What is burnout and how can you manage it


Burnout leads to physical and mental exhaustion. It is a state where you feel highly unmotivated, hopeless, and detached. Understanding the difference between stress and burnout becomes crucial to managing burnout.


What is depletion?

Have you ever felt so drained that you can’t move or think? Have you ever felt tired even without doing anything? You may be experiencing burnout.
Burnout was first coined by psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1975. According to the American Psychology Association, Burnout is “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, reduced performance, and negative attitudes toward self and to others”. Burnout usually happens due to a constant and prolonged level of stress. Enduring high-pressure circumstances cause your body and mind to wear out.

Burnout doesn’t just happen because of work, there are many other reasons for it. They are relationship burnout, parent burnout, caregiver burnout, etc. It can arise due to several factors. Some of them are:

  • You feel that there is too much on your plate and there is a lack of support.
  • The requirements needed from you are unclear or not well communicated.
  • There is a lot of ambiguity.
  • toxic environment

Stress or Burnout?

It is essential to distinguish between stress and burnout to manage it effectively.

Stress: An adaptive response of our body to any demand mainly from the external world. This leads to feelings of pressure, anxiety, fatigue. It can create disappointment with yourself and/or work/relationship.

exhaustion: arises due to prolonged stress over which it can be combined with other factors. It causes feelings of exhaustion, constant mood, feeling of helplessness and detachment. Let’s look at some more signs of burnout.

Signs of Burnout

signs of exhaustion
  1. emotionally drained
  2. Physical exhaustion along with pain
  3. Decreased interest in everyday activities
  4. Pessimism and use of sarcasm
  5. Decreased satisfaction and fear of failure.
  6. Increased feelings of detachment from others and oneself
  7. Inability to “push forward” to complete tasks and responsibilities.
  8. Clouded mind with reduced ability to make decisions.
  9. Unhealthy coping mechanisms (drinking, smoking, etc.)

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Reasons for Burnout

Burnout can happen due to several factors that play a role. Most of the time, there can be several aspects that contribute to this. Here are some domains that can determine burnout. What are some areas that resonate with you?

1. Excessive Workload

excessive workload

Increasing demands at work can create extreme stress, resulting in burnout if not managed properly. Taking on more tasks you can handle can add to the pressure. Having more overtime, working on weekends or late into the night can take away your time to take off or relax. In relationships, it can arise when one partner takes on more responsibilities without the other supporting or sharing the burden.

2. Limited autonomy

limited autonomy

Not having enough control or say in matters can lead to stress and feeling unhappy. However, continued lack of control can lead to burnout. In the workplace, having no control over projects, vague or unclear tasks and being micro-managed. To a caregiver, lack of control may seem limited by the person’s and treatment choices, having less say in important matters.

3. Praise


Rewards motivate us. Feeling trapped in a relationship where efforts are not appreciated or even talked about while managing various things can lead to a state of emotional exhaustion. Just as important is monetary compensation at work, as are words of affirmation. Workplace burnout can arise when responsibilities and financial rewards or appreciation are mismatched.

4. High pressure

high pressure

When the stakes are very high, this can lead to a lot of pressure. However, if this happens constantly, it can lead to burnout. High pressure and healthcare jobs generally have a higher burnout rate. A teacher, doctor or counselor not only needs to act, but also emotionally connect with students and clients. This can leave them emotionally and physically drained.

5. Social support system

social support system

As responsibilities increase, one struggles to maintain and have an enriching social life. Not having time to interact and connect beyond the workplace or family can lead to feelings of isolation.

Ways to manage burnout

Ways to manage burnout

Burnout can be managed by making some changes in your life. Identifying stress and managing it effectively can prevent burnout from occurring. Keeping different aspects of your life in harmony, such as work, family and personal life, goes a long way in reducing stress. Here are some ways to prevent and also manage burnout:

#1 Prioritize

One of the most essential skills in today’s hectic world is the ability to prioritize different tasks and responsibilities. Use the first day of the week to sit down and plan. Divide your tasks and responsibilities based on urgency.

#2 Share workload and tasks

Got a lot on your plate? Managing multiple things over a long period of time can drain your energy. Ask for help and support. Doing chores together can be a good way to bond and also help the other person recognize the burden.

#3 Check with your body and mind

Your body and mind show signs of exhaustion long before we know it. Make it a daily habit to check with yourself. Ask what does my body need right now? – Do I need to take a deep breath? “What is making me feel this way?”

#4 Communicate

Communication is the key to bringing about a change. Identify if you have a tendency to engage in people-pleasing behavior. Understand the implications of this and how it contributes to your burnout. Manager giving more tasks than you can handle? Learn to say no assertively. Set your limits.

#5 Socialize

Humans are social beings. Connecting with others, even virtually, can help you manage burnout. Recognize if you’ve started isolating yourself. Make an effort to talk or call at least 1 person nearby in a week. Take time to reconnect with your partner or friends.

#6 Self-care

You cannot pour from an empty glass. Take frequent breaks to help your mind relax for a while. Dedicate 15 minutes of your day to doing some form of self-care. If you are a caregiver for the elderly, the sick or people with disabilities, it becomes essential that you prioritize yourself.


Prolonged and uncontrollable stress can lead to burnout. Burnout can feel numb and tired. With effective strategies and seeking professional guidance can help in the prevention of burnout.

common questions

Did the pandemic increase the risk of burnout?

As work and life have become integrated due to the pandemic, the chances of facing burnout have increased. With proper time management and prioritization, you can stress yourself out before it leads to burnout.

Q How do you manage when you are in a high pressure environment?

High pressure environment can consume time and energy. Taking short breaks, prioritizing and setting work time limits can help manage the chances of burnout

Q How do I manage caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is very common. When you are caring for another person who requires constant supervision and help, it can be a silent drain. Take some time for yourself and make sure you’re getting enough sleep too. If possible, look for people who can take turns with you to help you.

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