The 3 warning signs you are heading for burnout

sad, stressed woman suffering burnoutAlthough we started last year with more optimism than 2020, unfortunately COVID-19 continues to be a big part of our lives heading into the new year.

Over the last two years it has become increasingly important to look after our own mental health, as well as supporting those around us – whether they are family, friends of work colleagues.  

The continued pressure created by balancing a work and home life that are frequently in the same place has been difficult for many of us.  The uncertainness of a competitive market and continued pressure to deliver can be very stressful, and sometimes result in mental and physical symptoms and can in some circumstances lead to ‘burn-out’.

The World Health Organisation details burnout in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as “ … a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” While many of us find significant fulfilment in our jobs, for many it also comes at the cost of draining of your emotional reserves – which may in time result in burnout for a growing number of people.

The British Medical Association 2021 observes that burnout is typically a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. This can be a gradual process, with some people developing burnout over a prolonged period of time due to chronic workplace stress. This can be a difficult thing for often untrained managers and business leaders to monitor and address.

While there is a myriad of ways burnout can manifest itself, some warning signs that you – or a colleague – might be heading for burnout are:

  1. A growing or constant feeling of exhaustion

While we all feel very tired from time to time, an ongoing feeling your energy is depleted can be a sign of burnout. Sometimes people experiencing this often feel powerless about changing their situation – or feel there is little value in trying.

  1. A feeling of detachment or ‘distance’ from your job

One aspect commonly associated with burnout is a feeling of negativity or cynicism towards your work. This is sometimes also connected to increased frustration and irritability, or a general lack of energy or concentration.

  1. A sense of ‘ineffectiveness’ in your role.

This can be manifested in a feeling of a lack of accomplishment in doing your work. For some this can be connected with a sense of fatigue and detachment. For others it manifests in behavioural changes and a feeling of depersonalisation.

Recognising you are not coping as well as you could be is a crucial first step. Addressing the signs of burnout will also require support from those around us in helping develop a greater awareness of how we are really feeling – others will also benefit from professional support. The key is to find people you feel comfortable and someone you can talk to about how you are feeling.

Beginning taking some positive actions that help you better care of yourself can also be helpful. Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing is different for all us. Many people will see positive results ensuring they are getting enough exercise and sleep. Some people benefit from undertaking enjoyable hobbies, others through the use of mindfulness techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises.

Dealing with stress and the symptoms of burnout can be very challenging, but recognising some of the warning signs and taking positive steps to restore a healthier work-life balance does help many people feel better about their situation.

This has been a really hard time for many of us with everything we’ve had happening in our lives during the pandemic. While this is article is not exhaustive, if any of the warning signs mention here have resonated with you or can be recognised in a colleague, please do try to seek out help that feels right for you. I’d really encourage you to speak to someone you trust or find professional support if you are just not feeling yourself – it is completely appropriate for you to ask for help no matter your circumstances.

About the author

Dr Geraint Evans is a personal development coach and the author of Do One Thing (Pearson, £12.99) on sale now. Learn more about his work at

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