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Am I burning out? The signs & tips on how to manage burnout

15 Nov 2017
Busy-businesswoman surrounded by papers illustration

It doesn’t need to be World Mental Health Day to consider how you or your workplace deals with mental health. We asked Danielle Davies, a counsellor at Pro-EAP, an Employee Assistance Programme provider, to identify some of the warning signs of burn out and to recommend ways to help manage it at any time.

Feeling exhausted and catch yourself nodding off at your desk? Are you becoming easily stressed out at work? Do you find yourself making mistakes when trying to complete simple tasks? Are you feeling overwhelmed, emotional and struggle finding enjoyment in pleasurable activities? Maybe you have convinced yourself that you’re under the weather or are just really busy with work when actually you could be heading for burnout.

When we think of burnout, we usually think of being overworked, under-appreciated, having an enormous pile of work in your IN tray and trying to multitask to the point of exhaustion. However, what we seem to forget is that burnout can affect all areas of our lives if we do not manage the stress effectively.  

Psychology today describes burnout out as, a state of chronic stress which is made up of a number of physical, behavioural, emotional and psychological components, which may include:

  • Low mood
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Sleep problems
  • Fluctuation in appetite
  • Anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of enjoyment in pleasurable activities
  • Social Isolation

This is by no means an exhaustive list of burnout symptoms however we must be aware that each person who suffers burnout will not necessarily have identical symptoms.

From personal and professional experience it is very easy to believe that recovery from a burnout seems like an impossible dream however by making a few small changes to your working and personal life you will be able to bounce back. Here are a few suggestions to enable recovery:

Say NO

The tiny word that most people have problems saying! Being able to say no to taking on additional work and responsibilities is vital to the recovery process as it allows time and space to assess your current workload, prioritise tasks and practice time management.

Ask for help

Asking colleagues to help with your workload will allow your stress levels to reduce, minimise unnecessary extra pressure and give you the opportunity focus on your current tasks for the day.

Do not take work home

As tempting as it may seem, taking work home is not going to speed up the recovery process. Learning to leave work problems at work until the next day does take some practice, however, be mindful that by worrying about it at home you’re going to be contributing to your burnout.

Striking the right balance

Our lives are so busy with work and other necessary tasks which means we regularly sacrifice pleasurable activities to make room to accommodate this. As a result, our stress levels will rise, and we may begin to resent work. By ensuring and encouraging a balance of pleasurable, routine and necessary activities within the working week will boost morale and mood.

Time for you

Making time to partake in activities which you enjoy is a great habit to get into as it helps to readdress the balance within our lives being able to switch off from the responsibilities of work. Research suggests that by booking an activity into your diary, you are more likely to complete it, so by booking in ‘me time’ you’re more likely to honour that commitment you’ve made to yourself.


What self-care means is doing something to take care of your emotional and psychological wellbeing needs. I am a huge believer in self-care and feel it is an essential piece of maintenance which can help boost self-esteem, self-worth, confidence and reduce symptoms of depression. The beauty about self-care is that the activities you choose to do can be as cheap or expensive as you like and can consist of any activity you want to do, for example, you could watch your favourite movie at home, go for a massage, have afternoon tea with friends or go for a walk.

The key to recovering from burnout is to be kind and patient with yourself, by accepting that you need to lighten your workload temporarily will help to reduce stress, additional worries. Understand and accept this is a temporary state, with the proper self-care and effective collaboration with your manager will ensure a smooth recovery.

Mental health in the workplace

The IoD is committed to raising awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, with a particular focus on opening up the conversation for small and medium-sized businesses. We have created a hub packed full of helpful advice, best practice and useful resources, as well as shared experiences from business leaders.

Visit our mental health in the workplace hub

Get involved in the conversation  or use the hashtag

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