Burnout is a word that you may have heard a lot more recently, but what exactly is it? Is it something you may be experiencing? And how would you know if you were burning out? In our ultimate guide to burnout we’ll be looking at:
- The Definition of Burnout
- The Causes of Burnout – Both at Work and at Home
- Burnout Symptoms and Signs to Look Out For
- Burnout Prevention
- Burnout Recovery and Treatment
We truly believe that understanding burnout can help people spot the warning signs early and put strategies in place to help chronic stress from taking over. Our aim is to make burnout a thing of the past by providing you with the tools needed to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. You can find out more about our membership options and what’s included right here.
While burnout has been an issue for decades, it wasn’t until 2019 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised the condition as an ‘occupational phenomenon.’ In the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout is defined as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout, currently, is not classified as a medical condition by WHO.
It’s also stipulated in the WHO classification that burnout should only be used within the context of workplace stress and not in other areas of life. However, at The Anti-Burnout Club, we have seen a huge rise in work stress combined with other stresses of life, especially with the rise of people working from home. For this reason, we deal with all aspects of stress and chronic stress, whether that’s from work, home life, and even aspects such as confidence and body image.
Burnout happens when we experience chronic stress for a prolonged period of time, and studies by Mental Health UK have identified some key causes of this chronic stress in recent years (October 2020 Study on Burnout). These are:
- Money worries
- Working from home
- Worries about job security
- Physical health
- Home-schooling children
- Caring for others
However, these aren’t the only causes of burnout and anything that causes chronic stress can lead to burnout. Other aspects that can cause burnout include:
- Too high of a workload/too much to do
- Feeling as though you aren’t in control
- A lack of boundaries in the workplace or at home
- Not enough time for relaxing or socialising
- Taking on too much responsibility without help from others
As life becomes more stressful, with so many more things on our plates than ever before, the number of burnout causes also grows. Read 20 common burnout causes you might be at risk of for more.
Burnout at work
Burnout in the workplace has become a growing problem over the years, and is a big part of the reason why the World Health Organisation defined this issue as an ‘occupational phenomenon.’ At The Anti-Burnout Club, we see a lot of our members who are dealing with high stress at work and finding that this is having a negative impact on the rest of their lives.
Burnout at work can happen for many reasons, including a heavier than normal workload, feeling unable to set boundaries with colleagues or management, being stuck in a cycle of people-pleasing or perfectionism, and difficult work environments.
If you feel as though you are experiencing burnout at work, then we highly recommend talking to a trusted manager, HR or occupational health team. We also have some resources in our workplace wellbeing hub or you can read more about burnout in the workplace below.
Burnout signs and symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms of burnout, some of which we may not even realise are warning signs. Burnout doesn’t necessarily come with a red flashing light, and the symptoms can sometimes creep up unexpectedly. Some of the most common burnout symptoms include:
- Feeling overwhelmed and/or helpless
- Feelings of tiredness and exhaustion
- Becoming cynical or pessimistic
- Feeling detached and/or isolated
- Being unable to focus and/or dropping the ball
- Finding it difficult to concentrate and procrastination
- A lack of inspiration and/or creativity
- Self-doubt and negative self-talk
- Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches
- Picking up colds and flu easier due to a weakened immune system
- Addiction – not just to things such as alcohol and drugs, but to numbing activities such as scrolling our phones or watching TV
If you are experiencing a few of these symptoms, then it’s important you speak to a medical professional about your risk of chronic stress and burnout.
Hidden warning signs of burnout and what we can do about it right now (free workshop and workbook)
They say that prevention is better than cure, and that is certainly the case when it comes to burnout. Being able to spot the hidden warning signs and work on burnout prevention is generally far easier than trying to recover from burnout once it has hit. If being able to spot the warning signs is the first step, then the next step is having a range of different burnout prevention tools at your disposal.
Everyone is different and therefore finding what works for you is extremely important. There are a number of burnout prevention methods that have been proven to work, but if they make you feel less stressed because you don’t enjoy them then they won’t work for you! Some of the most popular ways to prevent burnout include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Moving your body in a way that feels good for you
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Talking to others (friends, family, colleagues, a community group or a medical professional)
- Managing workplace causes such as asking for a reduction in workload
- Setting clear boundaries
- Practising gratitude
- Resilience training
Burnout Recovery and Treatment
At The Anti-Burnout Club, our aim is to try and prevent our members from reaching the point of burnout in the first place! However, if you’re reading this then you may already be experiencing burnout and are looking for burnout treatment options.
We always recommend that those who are currently experiencing burnout speak to a medical professional and/or a therapist as their first port of call. If you’re experiencing burnout due to a difficult working environment, then you should also bring this up with your managers, HR or occupational health team.
A medical professional can help you put a burnout recovery plan in place and your workplace may also wish to create something similar with you (usually known as a Wellness Action Plan).
Some of the burnout treatment options available include:
- Having to take some time away from work to fully recover
- Spending some time with a therapist to get to the root cause of the stress
- Arranging a lesser workload or putting a plan in place with your employer to reduce stress
- Improving your overall health and wellbeing to find it easier to cope with day-to-day stressors
- Resilience training to help deal with different kinds of stress and challenges at work or at home
- In some cases, your doctor may recommend medication or other treatment options for burnout
Burnout can feel extremely overwhelming and difficult to cope with when you’re in the depths of it. Taking the first step and talking to someone who can help can really start to lighten the load.
We hope that this guide has been a helpful insight into burnout; what it is, what it may feel like, what causes it, and even the different treatment options available. At The Anti-Burnout Club, we want to make burnout a thing of the past with a range of health and wellbeing tools to help reduce stress and improve wellbeing. You can find out more about what’s included in our membership right here.
This guide was last updated on 21st July 2022. We will aim to keep this page updated with the most relevant information and extra resources for burnout. If there’s something that you think we’re missing or would like us to cover, please do get in touch here.