Spot the signs and take action before burnout strikes

A term that was first coined in the 70s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout is a mental health condition that can occur following long-term stress, leading to both physical and mental exhaustion.

Burnout can be a complete loss of motivation or a sense of mental and physical fatigue. It can also be a loss of passion for things that once made you happy, and a sense of hopelessness. But there are things you can do to prevent it.

Once you’ve been able to spot the symptoms, you can put boundaries in your life, reassess your priorities, and reach out for help from loved ones or a professional.

Everyone will experience burnout differently, but what are some of the common signs?

1. Getting up in the morning feels very difficult

You may not have exactly been an early bird before, but getting out of bed in the morning can now feel like a momentous task. Your body feels heavy, and, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, you just don’t feel ready to part ways with the bedsheets. Whether it’s fatigue or dread for the day keeping you in bed, stop to recognise how your habits have changed.

2. The things you were once passionate about don’t excite you anymore

A sense of apathy can come hand-in-hand with burnout. Whether it’s in your work or in your hobbies, if you find that the things that you used to feel passionate about and which brought you joy, now don’t seem to do the job, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing burnout. While during periods of high-stress you may normally find yourself more engaged in the tasks before you, when experiencing burnout the opposite is true and you may find that you are disengaged entirely. Tune-in, and consider when your interest first started to decline – can you trace it back to a particular moment of high stress?

3. You’re experiencing brain fog and difficulty concentrating

Does your mind feel foggy, like you can’t quite walk through the murk to find your focus? Because burnout is lined with mental fatigue, you may find that things like concentration and creativity are harder to muster. If your burnout is related to your work, this can trap you in a cycle, so it’s important to try to recognise the root of the problem when you can.

4. Your relationships with others are becoming strained

It may be with friends, family, or colleagues, but something has changed between you. Perhaps you find yourself becoming irritated more easily, or you’ve stopped being as social as you would be normally. When going through any kind of mental health challenge, the people around us are key to feeling better, and so if you feel as though your relationships are suffering, this is a sure sign that it’s time to reach out for help.

5. You notice you’re experiencing low-mood and depression

In very general terms, one of the key differences between general stress and burnout is that stress can lead to an increase in anxiety, whereas burnout can lead to depression. Low-mood can present itself in many different ways, but will often touch you in the experiences described here. The important thing to remember is that there are ways that you can take back control. It may not be easy, it will probably take some time, and you may have to make some big lifestyle changes to get there, but burnout is something that affects many of people throughout their lives, but is also something that can be overcome.

If you are experiencing burnout and need support, connect with a counsellor.