank in the way that works the best for you. Here is a list of some things you can do to treat burnout. 

  • Evaluate your options: Once you realize that you are experiencing burnout, talk to your manager or supervisor about how you are feeling. Maybe you can work together to make some changes in your everyday work or reach some kind of compromise.

  • Keep a healthy pace: Get into a flow of work that works for you. Take periodic breaks, and set boundaries. Take time to nourish your creative side. Take breaks from electronic devices. 

  • Reframe the way you look at work: Try to find some value in your work. And make sure there is some balance in your life. This could include making friends at work or taking time off. 

  • Seek support: Turn to people in your life who support you. This can be friends, family, or even co-workers. Feeling the encouragement of people around you can help you cope and feel connected to those around you. 

  • Try a relaxing activity: Explore activities that can help with stress, such as yoga, meditation, or being in nature. 

  • Get some exercise: Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.

  • Eat a healthy diet: Minimize sugar and refined carbs. Reduce your high intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, unhealthy fats, and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones. Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost. Avoid nicotine. Drink alcohol in moderation.

  • Get some sleep. Sleep is crucial for your brain to reset, and restores well-being as well as helps to protect your health.

  • Increase mindfulness: Mindfulness is the act of focusing on centering your mind and body. You can focus on your breath flow, be aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

  • Be yourself: Do what you can to reduce the strain of having to project some image that is not authentic.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Therapy for Work Burnout

Treating work burnout with therapy can be an extremely effective tool in overcoming the feelings of being burnt out. Talking to a licensed professional about how you are feeling can be freeing, and they can give you specific personalized recommendations and coping mechanisms. 

PlushCare now offers online therapy. PlushCare’s online therapists make getting mental health treatment easy and accessible. Your therapist will meet with you virtually through a live video feed on your computer or phone. 

Read More About Work Burnout


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