While the topic of burnout is not new, there seems to be a lack of understanding of what it is and how to recognize it.

Some definitions of burnout relate it only to work and indicate that burnout results from prolonged exposure to stressors in the workplace.  While burnout is often work related I don’t think it’s fair to only conceptualize it as a work-related issue.  It often results from a combination of stressors in all areas of a person’s life or the extreme levels of stress that are occurring at work start to spill over into other areas.  It’s important to remember that burnout can also occur in social, parenting and romantic contexts.

I like the definition used by Psychology Today: Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. 

Now that you know what burnout is you need to know how to recognize it.  Being able to recognize potential signs of burnout makes it easier to put measures in place to stop it from getting worse.  I will discuss how to manage burnout in my August Blog post.

Top 10 signs of burnout:

1. Fatigue

  • Are you feeling more tired than useful?  This could be due to disrupted sleep or lack of motivation.  Increased fatigue and feelings of lethargy are common in burnout

2. Brain Fog, Lack of Focus and Inability to Concentrate

  • Does it seem like your head is heavy and your ability to focus or concentrate on tasks isn’t what it used to be?  Increased levels of confusion and forgetfulness are commonly seen burnout.  

3. Feeling dissatisfied

  • This dissatisfaction could be with your job, your relationship, your friends or with life in general.  It could also be with yourself.

4. Making careless mistakes

  • This is another common indicator of burnout and can be attributed to the issues with sleep, fatigue and all the signs discussed in #2.

5. Feeling cynical

  • If you’re generally a glass half full type of person and you suddenly start to feel very negative about things this could be related to burn out.

6. Lack of energy or motivation

  • This is often related to the feelings of dissatisfaction and lethargy.  If you don’t really care about your job or your relationship why would you bother to put energy into it?

7. Disrupted sleep patterns

  • You might be having trouble getting a good night’s sleep initially because of increased stress levels.  It can shift to the reverse where you’re sleeping more because you have no more energy.

8. Feeling helpless

  • You might start to feel like you’re trapped in your own life and there is nowhere to go and nothing you do will change this feeling or make it better.

9. Increased irritability

  • This is a huge indicator that you’re burnt out.  If you’re generally a patient person and able to get through the day without getting annoyed and suddenly everything people say and do at work aggravates you, you’re likely burnt out.  If this lack of patience starts to spill over into your relationships outside of work this is a warning sign!

10. Feeling detached and alone

  • You might feel like no one will understand how you feel and why you feel that way.  It can be hard to explain burn out to someone who’s never experienced it before. 
Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan


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