I‘ve written about burnout before, but I decided to come back to it, because I have been researching the topic and have made some worrying discoveries about it. Too often the symptoms are mistaken for tiredness, laziness, or even a negative attitude. Hopefully, by recognizing the symptoms you can be aware of them and do something about them.


The following symptoms have been related to stress-related burn out:

  • Powerlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Detachment
  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Being trapped
  • Failure
  • Despair
  • Cynicism
  • Apathy

I have experienced all these symptoms and was diagnosed as a depressive, but don’t think that a simple diagnosis of depression really covers it. It is amazing to discover the sheer number of people who have suffered from it in one form or another. Another doctor diagnosed the symptoms as anxiety, but the counselor I am seeing for my depression feels that it is all due to burnout.

Stress vs. burnout

Characterized by overengagement Characterized by disengagement
Emotions are overreactive Emotions are blunted
Produces urgency and hyperactivity Produces helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of energy Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope
Leads to anxiety disorders Leads to detachment and depression
Primary damage is physical Primary damage is emotional
May kill you prematurely May make life seem not worth living

So what can you do about burnout? There’s quite a lot. First, learn to say no. You don’t have to be aggressive about it; you don’t even have to justify yourself. If you find your workload is getting too great, refuse the job. If pressed, you can say that you have too much work already and can’t fit it in.

Your employer should recognize that your health is more important than anything else. If you fall ill and can’t go to work, it will cost them more to replace you and lose the value you bring to the company. If your employer does not share this ideology, it might be time to consider a move to one that does.

Separating work and home life is also very important. Don’t take work home and don’t take home troubles to work. Drawing a line between the two is very important for your mental health; it’s a bit like the old saying about marriage, never go to bed with an unresolved argument.