Are you constantly exhausted? Do you find it hard to concentrate and take in what you read? Do you have symptoms of poor sleep? You may have burnout. A situation like this can significantly impact a person’s everyday life, relationships, and behaviour.

Burnout can arise when someone experiences a period of excessive stress in their work or personal life. When people feel tired and have a poor sleeping pattern, they feel emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and fatigued. These feelings tend to build up over a long period and can be symptoms of something else, such as burnout.

What is burnout?

As described in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout is a syndrome conceptualized from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

Although burnout is not classified as a medical condition, it is characterized by three dimensions:

  1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  3. reduced professional efficacy.

Who can experience burnout?

Burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress like work or home demands.

Whether you are a housewife, writer, manager or instructor – you may experience burnout because it can affect anyone. However, it is widespread among high achievers in the workplace, business, and caring professions like health and teaching. Parents with new babies and those caring for the elderly and people with disabilities are also at risk. 

What are the signs of burnout?

People who are struggling to cope with workplace stress may place themselves at high risk of burnout. Here are the possible causes of job burnout as listed by Mayo Clinic:

  • Lack of control
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Extremes of activity
  • Lack of social support
  • Work-life imbalance

Although burnout is very common, it’s often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed – most commonly known as depression. People suffering from burnout feel burnt out, empty and powerless.

Depression symptoms may also include:

  • A loss of interest in things.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Cognitive and physical symptoms as well as thoughts of suicide.

How can you tell if you have burnout?

Whatever the cause, job burnout, or burnout in general, it can affect your physical and mental health. Ask yourself these questions, which can be signs of burnout:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

What can you do?

Although the term “burnout” suggests it may be a permanent condition, it’s reversible. An individual who is feeling burned out may need to make some changes to their work environment.

Approaching a healthcare professional about problems in the workplace or talking to a supervisor about the issues could be helpful if they are invested in creating a healthier work environment.

In some cases, a change in position or a new job altogether may be necessary to put an end to burnout.

It can also be helpful to develop clear strategies that help you manage your stress. Self-care strategies, such as changing your way of eating, getting plenty of exercise, and engaging in healthy sleep habits, may help reduce some of the effects of a high-stress job.

A vacation may offer you some temporary relief too. Regularly scheduled breaks from work, along with daily renewal exercises, can be vital to helping you fight burnout.


If you are interested in learning more about burnout listen to this episode of the Sleep Talk podcast where we speak with Prof Gordon Parker, author of ‘Burnout’.

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