How to Recognize Burnout and What You Can Do About It - Pomp & Sass

How to Recognize Burnout and What You Can Do About It

Have you ever felt disconnected, unmotivated, or chronically tired? Have you ever felt unsatisfied, lethargic or apathetic at work?

We’ve all been there. Stress often causes these feelings from time to time. However, when these feelings become chronic and the stress unrelenting, then there is a possible explanation for what’s happening to you.

You could be experiencing burnout.

But what does burnout really mean? How can you recognize it when it’s happening? And if you’re experiencing it, what can you do about it? Here’s everything you need to know of how to recognize burnout and what you can do about it.

Burnout Defined

The term burnout was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of Achievement. He defined burnout as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” In other words, burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. While most experience burnout at work, it can also be triggered in other areas of our lives such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.

Signs and Symptoms

There are many physical, mental, and emotional signs that show we have burnout. They may not be diagnosable by a doctor, but that doesn’t mean the signs should be dismissed. Here are three types of signs that signify burnout:

Physical and Emotional Exhaustion

Chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms such as chronic fatigue and increased illness, such as headaches and stomachaches. When our physical health is impacted, so is our mental health too. Chronic stress can also trigger forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, and an increase in anger. When we experience burnout, we often feel drained and unable to cope with our responsibilities, which has adverse affects on our mental and physical health.

Cynicism and Detachment

As our burnout continues to grow, so does our negativity and cynicism. We can experience a loss of enjoyment of day to day activities which affects our mood and overall outlook. When we  experience burnout, we tend to isolate ourselves due to our fatigue or pessimistic mood. We also grow more emotionally distant and detached from those around us to feel more numb to other obligations that are causing chronic stress.

Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment

Another sign that we are experiencing burnout is when we begin to feel apathy and hopelessness. In a work setting, this could mean not being able to find satisfaction or purpose in your work. As a result, we can experience poor performance and increased levels of poor productivity.

How to Cope with Burnout

If any of these signs are ringing bells to you, then it’s time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it. So what can you do when you notice the signs of burnout?

Basic Maintenance

If we were to consider our hierarchy of needs, at the base of the pyramid are the basics such as eating, sleeping, and hydrating. When we’re drained and exhausted from stress, it’s common to not feel hungry or tired. However, it’s important to not ignore your basic needs. You may think that you sleep, eat, and drink, but the question you must ask yourself is: am I eating enough? Am I sleeping enough? Am I drinking enough water? Be kind to your body and don't skimp out on tending to your basic needs.


During periods of active and chronic stress, it feels like there isn’t enough time for anything. But there is enough time when you make room for it. Start small by taking a brisk ten minute walk during lunch or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise is a great stress reducer, so find something that you enjoy or can quickly do each day to build up an exercise routine.

Learn to Say No

When we’re burned out from chronic stress, the last thing we need is to add a new commitment or responsibility to our plates. Adding more stress to our lives will make burnout worse, so resist the urge to please or perform well by saying no. You have every right to say no to someone or something without feeling guilty.

Bring in the Positive and Purge the Negative

The people you surround yourself with have energy. Some offer more positivity while others more negativity. That’s why surrounding yourself with as many positive people as possible and distancing yourself from as many negative people as possible is an effective way to reduce stress while improving mood and pessimism.

Another way to bring positivity into your life is to practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude encourages you to focus on the things you’re grateful for which brings a more positive outlook into our day to day lives.

Practice Self-Care

When we’re burned out, we have to accept that we won’t be as productive as we once were for the time being. While practicing self-care may seem like a diversion from being productive, self-care is productive because it is essential to help recover from burnout. Options for self-care include meditation, taking a bath, doing something you enjoy like a hobby, detoxing from technology, going outside, and spending time with friends and family. Spending time on caring for yourself is time well spent.

Running on Empty

Burnout progresses on a scale, and the longer left untreated, the longer it will take to recover from. Regardless of where you find yourself on the scale, burnout is treatable. Once you begin to notice the signs and have coping strategies in place, you’ll discover that you won’t be driving down the dangerous track that leads to burnout, but rather crossing over onto a safer and healthier road that revitalizes you and your passion.

Written by Eleni Zaptses

Pomp and Sass’s woven towels are lightweight, absorbent, and get softer over time. 

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