• Liz Morrison, LCSW

How to Recognize Signs of Burnout – Helpful Burnout Hints


You’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. You’re tired all the time. You have headaches, anxiety, and you aren’t getting enough sleep. You may be experiencing burnout and not even realize it. We’ve learned how to recognize signs of feeling burned out and if any of those symptoms ring a bell for you, you may have it.


If you’re in your 20s you’re too young to let work cause you to crash. There is a difference between stress and burnout. We’re here to help you identify what you’re experiencing. Stress is manageable – burnout leads to psychological and physical symptoms that could make you chronically stressed and even sick.


We’ve compiled some burnout hints and tips for managing it. We’ll help you learn how to recognize the signs and the difference between stress and burnout. Working hard is good, but it’s important to learn to work smarter, not harder.


How to Recognize Signs of Burnout

Burnout can happen at work or in your personal life, such as in a relationship. Work stress is the most common reason for burnout. The key is to spot the signs early. If you can recognize when you are burning out you may be able to stop it.


There are physical and psychological effects of burnout. Some psychological effects of burnout include:

  • Anxiety

  • Detachment

  • Feeling lifeless

  • Low mood

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Fatigue

  • Negative attitude towards your job or coworkers

  • Loss of purpose

  • Cynicism

  • Frustration

  • Emotional numbness

As you can see, the psychological effects cover a wide range of symptoms. But you can probably spot a pattern here. Detachment, feeling lifeless, having a loss of purpose, low mood, and emotional numbness are signs that you’re becoming withdrawn and could possibly lead to depression. Difficulty concentrating, frustration, and fatigue are signs that, on their own, might not seem so bad. Together they cause the perfect storm of burnout. Having a negative attitude towards your job or coworkers and cynicism are signs that, if your job is the cause of burnout, you may be in the wrong position or company.

There are also physical symptoms of burnout which include:

  • Headaches

  • Exhaustion

  • Aches

  • Gastrointestinal issues

  • Hypertension

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Muscle tension

  • Getting sick more often than usual

All of these physical symptoms can add up to extreme burnout. Learning how to recognize signs of burnout is important for your health, both mental and physical. If you let a situation go on for too long you’ll end up sick and leaving your job. Not because you want to, but because you have to make a change for your health.


What’s the Difference Between Stress and Burnout?

Stress is usually related to one specific thing. It comes and goes. If stress becomes chronic it could lead to burnout. Burnout is a slow burn (pardon the pun). It’s difficult to catch because it comes on gradually over time.


Some early signs of burnout include insomnia, overwhelm, isolation, irrational beliefs about yourself such as feeling as if you’re not good enough, mental and physical exhaustion, lack of joy, and anxiety and depression.


You can feel stressed over a particular work assignment or a specific relationship problem you’re having. But if the symptoms of stress and overwhelm become all-encompassing, it may mean that you’re experiencing burnout.


The difference between stress and burnout is that stress is a temporary visitor, while burnout sets up camp and slowly wears you down. Stress usually means there’s too much of something in your life that occupies your mental and physical capacity. But it’s limited to one thing, such as a project you’re working on or a particular fight you’ve been having with your significant other or close friend.


If stress is about too much, then burnout is about not enough. If you’re experiencing burnout you may feel hopeless, exhausted, devoid of emotion, and exhibit a lack of caring about what’s happening. When you’re stressed you’re probably overreactive, feeling a sense of urgency, have low energy, are experiencing anxiety, and have some of the physical symptoms we discussed.


When you’re experiencing burnout you’re most likely disengaged, feeling helpless and hopeless, lacking motivation, detached and depressed, feeling like life isn’t worth living, and experiencing more emotional symptoms.


Chronic stress can lead to burnout. It’s important to check in with yourself and the people around you. If you’re feeling more stressed than usual for longer periods of time, it may be time to take a step back and heal emotionally and physically before you jump back into work. If you think you’re experiencing burnout, seek counseling and work with your therapist to manage the signs and symptoms before you get too sick and are forced to leave your job or relationship.


Burnout Hints and Tips – Ways to De-stress

One of our biggest burnout hints is to take control before it’s too late. If the situation is occurring at work, talk to your supervisor and come up with a plan. Try making goals and prioritizing what needs to get done right away and what can wait.


Reach out to others for support. Talk to your friends, family, significant others, coworkers, and a therapist.


Give relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation a chance. If it’s too difficult to quiet your mind or engage in a yoga practice, take out your frustrations and emotions on more intense physical activities.


Make time for yourself. Spend time with friends and family. Do things that bring you joy. Cook yourself a good meal. Take long baths. Whatever helps you feel more connected to both yourself and the other people in your life is what will help once you’ve recognized the signs of burnout.

We know it can be difficult to learn how to recognize signs of burnout. Use our burnout hints to help manage the symptoms and recognize the difference between stress and burnout. If you’re looking for support, we’re here to help. Book a free consult to talk to our professional social workers today.