Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. When suffering from it, you are unable to function effectively on a personal or professional level. You feel exhausted, start to hate your job and begin to feel less capable at work.

Work burnout can be caused by an excessive workload, lack of control, a conflict of values, demanding employees, insufficient reward and recognition or unfair treatment.

Physical symptoms
Chronic stress suppresses the immune system, tissue repair and digestion processes to drive blood to the arms and legs to fight or run from danger. The longer stress lasts the more damage it does to your body and the more resources it depletes. Serious chronic stress can cause heart disease, depression and obesity. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting or headaches. 

Chronic fatigue
A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all of the time – exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. Burnout can be physically draining and can result in a lack of energy. Feelings of dread about going to work can be a tell-tale sign of work burnout, it can also get more difficult over time to find the motivation to get out of bed to go to work. It can also affect your mood, emotional exhaustion is when you feel impatient, moody, inexplicably sad, or just get frustrated more easily than you normally would.

Impaired concentration and attention
Chronic stress can interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate. When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat. The early signs can include forgetfulness and lack of focus, and this can progress into an inability to get work done and everything starts to get on top of you. Slipping job performance can indicate that you are suffering from work burnout.

Withdrawn behaviour
Withdrawing from personal relationships is another possible sign of burnout. A lack of investment in relationships can be because you have less to give, less patience or less interest in having fun. It can also feel like it’s harder to get excited about life and harder to see the bright side of things. You may come in to work early or leave late to avoid interactions.

Unhealthy habits
Some people engage in unhealthy habits to cope with chronic stress – including drinking too much alcohol, smoking, being physically inactive, eating excessive amounts of junk food, not eating enough, not getting enough sleep, self-medicating or relying on coffee. When highly stressed, you can lose your appetite and may start skipping meals, which can result in a significant amount of weight.