From Burnout to Balance: What is burnout & how can you prevent it?

“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 meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”

I first experienced burnout many years ago when working through university. At the time I thought it was nothing more than stress, however, it’s only now that I realize just what I was putting myself through. I persevered until it became impossible. What I ended up with was a severe relapse followed by a breakdown that would change the course of my entire life.

Burnout has since become a common buzzword. Everyone I know and their dog has experienced it in some way, shape or form. But what exactly is it, why are so many falling victim and how can we work to prevent it?


What is burnout & how do I recognise it?

Burnout is a state of complete emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. It’s the point of exhaustion where you and your entire being simply can’t continue. At least not in the way you have been. 

It’s commonly seen in those who are exposed to constant stress, be it from a job, in school or general life. Therefore burnout is the unwanted product of chronic stress. The recovery period can be long and complex, many choosing to seek therapy. While it can be a temporary condition, if left unaddressed it can be potentially serious and leave behind chronic health issues. 

Sixteen Common Warning Signs of Burnout.

Here are just a few common symptoms. Please note this is not an exhaustive list and, like many things, symptoms may manifest differently. You might see a bit of yourself in all of these, or only a few.

Physical Symptoms of burnout.

  • Are you tired and feel drained of energy? 
  • Are you constantly sick? I.e Suffering from colds, stomach bugs?
  • Do you get frequent headaches or muscle pain for no apparent reason?
  • Experiencing a change in appetite or sleep habits?

Emotional Symptoms of burnout.

  • Do you feel a sense of failure and self-doubt?
  • Are you feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated?
  • Do you have a sense of detachment or feeling alone?
  • Are you experiencing a loss of motivation?
  • Are you increasingly cynical and negative?
  • Do you have decreased satisfaction and have a hard time appreciating your accomplishments?

Behavioural Symptoms of burnout.

  • Are you withdrawing from responsibilities?
  • Are you isolating yourself from others?
  • Do you procrastinate, taking longer to get things done?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope?
  • Do you take out your frustrations on others?
  • Are you skipping work or having other related attendance problems?

If you feel like any of these resonate with you, perhaps it’s time to think about the next steps?


How To Fight Back Against Burnout.

Recognize and acknowledge that you have a problem.

The first step to overcoming any issue is to first accept that it’s a problem. Only then can you work towards moving past it. If you’re not sure if burnout applies to you, ask yourself the above questions again. Write them in a journal or a notebook, and be entirely honest with yourself. While you might not want to hear the answer, it’s going to hit you sooner or later. 

Prioritise your self-care.

Self-care is paramount if you want to break out of the burnout cycle. Make sure you are covering the bare basics of personal care first and foremost. Are you eating right? Drinking plenty of water? Sleeping and getting enough rest? What about basic exercise like a walk around the block? 

Once you have the basics then you can work on adding other small pieces to your self-care, such as creative hobbies or other things you enjoy.  

If you’re suffering from burnout it’s likely that you’ve exercised a ‘self-care is selfish’ attitude for the majority of your life. It’s time to throw that assumption out the window and start seeing self-care as a gas tank that needs filled. Your car can’t run on fumes, and nor can you.

Set boundaries.

Learn to say the word ‘no in work, your personal life and pretty much anywhere it applies. Delegate tasks that absolutely need done and set realistic goals for everything else. Above all else, stop loaning yourself to others who wouldn’t lead themselves to you.

Seek support, both personal and professional.

Seriously, you need to ask for help.  I know it can feel awkward, but it’s an essential part of burnout recovery. In fact, it’s an essential part of life! Society tells us that we need to be able to do it all. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps!  But keep in mind, your bootstraps are currently on fire, so it’s time to call in re-enforcements! 

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn to do is ask for help when I need it. On more than one occasion I’ve had to pull on my big girl pants and say those three little words to my husband, my boss, and a doctor. Each time I was met with a different response, but they were all in my favour. 

You may not always be met with the same compassion and grace I was, but that shouldn’t deter you.

Take regular breaks.

Allow yourself to take breaks both throughout the day, and throughout life in general. You’re allowed to take a day off. If that means turning your phone off and delegating, then so be it. I used to have a manager that, even during annual leave, would answer emails and phone calls. He once took a vacation to Spain and still picked up his phone! How crazy is that? If we can’t get away from our work, how do we ever expect to switch off!?

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Know your triggers.

Do you know why stresses you out? Why? It’s important to understand why you might be feeling this way so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent reduce or prevent it. For example, my stressors came from several different locations, the most pressing of which being my work life. I spent all my time at work both mentally and physically. When things started to go wrong at home, it only added to my already wilting shoulders.

And, eventually, like a weathered bridge, I crumbled.

Take the time to sit down and look at your life and the avenues within it. Is your workplace toxic, or does it require you to be switched on all the time? What about life at home, do you get enough help with daily chores, bills or childcare?

Find management techniques that work for you.

Be sure to find the things that help you unwind and incorporate them into your daily routine. Here are some ideas.

  • Make time in your calendar for hobbies and the things you enjoy.
  • Try keeping a journal or writing.
  • Get creative and take up creative hobbies such as painting.
  • Disconnect from your phone. Set aside a for you to completely disconnect from screens each day, and stick to it.
  • Set aside time on your calendar to ‘check in.’ This could be weekly or bi-monthly. Are all prescriptions up to date? What about any upcoming appointments? And, most importantly, how are you feeling?
  • Take time to exercise, even if it’s just a walk in the fresh air.
  • Have you tried deep breathing? I used breathing techniques everyday in some capacity. In work, when I feel angry or overwhelmed, I try to take myself off to the store room or toilet to take some deep, meaningful breaths. It’s not fool proof, sometimes there’s no coming back from a bad day. But taking the time to breathe and check in can help center me enough that I don’t go into ‘meltdown.’
  • Reach out to a friend or family member for support. Even if it’s just to vent about what’s currently going on in life. Recently I reached out to a friend to talk about my work addiction. Yes, it was embarrassing because I had let it get this far. Now, after my three AM breakdown, I’m in a cleared position to be able to tackle my issues with work both in my day job and the work I do from home.

These are just some of my own personal stress management techniques. If you have anything you’d like to add, please get in touch!


Have you personal experience with burnout? Or, have you witnessed it in your loved ones?

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111 comments

  1. Burn out is such a real thing. I’ve felt burn out more times than I can count in my life! I find that yoga and exercising really help me combat the feeling of burn out. Talking to friends can also help when I’m needing some motivation.

  2. Thank you for sharing these sixteen burnout symptoms. Gaining control is something that we focus on daily and will continue as we have spent 14 and 23 years in the medical field respectfully.

  3. Ugh I’ve been there in burnout! These are excellent tips for recovering from burnout and for finding balance in life so it doesn’t happen again.

  4. This is such a great post on what burnout is and how to prevent it! I too went through a burnout a few years ago and it completely changed my life. Mine was work-related, which seems to be a common theme for a lot of people. I quickly realized I had to get out of the job that was causing it. That was the best decision I ever made.

  5. This is a great article on burnout. I experienced this last year while going through a bunch of personal stuff. I had to step back from many things I love, but it helped me so much in the long run. I initially felt like a failure, but I realized how silly that was.

  6. Deep breathing is a great way to revive and help combat burnout. Great tips on combating burnout.

  7. This is a very helpful post to recognize signs of burnout. And what to do to overcome the stress. I tend to go, go, go until I crash. So I have to be intentional to take breaks and do things that center me like hiking.

  8. Burnout is definitely more common than we think and it can lead to so many problems. I’ve suffered from my fair share of burnout and I’m still going through burnout. I need to learn how to relax and take a break from my work so I won’t hate it later. Great post 🙂

  9. I myself have been close to burnout many times. I put way too much pressure on myself, and it’s so important to take steps and find balance.

  10. All you mentioned is on point i think I’ve been going through this since march but I’m working through it regardless, My burn out is not about not having post ideas my burn out is otherwise, thank you for this post

  11. I have definitely been in seasons of burnout! I find the best thing I can do is not procrastinate but actually take things off of my schedule. If it doesn’t have to be done, it’s probably coming off. Then, I spend that extra time sleeping and doing hobbies. The symptoms of burnout eventually go away when I put myself first. Thanks for your post!

  12. This woman is a complete fraud and if you don’t know how to figure that out, then you must be one too. She was exposed for her attempt to just make a buck and profit off of mental illness just to sell “essential oils” and now hides online or so she thinks. Nothing but a fake copying other people’s self-help writing and videos.

  13. Didn’t know much about what happens of burnout and thanks a lot for talking about this, I think the information will help a lot of people – Knycx Journeying

  14. At this point in our lives, keeping on top of our mental health is such a challenge. I almost ticked off every symptom in your list! I do try my best to stay positive. Taking care of my ornamental and flowering plants is such a big help for me.

  15. Recognizing your symptoms helps you to solve the issue properly and immediately. I will definitely everything in mind. Thank you!

  16. Struggling with burnout is not something that anyone wants to do. In order for it to be avoided, you need to recognize the symptoms and address them as they come up instead of waiting until things get worse.

  17. Have had times of burnout.. But I make sure that I take time to de-stress so that it wont lead to breakdown.

    We all need to take care of ourselves so that we can function well. If you feel a little stress, take some time off or break.. 🙂

  18. It’s good to recognize the symptoms of burnout because only then can we do something about it. I’d experienced many of these symptoms but thankfully I was able to manage them.

  19. My daughter is so good at recognizing her triggers. She also is an avid journal writer and she loves that… goes all out with colors and everything.

  20. I have definitely experienced this in the past with jobs. I’m grateful to work for myself now so that I can manage it much better!

  21. Oh, man, did this hit home. I’m a virtual assistant, and I can say without a doubt that burnout is real and it will hit you really hard if you aren’t careful.

  22. Burnout can happen without proper care, and so many people don’t realize it! Thanks so much for sharing all of this!

  23. Thank you for commenting. Preventing it from happening in the first place is certainly better than trying to fix the issue down the line.

  24. This is so important to share! Lots of people don’t want to ‘whine’ when they feel tired and experience headaches, and of course one headache is not a sign, but adding all these little symptoms can really be a warning sign of you having to take a step back before it goes too far. Preventing is better than curing!

  25. I feel like I am on the verge of being burnt out but I always fight it. I give myself some rest, breathing exercises, I listen to music, and I really put effort to finish my tasks. Thank you so much for all of this. So informative.

  26. It is good to know the symptoms. I think that being on lock down due to covid19 has me a bit stressed out. Thank you for the suggestions and they are so helpful.

  27. I’m exactly the same. The simplest things can cause burnout for me and I find it so frustrating. I go hell for leather (i.e I put my all into everything) and leave little time for myself as a result. Look after yourself. Take some time out and remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. x

  28. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your experience with us. It’s not easy. I’ve suffered with it the majority of my life I suspect and I struggle to stop myself getting there even now. x

  29. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, Anthony. We really appreciate it. I couldn’t agree more with this comment. I feel like I was expected to do things that were way above my paygrade in my last job and for little thanks or regard for my health. Sadly it led to me having a breakdown which has really done a number on my life in general. I know now that it was burnout and being pushed too hard by both employers and myself.

  30. It’s not easy to give ourselves days off especially if we work at home. I’ve never taken the full day off but I’ve been clocking off at 1 a lot lately and it’s been so helpful. Yes, things have fallen behind but they aren’t overly important.

  31. Thank you so much for reading. I’ve been clocking off from social media a lot too and it’s been so, so helpful! I hope you’re keeping well. x

  32. It’s definitely time to unwind if you’re feeling like this. I know it’s not always easy to do but we need to every so often. x

  33. I am a mom so now and again I feel that I am getting at the very edge of burnout. When this happens I do some of the things that you suggested and they work. Great article.

  34. We all experience burn out at one time or another. Taking a break, whether by meditation or reading a book, and asking help from other people are important to feeling better again.

  35. Self care is very important and sometimes it’s ok to do things for yourself

  36. I have most of these symptoms and this is one reason I am always tired and annoyed. I am going to have to start pampering myself

  37. I’m definitely dealing with a bit of burnout right now. The down side is there is no relief in sight with the current pandemic situation.

  38. I think I’ve seen more burnout in people close to me now than ever with the situation we are living. I try to be aware of the symptoms and when I start feeling tired I drop everything and rest.

  39. I really like that she addresses physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of burnout. And that there are tips on how to combat it! Thanks for sharing.

  40. I have been burntout since a long time.. The triggers are real. Sometimes it becomes worse…. but your post is real good.

  41. I remeber learning this in highschool when I was diagnosed with depression. It is a topic that has to be interduced so early on because more and more kids and teens suffer from burn outs. Amazing post.

  42. SInce the lockdown I am trying my best to maintain and give my self a time to pamper. Thank you for reminding us with this list.

  43. Thank you for sharing this. I teach Psychology in a school and burnout is a topic in our curriculum. I am going to take some pointers from here and share it with my students.

  44. This is a great post! Honestly, I have been there more than once. The problem is that society teaches us that this is just part of the process, the struggles required to reach success. However, there’s a big difference between working towards your dream and burning yourself out! It’s SO important to recognize the difference!

  45. Burnout is probably the most exhausting thing ever happen to me, I felt so lost with what I do. Great tips to understand and avoid it

  46. I have for sure been experiencing burnout recently. Between work, blogging, parenting, it has been a lot especially with the chaos of the world. I have found that steping away and taking time to myself has really been helping.

  47. Insightful post about how to identify the triggers and manage the stress. I have been heavily stressed last year, and keeping a grateful journal and taking one thing at a time had helped me great deal.

  48. This is such an informative piece. I feel like everyone at some point in their lives goes through a burnout phase. This is a great post to help through it. It always helps to talk about with someone.

  49. Its a great post and I think somewhere in the current times all of us are feeling a little burn out, there is so much negativity and stress around that one can’t help. I will surely watch for these symptoms for myself and for my near ones and try and find solutions at an early stage.

  50. THIS is great because all too often people have NO IDEA what’s wrong with them and think they need some drugs to make them feel better but that’s NOT the case at all!

  51. As someone who is naturally anxious, I am definitely a person who gets stressed out easily and have had burn outs in the past, This is because I naturally throw my all into everything I do, but can sometimes do too much at once, which is natural in the jobs I am in but does leave me exhausted. Thank you for the helpful checklist.

  52. We don’t talk about burnout enough so thank you for this post. I think we’re all feeling a little burnout one way or another at the moment. Loved the checklist of symptoms so we can check in with ourselves

  53. I can identify at least 4 in this list. I think the lockdown has really burned me out, it’s been stressful.

  54. As someone who has experienced burnout several times over the last 8 years and has been signed off work with it three times I recognise all the signs of burnout above, some are stronger for me than others, some i experienced everytime I experienced burnout, others only popped up once. This is a very informative and knowledgeable guide. Thanks for sharing.

  55. Definitely some great information here. Thankfully, I have just enough stress to keep me motivated to get things done and not too much stress that can lead to burnout.

  56. These are some wonderful insights on burnout. I had anxiety and panic attacks in the initial month of lock down about uncertainty of work and future. I started doing yoga and it really helped me to feel better!

  57. Excellent insights. This is such an important topic. It impacts every field. I work with a company that produced a program to help doctors and nurses deal with burnout. It’s a huge problem in the healthcare space. That said, it is a problem in virtually all fields as we expect more of our employees and ask them to work longer hours and take on more responsibility. You’ve really created a useful piece here that can help readers deal with their own burnout.

  58. This is so important to know. I think we often blame stress but sometimes it can be more than just stress so it’s important to evaluate how we are really doing.

  59. This is such a great and timely post. So much burnout and deterioration of mental health in general with the current situations we are enduring.

  60. Thank you for sharing! This is so important; and needs to be discussed far more often.

    Paige // Paige Eades

  61. Yup, I’ve felt these lately. It’s tough being in quarantine. We’ve been venturing out a bit, but still not like it was. So it can be hard and I do find myself feeling burnt out.

  62. I definitely suffer from burnout every now and again! It usually crops up when I haven’t given myself a day off in a while and although I work from home and work for myself, I definitely still need some down time!

  63. I tend to suffer from burnout every now and again and I find it’s so difficult to bounce back. A few weeks ago I pretty much ticked off everything on the list! Journalling and making time for self care have been quite helpful over the last few weeks and I’ve also found that staying away from social media has helped too. Thank you both for sharing 🙂 x

  64. Such in important post! I feel like most of us can relate to these feelings of burnout and don’t have many resources to turn to. This is that great resource that’s needed!

  65. A hugely important subject to discuss. I think an awful lot of people may recognise themselves in this list but have never related it to burnout.

    Thank you to you and Jen for sharing x

  66. Thanks for sharing, Jen and Nyxie! I think lockdown is contributing to a feeling of burnout in my life right now – always good to read some reminders of how I can get some control back 🙂

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