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Causes and Symptoms of Stress Burnout

Updated on April 25, 2015
Stress, Burnout, tips to do something about it.
Stress, Burnout, tips to do something about it.

The Difference between Stress and Burnout.

Each one of us has a different level of what we can endure before something starts to give.

Although burnout doesn't happen overnight, it can creep up on you if you're not paying attention to the warning signals which can be subtle at first.

This article is aimed at helping you find your tipping point, by recognising the signs and symptoms, you may avoid the fall over the burnout cliff.

Stress involves too much: too much pressure, too many demands both physically and mentally. Stressed people can still imagine that if they can get everything under control they'll feel better. Stress is drowning in responsibilities.

Burnout, however, is about not enough. Feeling empty, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. Often not seeing any hope of positive change in their situations. Burnout is about being dried up.

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress leading to following the three dimensions:

1. Exhaustion: Feels as though you are all 'used up'. Too much of life is draining, and not enough is fulfilling.

2. De-personalisation. Detachment or distancing oneself from other people, especially those who exhaust us, which in turn creates a cynical attitude. Your coping structure is becoming un-glued. You feel numb

3. Inadequacy. A reduced sense of accomplishment in that you're not getting things done, or you don't have the time to complete the tasks expected of you, or rarely receive positive feedback for what you do. You feel helpless.

Burnout Quiz

Stress, which is not always job related, if unchecked leads to burnout, which is a state of emotional, mental or physical exhaustion.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you become cynical or critical?
  2. Are you disinterested in what's happening around you and have trouble getting started on a job?
  3. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive
  4. Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  5. Do you use food, drugs or alcohol to feel better?
  6. Have your sleep habits altered or appetite changed?
  7. Do you have stress illnesses such as unexplained headaches, backaches, digestive disorders or other physical complaints?
  8. Do you feel isolated at work and in your personal life?
  9. Does your work take up so much time and effort that you have no energy is left for your family and friends?
  10. Increasingly pessimistic outlook on life. Do you find it's harder to get excited, harder to let things roll off your back and hard to look on the bright side in general?

Although any 'yes' answers are related to stress or burnout, some of these symptoms can indicate a thyroid problem or depression, please consult your doctor or mental health advisor to obtain clarity.

JOB BURNOUT Add these four pointers :

  • Lack of Control in the decisions that affect your job, or lack of resources.
  • Unclear job expectations or a poor job fit
  • Extremes of Activity e.g. either always monotonous or always chaotic.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics or a mismatch in values.

In a Nutshell : Stress vs Burnout

Characterised by over-attachment
Too Emotional
Blunt Emotions
Loss of Energy
Loss of Motivation and Hope
Produces Urgency and Activity
Produces Helplessness
Leads to Anxiety
Leads to Depression
Medically: Initially Physical Damage
Medically: Initially Emotional Damage
Are you on the edge - ways to pull back
Are you on the edge - ways to pull back

Tips for Pulling Back from the Edge

Before you beat yourself up, remember burnout is not for wimps.

You have reached burnout because of your dedication and ability to see a job through. You have a strong sense of responsibility and expect to reach your goals. However, a strong streak of perfectionism, especially in times of overload, uncertainty and significant change can transform a performance benefit into a personal and professional liability.

Burnout is the response to putting in too much effort, without taking the time to balance and restore oneself.

Getting out of the cycle of negative emotions, withdrawal and paralysis requires you to put your hands back on the steering wheel of life, realign your personal vision and surround yourself with support and make time for laughing.

Make a new Life Plan

Take Stock of your Core Values

  • Pare down your schedule and cut out activities which are not in line with things that are most pertinent to you.

Ask yourself about Trade-Offs.

  • Would you get more out of exercise rather than watching television?
  • Would you rather spend time with your family than do a favour for an ungrateful colleague or acquaintance.
  • Stay conscious about your choices so you know what needs to change.

Shortcuts - Look at shortcuts and ways to cut corners without cutting quality.

  • Can you make dinner by using some pre-cooked ingredients.
  • Could you put your sprinklers on a timer?

If you look for shortcuts, you are likely to find quite a few.

Men and Women React Differently to Stress.

  • Men engage in some sort of activity like cleaning out the garage, fixing broken appliances, doing hard physical exercise.
  • Women often need to talk, or clean, cook or nurture to regain a sense of calm.

Nutrition, Exercise & Wellness - Coping with Stress

Clear the clutter, it will take a load off your shoulders!
Clear the clutter, it will take a load off your shoulders!

Here are a Some Tips for Reducing Stress

1. Clear the Clutter.

Clutter weighs you down, both the stuff in the office, in your home and in your head. Get rid of outdated emails, paperwork, to-do lists that actually don't matter. Clear up the stuff in the cupboards - great rule is "if you haven't used it for two years, you don't need it - get rid of it".

2. Watch what you Eat and Exercise

Healthy food, lemon water, fruit is better than any fast food.

Walk whenever you can - even if its just parking further away and walking to the shop.

3. Breathing Exercise when Stressed :

The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, and not the shallow breaths from your chest. You will feel less tense, short of breath and anxious if your body receives more oxygen.

  • Sit comfortably with back straight.
  • Place one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest.
  • Breathe in deeply through you nose.
  • The hand on your stomach should rise, and slight movement from the one on your chest.

    • Exhale through your mouth pushing out as much air as possible while pulling in your stomach muscles.
  • The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand only slightly.
  • Counting slowly to ten as you inhale and again as you exhale.

4. Visualisation: One Minute Relaxation

Close your eyes and imagine your dream holiday spot.

  • Look at what's around you, sharpen the memory and the images.
  • Then tune into the sounds, the sensations and feelings on your body.
  • Bring in the weather and the smells.
  • Once this all comes together, steep yourself in your favourite place for one minute.

You will be pleasantly surprised at the length of a minute and amazed at how relaxed you feel when you leave your vacation visualisation.

Too late for you - take a break and learn again how to relax.
Too late for you - take a break and learn again how to relax.


If you have reached burnout or it is inevitable, take time off work - a complete break from everything is ideal.

If possible, go away by yourself, take a vacation anything to remove yourself from the situation. Take the time to sleep, recharge your batteries and take stock of your life and get everything back into perspective.

Work on a new Life Plan to guide you on your return.


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Another helpful Hub from you nice to see you back writing look forward to reading more of your work.

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      Music-and-Art-45, Thank you for popping - I hope now you won't reach the burnout stage again. Thanks you for your kind votes and love your beautiful, enriching hub!

      Rosemay50 Hello again and so great to have you visit again. Trust 2013 will be great for you and burnout doesn't come near you!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      This is an excellent hub with good information, advice and tips. In today's busy world many of us suffer at some time from burnout and probably don't always recognise the fact.

      Awesome hub voting up

    • Music-and-Art-45 profile image


      5 years ago from USA, Illinois

      I never considered burnout and stress to be different things until I read this article. Now I can say I've definitely experienced burnouts before. Great article and voting up sharing.

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      midget38, Thank you so much for the kind words and the share - very much appreciated.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for these wonderful tips on managing burnout, Shelley. A great hub with great tips, which I pass along.

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      Nell Rose Thank you for visiting. Sometimes one can be so close to burnout that only the people closest can tell that you are not yourself. I do hope your brother can be talked into taking a break!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Really good information, it sounds just like my brother, especially the different sleep patterns etc, mind you he doesn't drink or take anything, but he could certainly do with reading this, thanks nell

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      MamaKim8, So great to have you visit, I appreciate and thank you for your generous share!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      5 years ago

      Such fantastic information here! Thank you for this great resource. Stress is everywhere and you gave some great tips on how to manage. Voting a bunch and sharing!!

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      Vespawoolf, Thank you for your visit. I know just how you feel, we moved at the end of November and, that move plus getting ready for Christmas, created a lot of stress. Moving is high on the stress indicator, hence the article to help rid me of my stress! Thanks again for your comments, very much appreciated.

      Shiningirisheyes, So glad you stopped by, I think a lot of people are feeling the pinch and, I am hopping 2013 brings everyone a good supply of enough!

      LadyLyell Hello and thank you for visiting. You have a very interesting life when looking at your profile, and I am sure your inner strength and wisdom will continue to carry you through this present crises. We have had some very funny weather patterns all over the world, and that piled on top of everything else, I believe, also pushes stress levels up.

      KerryAnita, My wish for you is your work situation changes or becomes what you need it to be this year. Everything is very difficult right now with the world's financial pressures, both people and companies trying to keep their head's above water, so do please carry on writing as I am enjoying your hubs! Thank you for visiting mine.

      Marcy Goodfleisch, Thank you for popping by - I too felt pressure and the article made me feel better, hopefully it will help others.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Good information here - and timely, given the holidays and economy.

    • KerryAnita profile image


      5 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

      This is a very accurate hub. I am definitely in the midst of burnout right now and am struggling to change my work situation. My hope for the new year is that I will be able to move on from my current position. Until then I'm trying to keep my head above water by engaging in my hobbies, outside of work, as much as possible.

    • LadyLyell profile image


      5 years ago from George, South Africa

      A wealth of information in your hub. I've experienced burnout a few times in past years but a month ago more recently. I thought I'd never get going again feeling totally exhausted. I concentrated on not panicking about my feelings and today for the first time I felt able to do simple chores again. One small step at a time and I'll be back to normality I do believe.

      Oh how the body will not keep up the pace of younger years!

      An excellent article!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      You have penned a perfect hub for the New Year. I think all of us have experienced burn out in one form or another.

      Very informative and well researched.

    • vespawoolf profile image


      5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, this is a wealth of helpful information. I've reached the point of burnout at least several times in my life. We're in the process of moving right now, and I'm trying to prioritize so I don't reach that point again. Prioritizing is hard for me; remembering what is most important. Of course, decluttering is an automatic when getting prepared to move! I'm going to try the breathing exercises and visualization you mention here. Awesome hub, thanks! Voted up and shared.


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