How To Avoid Burnout: Manage Your Stress and Mental Health

Photo of a businessman stressed in the office

The American Institute of Stress statistics show that 80% of employees reported feeling stressed at work, and 60% of work absences were associated with stress. 

The study also found that burnout increased the chances of alcohol use or dependence by 25% and increased the odds of suicidal thoughts by 200%. 

We hear about stress a lot, but not everyone talks about burnout, despite its sometimes severe mental health effects. So what is burnout? Burnout results from being exhausted, not just physically but mentally as well. 

Burnout symptoms can result because of lifestyle factors or workplace stress. If you think you may be experiencing job burnout, or for more information on burnout, take a look at this comprehensive guide explaining:

  • What is burnout
  • Burnout versus stress
  • Burnout symptoms
  • Burnout treatment
  • How to prevent burnout

What Is Burnout? 

Burnout is the distress and mental and physical exhaustion caused by constant or prolonged stress. Prolonged stress is the leading cause of burnout and often leads people to experience intense bouts of exhaustion, agitation, and apathy. 

While it’s easy to dismiss or ignore signs of burnout, it can have a significant impact on your mental health, energy levels, and overall well-being. If untreated, burnout can lead to worsening mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

Burnout Versus Stress

Burnout is easily confused with stress and vice versa. In reality, burnout is different from regular, everyday stress. 

Identifying the differences is the first step to determining if you are stressed or experiencing burnout. 

Stress

Stress comes from everyday activities and situations like a hectic workday, having too many tasks to complete in a day, or dreading an upcoming event. 

Believe it or not, but stress can actually be beneficial in limited amounts. Stress can improve our cognitive function. It makes us more alert and can help us get through a difficult situation. 

However, prolonged stress can have a lot of negative effects. Signs of stress include: 

  • Hyper-activity 
  • Anxiousness
  • Procrastination
  • Overreacting to situations
  • Physical symptoms like muscle pain, headaches, or dizziness 

We all experience stress throughout our lives, but when stress becomes a regular part of our lives, we may experience burnout as well. 

Burnout

While stress often feels like a mountain of tasks are piling on top of you that you need to complete, burnout can drain you of the energy to complete those tasks. Stress can push you to finish your tasks, and once you do, you feel relief.

But burnout can leave you with a feeling of emptiness and un-fulfillment and drain you of the energy to finish your work or go about your daily routine. 

If you are experiencing burnout, then you may feel:

  • Hopeless 
  • Disengaged from work, friends, or family 
  • Detached
  • Emotionally distressed

You should pay attention if you are beginning to feel worthless or as though you don’t see a point in living. Burnout comes with a host of symptoms. 

These critical signs of burnout need to be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration in mental and physical health. 

Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout symptoms are more complex than regular stress. They can be physical, mental, behavioral, or a combination of the three. It’s essential to know these symptoms so that you can identify them in yourself or your loved ones or coworkers. 

Physical Symptoms of Burnout

Physical burnout can take a toll on our bodies. It tends to leave you feeling exhausted or utterly drained of energy. This can make it difficult or impossible to complete everyday tasks. 

You may have experienced a stress-related headache in the past or had difficulty sleeping because of a stressful week at work or a stressful situation with a friend. Burnout amplifies these physical symptoms and often causes mild to severe headaches and stomachaches as well as insomnia. 

Burnout can also result in getting ill more frequently. This is because stress weakens the immune system, so prolonged stress can leave you more susceptible to colds, flu, and other viruses. 

Behavior Changes and Mental Health Symptoms of Burnout

Along with the physical symptoms comes the mental weight behind burnout. Mental burnout can make it hard to function on a day-to-day level. Even getting out of bed in the morning can feel challenging for someone experiencing burnout. 

Other mental health symptoms of burnout include apathetic feelings toward work, friends, family, and even living your life. This can cause behavior changes, like snapping at loved ones and coworkers over minor issues and becoming detached and isolated. 

Burnout can leave you feeling lonely and with a sense that life is futile. People experiencing burnout often describe a feeling like: “what’s the point?” 

If you notice these behavior changes in yourself, you may be experiencing burnout. 

Causes of Burnout

Now you understand the symptoms of burnout, but what causes burnout? Why do people experience burnout symptoms?

Knowing the causes of burnout can help us prevent burnout before it happens. 

Job Stress

Work-related stress is one of the most common causes of burnout. 

Sometimes work can pile up, and you can feel overloaded. If this goes on for a short time, it probably won’t cause burnout. But if you get trapped with an insurmountable load of work or long and stressful workdays for an extended period of time, you may experience burnout. 

When we push through our work and accomplish it, it can leave us feeling good. But when we are overloaded with work, we don’t get that reward at the end of the stress. This is what often causes workplace burnout. 

Lifestyle Factors

There are stress factors in our lives that can cause us to feel spread thin. A perceived lack of control is one factor that often causes burnout. This can be in our workplace or our daily lives. 

Being unhappy with a living situation, having to manage a stressful relationship, juggling work and life, feeling overwhelmed at home are all factors that contribute to burnout. 

Having a dependent you care for, whether it’s a child or an older relative, can sometimes lead to burnout if you aren’t able to handle the amount of work as well as your own life. 

If you experience burnout caring for an older relative or a friend in need, it is called caregiver burnout. Single parents are more susceptible to burnout than people who are parenting with a partner because of the added workload and stress of going it alone. 

While it can feel difficult or impossible to change your workload or find a good balance between caregiving tasks and the rest of your life, don’t stress! There are ways to manage your stress to avoid reaching the point of burnout. 

How to Prevent Burnout 

Knowing the causes and symptoms of burnout is the first step to preventing burnout. The next step is making sure you make space for your own mental health and care and the time to destress. Even if that time is just a few moments at the end of the day, it can make a big difference to your overall mental health. 

Meditate

Meditating is a great way to relieve stress and prevent burnout. Meditation doesn’t have to be an hour or even half an hour. Studies show that just a few minutes of meditation a day can reduce stress and anxiety. 

So whether you take a moment when you wake up, before you go to bed, or while you wait for your afternoon coffee to brew, pick a quiet space and relax your mind. 

Set a meditation goal: it can be five minutes a day, 10 minutes three times a week. Whatever you’ll be able to achieve realistically. 

Talk About It

Stressed and anxious? Share your feelings with a friend or loved one. Just talking about our feelings can help release a lot of the tension and anxiety around our problems. 

Knowing that someone is listening to and acknowledging your stress can help reduce your stress levels. Whether this is a parent, friend, or therapist, it’s important to take space and talk about what’s bothering you. 

Find someone you trust who will listen to you and provide helpful feedback. Having an empathetic confidante will make a world of difference. 

Exercise and Eat Healthy 

Do not underestimate the positive effects of exercise and healthy eating. Exercise releases endorphins, which elevates your mood and makes you feel happier. 

Fueling our bodies with healthy foods helps balance our hormones and keep our mental state balanced as well. Your body works best on proper nutrients and physical activity. When we don’t feel good physically, we tend not to feel good emotionally either. 

Taking care of yourself physically will benefit your emotional state, stress levels and help prevent burnout. Plus, working out and eating healthy boosts your energy levels, which will make it easier to manage your increased workload. 

Take a Break

When we’re overloaded at work or in our home lives, taking a break can feel impossible. But whether you take a day off or an hour, it’s important to step away from a stressful task or situation and allow our stress levels to go down before we return. 

If you’re in the middle of a hectic workday and you’re starting to feel burnt out, take a fifteen-minute walk. Just fifteen minutes outside can help destress your mind and elevate your mood. 

If possible, turn your phone off on weekends. Don’t answer work emails. Step away from your desk. Set time throughout the week that is just for you. 

It can feel overwhelming or like you don’t have the time, but avoiding reaching the point of burnout will save you a lot of time, energy, and mental drain in the long run. 

Mental Health is Important 

Burnout can leave people feeling isolated, lonely, drained, and hopeless. Avoid burnout by taking a break, meditating, and not overloading yourself with work or life demands if possible. 

If you have already reached the point of burnout, speak to a medical professional today

At CityHealth Urgent Care, we believe your well-being and mental health should always come first. Our patient-centered approach means our team of trained medical professionals are here to support you through all your mental and physical health concerns. 

If you have questions or concerns about burnout, make an appointment at our San Leandro or Oakland locations. Or schedule a virtual appointment, and speak to a qualified medical professional from the comfort of your own home.