Why Do We Burnout? Symptoms & How to Manage Stress

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 24th, 2023

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and disengaged at work, you’re not alone. It could be burnout creeping into your life. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what burnout is, how to identify the signs, stages, and symptoms, and the practical steps you can take to manage stress effectively. Understanding the complexities of burnout is the first step towards reclaiming your well-being and revitalizing your career.

What Exactly is Burnout?

Burnout is more than just a buzzword—it’s a complex psychological state arising from unmanageable work-related stress. The condition is generally characterized by three main components: emotional exhaustion, cynicism or detachment from one’s job, and a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment. In simpler terms, if you’re feeling drained, disconnected, and disillusioned with your role at work, there’s a high chance you’re experiencing burnout.

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Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in a work environment. So, it’s no wonder that when job dissatisfaction reaches critical levels, it takes a severe toll on both our personal and professional lives.

The Progression of Burnout: Various Stages

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It gradually evolves, usually passing through several stages that can affect your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Identifying these early signs can help you intervene before they become debilitating, impacting your ability to perform at work.

The Honeymoon Phase

This phase often mimics the early stages of a romantic relationship: enthusiasm, energy, and high hopes dominate your mindset. You feel invigorated by new challenges and eager to demonstrate your abilities and creativity. But, much like a real honeymoon, this phase doesn’t last forever.

The Onset of Stress

As the initial excitement wanes, you may begin to feel mounting stress. While this tension may not be consistent, it becomes noticeably recurrent, affecting your productivity and even your physical well-being. Signs like loss of focus and occasional fatigue can serve as red flags that you’re moving into a more troublesome phase.

Chronic Stress Phase

Here, stress no longer comes and goes—it stays. Chronic stress affects not only your productivity but also your emotional stability. Job-related issues like tardiness, missed deadlines, and avoidance of work tasks become more frequent. You may also find yourself less sociable, quick to anger, and carrying these emotional burdens into your personal life.

Full-Blown Burnout

At this point, you’re operating on empty. You’re overwhelmed by work-related issues and can’t seem to detach from them. Emotional numbness, rampant self-doubt, and an uptick in physical symptoms like digestive issues and headaches become the norm.

Habitual Burnout Phase

If not addressed, burnout can become a vicious cycle, leading to severe emotional and physical consequences, such as anxiety or depression. The fatigue becomes so chronic that it interferes with your ability to function, both at work and in your personal life.

Symptoms of Burnout

Although the symptoms of burnout can vary widely, common signs include:

  • Diminished compassion towards clients or colleagues
  • Both mental and physical fatigue
  • A pervasive sense of inadequacy at work
  • Physical health complaints, such as muscle pain or headaches
  • Sleeping issues
  • Mood swings, including signs of depression or anxiety
  • Substance abuse as a coping mechanism
  • Thoughts of quitting your job
  • Disrespectful or mistreatment of others
  • A loss of joy, purpose, or identity in your role

Risk Factors Contributing to Burnout

Not all stressful jobs lead to burnout. However, certain work-related factors significantly heighten the risk:

  • Extreme Time Pressures: Employees who feel they have adequate time to complete tasks are 70% less likely to experience burnout.
  • Ambiguity in Role: Only 60% of workers understand what’s expected of them, making role ambiguity a prime factor for burnout.
  • Unfair Treatment: Employees who feel unfairly treated are 2.3 times more likely to experience high levels of burnout.
  • Poor Communication and Support from Management: Employees supported by their managers are 70% less likely to face chronic burnout.
  • Unrealistic Workloads: Overburdening employees with unmanageable workloads is a fast track to burnout.

Effective Ways to Manage Stress and Prevent Burnout

If you’re grappling with persistent stress, take action before it escalates into full-blown burnout. Here are some strategies:

Stop Being Your Stress Trigger

Often, we are the architects of our stress, driven by perfectionism or over-ambition. Being self-aware can significantly help you manage your stress levels.

Practice Mindfulness and Deep Breathing

Mindfulness techniques can effectively combat stress. Controlled breathing exercises, for instance, can quickly lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

Acknowledge Your Boundaries

Understanding your capabilities and limitations is crucial. Instead of tackling all responsibilities single-handedly, seek help from trusted colleagues or subordinates.

Alter Your Perception

Sometimes, a change in perspective can dramatically reduce stress levels. View challenges as opportunities rather than threats.

Resolve Conflicts with Empathy

Conflict can amplify stress and contribute to burnout. Being empathetic, listening carefully, and trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint can defuse tension.


Burnout isn’t just a state of mind; it’s a critical issue that can profoundly impact your life and career. Recognizing the symptoms, understanding the stages, and implementing effective coping strategies can help you manage stress before it becomes unmanageable. Don’t underestimate the power you have to regain control over your emotional well-being. And remember, taking steps to improve your situation is a sign of strength, not weakness.


Editorial Staff

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