5 things to do if you are feeling burnt out

What is burnout

Burnout is a term used to describe when someone is feeling sensations of exhaustion, or where someone has been overwhelmed for too long. It is created when an individual has had ongoing emotional, intellectual, physical or mental stress acting upon them or affecting them for prolonged periods. If you read our previous article about chronic stress then we can appreciate that ongoing chronic stress which is not intercepted can lead to burnout (you can read it here). Burnout affects our productivity and can spill from one area of life into others, e.g. from our work/professional lives into home, social, leisure or family. It has an impact in all areas of life and has a wide range of symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

Burnout causes feelings of being:

  • Drained
  • Exhausted
  • Irritable
  • Anxious
  • Unable to motivate self
  • Unable to cope
  • Tired
  • A lack of energy
  • Becoming negative or cynical
  • A sense of always being swamped
  • Unable to keep up with demands
  • Difficulty managing / concentrating / recalling information
  • A sense that all days are a ‘bad day’
  • Sense of failure
  • Detached feelings
  • Feeling you have no control

It may also be coupled with physical symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • IBS symptoms
  • Reduced immunity
  • Muscle pains
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Change in eating habits

Causes of burnout

Burnout is a sign of doing TOO MUCH for TOO LONG. Whether it is;

  • Taking on too much
  • Not saying no
  • Accepting too many commitments
  • Spreading yourself too thinly
  • Too many issues occurring at one point
  • Not managing priorities – or feeling that everything is of equal priority
  • Too much intensity / deadlines
  • Having poor boundaries
  • Not taking days off / breaks / holidays
  • Struggling to delegate / ask for help
  • Low or lack of self-care

Some personality types can be more susceptible to burnout and being aware if you are a person who can become burdened by too many commitments in your diary or on your to do list is one important step to supporting your own emotional and mental well-being. Some groups who can be more affected include:

  • Perfectionists
  • Pessimists
  • Those who need to feel in control
  • High achievers (A Types)

Steps to managing feelings of burnout

Whilst burnout takes time to support, manage and ease, there are some steps that can be taken to support ourselves. It should be noted that burnout can take weeks, months or years to heal depending on the circumstances and level of impact. However, making the first steps to healing is key:

#1 – Reduce stressors

When we are chronically stressed, we can get caught in the cycle of feeling that everything needs to be done ‘now’. However, it is imperative that we reduce stressors and therefore the demands on our lives when we are burnt out to allow ourselves to recuperate. We may be able to do these alone, with a loved/trusted person or we may seek support from a coach or therapist to help us:

  • Identify areas of your life that can be put on pause and pause them
  • Identify areas of your life that you can ask for help with and ask for help
  • Identify areas of your life that you can stop / remove and remove them
  • Identify your key priorities (1-3) and only focus on these
  • Reframe our workload, priorities or commitments
  • Schedule guilt free downtime and relaxation
  • Increase self-care

#2 – Seek support

For some, asking for help can feel like a sense of failure. However, when we are burnt out asking for help is important to allowing us to recuperate and recover. Whether it is from loved ones, family, friends, co-workers or a professional, seeking help and support is imperative to reducing stress and managing/resolving symptoms. It can also help us identify belief systems or behaviours which led to the situation and help us change these.

#3 – Self-care

Whilst it can feel like the last thing you want to do, self-care, in the form of good nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise need to be prioritised when we are burnt out. All these elements reduce stress and support mood and well-being. In our previous article about stress, we looked at the role inflammation plays in the body. Daily exercise, whether a 30 minute walk, a yoga class or swim/cycle alongside good nutrition and hydration support the reduction of inflammation. It should be noted, that rhythmic exercise (using arms and legs e.g. swimming, dancing) are hugely beneficial. In addition, having regular sleep and wake times, with a strong bedtime routine support us to give our bodies time to rest. You can find our previous article about sleep hygiene here.

#4 – Healthy Diet

When we are burnout out, relying on sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine and convenience foods can feel like the best way to ‘pick up your energy’. However, they are found to increase stress and inflammation in the body and negatively impact our mood and energy levels. Maintaining consistent blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation allow the body to function more effectively. Think about:

  • Regular meals
  • Eating a rainbow
  • Protein sources
  • Complex carbohydrates or slow release carbohydrates
  • Omega 3s
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Reduce sugar

#5 – Relax

When we are stressed, we need to actively take steps to help the body release it. Breathing exercises, meditation, hypnotherapy audios, therapy, massage etc all help. Regular low impact exercise (walking in nature, yoga, stretching) and drinking plenty of water all contribute. As does taking part in activities for enjoyment (no targets).


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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – HERE 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – HERE

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit – HERE

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