Recognising Burnout

Burnout can be a finicky situation. Like many life situations, sometimes it can be difficult to recognise when we are “in” a state unnatural to our ordinary being. Learning to step back and create some distance can help us recognise when we are in, or even heading into such states.

What is Burnout?

Like many things, burnout can be subjective and tricky to diagnose.  At the end of the day, it’s just another label for a bunch of ongoing symptoms.  That is, a state you are living in.

Some of these tell-tale signs are generally related to work, but really burnout symptoms affect your whole life.

  • Dissatisfaction with work.  If you find yourself increasingly dissatisfied with work, this is generally one of the first symptoms that will set you on the path to burnout.  While it is true that we all don’t need to love every minute of our work every day, nor do we need to feel overwhelming joy – we do need to at least maintain the status quo.
  • Mental and Physical Exhaustion.  Depending on your job, some level of exhaustion is to be expected, especially if it’s a laborious job.  But there is usually a level of healthy stress where involved where we come home and reset each night followed by a longer reset over the weekend.  However, if you get to the point where the resets are no longer sufficient you might end up with compounded exhaustion.
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorder.  Ongoing stress can wreak havoc on our internal body clock when we have too much cortisol flowing through our body.  This can start to affect how we sleep in a variety of ways.  Insomnia may manifest in the form of laying in bed for hours on end worrying and unable to sleep.  We may still have no trouble getting to sleep, but just not sleep as well too.  Sleep is an important aspect of recovery so if we are getting too little, or not the right type of sleep it can hinder our ability to rejuvenate each night.
  • Increased Illness.  When our bodies aren’t functioning properly this can also lead to a decrease in immune system function.  This means we may get sicker often and be more suspectable to catching viral and bacterial diseases such as infections and the common cold and flu varieties.
  • Anxiety and Depression.  It is not only our bodies that need to recover and rejuvenate each night.  Our minds also need the same care and attention to recovery.  When there is a lack of mental recovery, compounded by negative bias thinking we can slowly fall into states of being depressed and anxious.

Recognising Burnout

Keep in mind, burnout is again just a subjective label so it is important not to get too wrapped up in how many, if any symptoms you have, and whether you need all or just some to be suffering burnout.

The most important factor is looking at each symptom individually and asking yourself if it is affecting your life, and then respond to that particular symptom.

For example, if we are having trouble with anxiety or depression, we might go seek the aid of our GP for a mental health care plan.

If we are having trouble with work we might make a conscious effort to look at the exact problems causing our dissatisfaction and problem solve solutions to overcome them.

Bigger Picture

While some symptoms can be investigated and treated individually there are certain big picture things that we need to ensure we have in place for an overall healthy life.

  • Eating Well.  Food is more than just calories we provide our body for energy.  Food is possibly thousands of vitamins each providing one or more functions for our mind and body.  When we keep this fact in mind, it can help make healthy eating choices based on whole foods much easier.
  • Exercise.  Our bodies were made to move.  Yep, we are animals, and unlike my dog who like’s to lay on the bed 23 hours a day we were born to move.  The problem is, thanks to the “wonderful” advancements in technology and modern living we barely need to move at all anymore.  This doesn’t mean we need to run out and become gym rats, but a consistent, basic exercise regimen is a must.
  • Relaxation.  Just like exercise is important for our body, exercise is also important for our mind.  Fortunately, there are many ways to relax the mind now.  Sometimes mind relaxation can also be done as part of a normal exercise too (think of running like meditation for some people).  We also have other options too like meditation, yoga, massage or simply a weekly bath ritual.


Whatever you are struggling with, remember there is always a solution.  Sometimes we have the idea that life is meant to be all easy and full of smiles and sunshine.  Unfortunately, the real world has other plans for us.

Sometimes life can be hard, but that is completely okay too.  Because as human beings we love challenges to remind us that we are alive.

As long as we can remember that there are rarely any quick shortcuts to change, and settle in with the goal of creating life-long last habits things will usually fall into place over time.

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