How Burnout Affects You—And How To Manage It

Don’t let work stress rule your emotional state. We spoke with mental health experts to learn all about burnout and how you can recover from it

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed and depleted from your job? You might be burnt out. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout is described as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

In 2019, the WHO even classified burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, alerting an increasing number of people to realise how work affects one’s mental well-being.

If you have an inkling that you might be experiencing burnout, this article is here to help. Here, we speak with mental health experts to learn about the effects of the syndrome and how you can successfully manage burnout for better mental health.

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How does burnout happen?

“While burnout is not uncommon, especially in the workplace , it looks different for everyone,” says psychotherapist Raven Gibbs. “The most common symptom of burnout is fatigue. For many, it becomes difficult to get out of bed and get the day started. For others, simple, everyday tasks may take longer to complete.”

“Once the symptoms of fatigue set in, work may begin to become mundane and unenjoyable which results in feeling apathetic and dissatisfied with the results of the work that has been done. Individuals may begin to question their purpose and their intention behind certain activities,” explains Gibbs.

“Burnout happens when we push ourselves beyond our limits and deplete our resources,” says Dr Kate Robinson, a London-based clinical psychologist.

“We experience a prolonged period of stress and our nervous system becomes overwhelmed. As we try harder and harder to manage the stress, [but] we often neglect our needs and don’t look after ourselves, which further exacerbates the situation,” she adds.

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Burnout symptoms to look out for

Burnout can look like a lot of things, even sharing symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to Lena Suarez-Angelino, a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey.

“I often like to describe burnout as stress’ evil older sister,” Suarez-Angelino says. “If you think about it this way, it’s usually all of the signs and symptoms of stress times ten.”

“Burnout can look similar to anxiety and depression, resulting in loss of sleep, appetite, and motivation to do things. Signs of burnout also include irritability, difficulty concentrating, anger, and isolation from others. Other symptoms also include outbursts of emotions and worries or concerns,” she explains.

How can we manage burnout?

“Untreated burnout can result in much more serious physical and mental health issues, and may possibly even lead to thoughts of suicide,” cautions Suarez-Angelino. “While the cure for burnout does not happen overnight, taking small steps that improve your day-to-day levels of stress will help tremendously.”

Tips by psychotherapist Raven Gibbs on managing burnout:

1. Create change

By making sustainable life changes and adopting new habits, you begin to welcome things that better serve you while simultaneously ridding yourself of things and people that may have contributed to the stress that you had been facing.

Ask yourself if this person, place, or thing aligns with the person that you desire to be. If the answer is not favourable, it may be the perfect time to create change in those areas.

2. Take a break

Rest is not a reward; it’s a requirement. If there is a certain situation, person, or place that has caused you to burn out, it may be time to step away for a few moments or even a few days for a vacation. Take some time for yourself to practice self-care and self-compassion.

3. Control what you can control

In the areas where you can regain control, take action to solve your problem as soon as possible. Consider all the possible solutions and take a moment to realize that you are powerful enough to solve your problems. Accept that some things will be beyond your control, and it is okay to ask for help.

4. Find support

Sometimes it's best to set your pride aside and ask for help when you need it. Open up about the issues you're facing with a close friend or relative. If that's not an option for you, seek the help of a counsellor.

“Having people that understand and support you will be the best thing that you can do to begin healing from burnout,” Suarez-Angelino says in agreement with Gibbs.

At The Executive Centre, our coworking and flexible work module helps Members meet a community of like-minded people. While it may seem far-stretched that a coworking space could help you manage your mental health, it’s not. Having a stable work environment and seeing friendly faces at work could do wonders to minimise your chances of burnout.

A better work-life equals a better life—it’s as simple as that.


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