Burnout: Identifying it, Preventing It, and Recovering From It

Burnout Definition: “A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson

Work, family, school, and social life. These are just a few factors that can contribute to burnout. With nearly 25% of individuals experiencing burnout at some point in their lives, it’s crucial to understand and identify when burnout may be on the horizon. So what does it look like?

Identifying Burnout- Knowing What to Look For

Symptoms of burnout may include:

  • Psychological
    • Inability to focus- experiencing difficulty staying on task.
    • Forgetfulness- lower retention rates or forgetting tasks that you typically had no prior issue with.
    • Social Interactions decline- less interest in meeting up with others, reduced interest in going out.
  • Physiological 
    • Headaches- depending on the individual, this can vary from a regular dull headache to migraines.
    • Fatigue-Feeling as though your energy is completely drained.
    • Increased blood pressure- Increased stress can equal increased blood pressure.

How do you recognize when you’re heading towards a burnout state? Here is what people had to say when asked how they recognize burnout. Some of these might sound familiar.

  • “When I find myself getting negative or cranky, I know that is a red flag for burn-out.”
  • “I cannot focus.”
  • “When I don’t want to do the next step in my day.”
  • “I get physically exhausted and start getting headaches.”
  • “When I feel that I am unable to put 100% in the tasks that I am doing.”
  • “When I feel like I’m running out of ideas, when small tasks feel labor-intensive, when I struggle to  get myself to start a task.”
  • “When I feel fatigued and aggravated by the thought of work; when I don’t feel I’m performing my best.”
  • “I hit an energy wall and don’t want to move further in work.”

Resources for Identifying Burnout

Websites and Apps

  • Mindtools: Offers a free assessment tool Here that can help you determine what state of burnout you may (or may not) be in. This assessment results points range from 15 (no sign of burnout) to 75 (severe risk of burnout). Check out more information on MindTools website here
  • Calmer: Provides input on the five stages of burnout. Read the article  here to learn about these stages, and to see if you may be experiencing them. You can also check out more information on the Calmer website here

Preventing Burnout- Stopping it Before it Starts

Recognizing when burnout is heading your way is one thing. Cutting it off at the pass is another. Luckily, there are many activities and routines you can do to help prevent burnout from taking a hold of you.

Here are a few tips from folks like you. Try giving a few of these a try and see how they work for you.

  • “Find time to give myself breaks.”
  • “Take a day off.”
  • “Exercise, or give myself a break.”
  • “I simply log off and don’t look at another screen for a while.”
  •  “Forcing myself to put away my computer and ending at the time that work is supposed to be done.  Connecting with colleagues via jabber just to say hi.”
  • “Meditation, new adventures, reading, connecting with colleagues, music, stepping away when negative feelings occur, standing and walking around for at least 1 minute every hour.”
  • “Drive. Explore. Eat Ice Cream.”
  • “Taking breaks to go outside, hydrate etc. Staying in contact with colleagues during breaks to simulate the break room. Taking PTO more often. Delegate. Establish a morning routine to set me on the right tone for the day.”
  •  “I try going on walks or at least getting away from the computer when I’m not feeling productive. I try to spend a reasonable amount of time away from the computer on days that I don’t actively have a lot of work.”

Resources for Preventing Burnout

Websites and Apps

  • Headspace:  This online and app program focuses on helping individuals overcome struggles, to obtain a more balanced life. Consisting of articles, videos, and music, this site can help you gain better sleep, meditation, stress, and overall mindfulness. There is a free trial available, then the option to purchase a monthly ($12.99/month) or annual (billed annually at $69.99). You can check out more information at https://www.headspace.com/ .
  • Calm: Another online and app program focused to help you find your clam. This site’s goal is to help you improve: sleep quality, reduce stress and/or anxiety, improve focus, and self-improvement. To help determine your track to calmness, this site will ask you a few assessments questions to help cater your program around your needs.  A subscription for this site will come at an annual cost of $69.99. To learn more, check out www.calm.com
  • Insight Timer: Available both online and via phone app, this site provides and online community for meditation. You can listen to guided meditation, music, and talks posted by contributing experts. This site is free and you can listen to short recorded segments while sitting at your desk. Check out more information on this site at www.insighttimer.com



Recovering From Burnout

You’ve seen it coming, did your best to prevent it, but still experienced burnout. Now, it’s time to recover. But how? Here are some suggestions provided by individuals that may work for you, and some that may not. Everyone is different.

Tactics that worked:

  • “Getting out into nature helps me reset.”
  • ” Talking to my manager and letting them know how I feel and what they can do to help.”
  • “A day off works best, but everything helps.”
  • “Taking breaks, walking away from the computer and getting some fresh air.” 
  • “Staying connected with colleagues virtually.”
  • “Exercise!!! Exercise has always been my go to way to recharge. Exercise doesn’t have to be an hour-long sweat session; even going for a walk around the block or taking 10 minutes to stretch can release those refreshing endorphins.”
  • “Every little bit helps, but mostly snuggling with my dog … that’s the best boost ever.”
  • “Bulleted lists to have clear goals for the day. Exercising everyday. Doing something fun after work/on weekends (baking, face timing friends, skiing) to break up work and leisure time.”

Tactics that didn’t work well for some:

  • “Staying at my desk and trying to power through.”
  • “Not always great at sticking to my self-assigned time blocks to get tasks done.”
  • “Meditation. It’s hard shutting down your brain!” (It’s OK to admit that meditation doesn’t work for everyone)
  • “Journaling and being mindful. I get bored.”
  • “Continuing to push through on meetings about meetings.”
  • “Short 5-minute breaks are a good way to manage throughout the day but they don’t help as much when you are burned out.”
  • “Powering through it.”

Resources for Burnout Recovery



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