Skip to main content

Prevent burnout by pressing pause

prevent burnout at work

Everyone should be able to access and enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career. When a healthy work to life balance is achieved, work can foster a range of health and wellbeing benefits. These can include personal enrichment, mental stimulation and a sense of purpose. However, when this balance is compromised, it can lead to stress. While stress can increase motivation and productivity, if left unmonitored, it can build up resulting in exhaustion or burnout.

What is Burnout? 

  • Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained and therefore unable to cope with the demands of life. 
  • Many employees push themselves to the limit and end up putting their health at risk in the process. 

How does it affect us? 

  • Research shows that 51% of UK workers experience burnout. 
  • If left unaddressed, it can make it difficult for you to function and live well in your everyday life. 

Signs and symptoms

Burnout is a gradual and incremental process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can spring up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but progressively become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that are notifying you that something is wrong. Remember that prevention is better than the cure. For instance, if you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent burnout.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Alienation from work-related activities 
  • Reduced performance – concentration levels dip and procrastination increases. As a result, work and everyday tasks start to take longer and feel more labour-intensive.   
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities or social situations 
  • Reduced ability to engage in pleasurable activities and relationships 

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches, nausea and muscle pain 
  • Disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Change in diet or appetite  
  • Feeling frequently lethargic and tired  

Emotional symptoms

  • Emotional exhaustion – irritability, low mood 
  • Feelings of ineffectivenessinadequacy and lack of accomplishment 
  • Lowered self-esteem – increased sense of failure and self-doubt  
  • Loss of motivation that is caused from feeling undervalued 

It is important to emphasise that burnout is different to stress. For instance, stress in small doses is fine but when we are continually exposed to stress and anxiety, it can turn into burnout. 

Prevent burnout using our tips 

  • Be kind to yourself – Relax some of your rigid self-expectations. In other words, it may not be possible to have a busy social life, deliver on a big project and meet all your personal fitness goals all at once. Therefore, prioritise; narrow your focus and don’t demand too much of yourself.   
  • Speak to your employer – If your workload feels unmanageable or there is a lack of clarity around what your role involves then speak to your employer to see if any adjustments can be made.  
  • Set yourself a ‘going home’ deadline once or twice during the working week – book a gym class or schedule a meet up with a friend. If you schedule downtime into your diary you will be more likely to find time for it. 
  • Learn to say no and don’t try to please everyone– Drawing boundaries is critical. In other words, assuming new responsibilities without taking stock of the ones you already have can lead to further exhaustion.  
  • Fight off imposter syndrome – Remind yourself why you deserve to be in your position and celebrate your professional and personal victories – no matter how big or small.  
  • Take time out – Integrating relaxation and self-care techniques into your life will allow you to unwind and recharge your batteries after a stressful period. Thus, helping you prevent burnout. Our self-care services can link you up with support in the community. 

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.