Last Updated on December 24, 2020

7 Common Signs of Work Burnout And How To Deal With Them

7 Common Signs of Work Burnout And How To Deal With Them

Are you worried that you might be suffering from work burnout? When seeking out signs of work burnout, it’s natural to immediately consider your energy and mood during work hours or how you feel about your profession overall. Dissatisfaction, slipping job performance, and escalated frustration at work are common indicators that your job is stressing you out beyond your capacity to deal with them.

What Is Work Burnout?

A deeper look yields symptoms of work burnout in some surprising places. Studies have shown a direct correlation between professionals’ feelings of work burnout and their level of satisfaction with their work-life balance.[1]

Imagine yourself standing centered on a balancing scale, personal life on one side, and professional on the other. Pressure starts to build on the professional side, so you jump over there to resolve it.

Meanwhile, with nothing left to ground your personal side, those responsibilities and needs are neglected. You jump back and forth trying to get each side settled. It’s not only ineffective—it’s downright exhausting.

While this back-and-forth dynamic probably sounds familiar, it’s also an overly simplified description. In reality, the lines between work and home are not so clear-cut. The nuances encompassing these parts of our lives are multifaceted and complex.

This is true even in the best of times. With the current climate of socioeconomic stressors and the compounding factor of work-from-home chaos, it is more important than ever to address the elements of our lives that may be leading us toward—or definitively causing—work burnout. (This is especially relevant if it is not feasible to make changes to your work situation right now.)

So, what can you do to relieve work burnout without overhauling your entire life?

7 Common Signs of Work Burnout

First, we’ll take an honest look at common signs of work burnout that may signal a lopsided work-life balance. Then, we’ll cover some powerful steps toward ending this cycle. The good news is that with a deeper awareness and a few simple shifts, we can feel more centered and satisfied in work and life.


1. Fatigue Not Resolved by Extra Rest

Physical exhaustion is usually the first symptom we notice. Feeling tired all the time can lead us into a downward spiral of added stress and trigger many of the other symptoms listed below.

However, our physical, mental, and emotional energies are all interrelated.[2] In the case of burnout, sometimes the reason extra sleep doesn’t bring relief is that the root causes of mental-emotional fatigue are not being addressed.

If you believe the issue is purely physical, seek medical guidance as this may be a sign of depression, sleep disorders, nutrient deficiencies, or other issues requiring professional treatment. Stress-induced insomnia may also be part of the problem.

It’s important to understand some sneaky obstacles here that could keep you stuck in a cycle of mental-emotional exhaustion.

The first is comparison. What might be stressful or overwhelming to one person can be a total non-issue for another, so try not to make yourself wrong for struggling where others seem not to.

The second is expectation. Major life events or catastrophes are not the sole conditions related to work burnout. Ongoing stressors—even those that seem insignificant at first glance or a combination of several types—can wear us down over time and eventually create a powerful wallop of stress-driven fatigue.

These obstacles can cause a snowball effect of exhaustion because we’re fighting our internal judgment instead of using that energy to deal with the core issue at hand.

2. Postponing Basic Self-Care Needs (Whether Intentional or Not)

One of the most easily recognizable signs of work burnout is busyness, and it doesn’t help that our culture is consistently preaching and rewarding the “hustle at any cost” lifestyle. Unfortunately, this often results in people wearing their busyness like a badge of honor.


Sometimes, this looks like proudly announcing that you’ve been too busy working to take a lunch break. Other times, you might sacrifice hours of sleep by putting off bedtime to work on a project or try to catch up on unfinished tasks.

Whether intentional or not, the “busyness is best” mindset leads to self-neglect—a major contributor to work burnout and a core component of lopsided work-life balance.

3. Moodiness and Irritability

It’s common for a stressful work environment to trigger crabbiness. Unfortunately, it’s also highly likely that your snappy reactions aren’t being limited to professional situations.

One sure signal of emotional distress that may be leading to work burnout is when we find ourselves lashing out at people and circumstances that are not directly responsible for our mood. Unexplained grumpiness may be a secondary sign that you are also struggling with signs 1 and/or 2 above.

4. Lack of Focus or Concentration

These signs of mental fatigue can be caused by physical or emotional overwhelm as well as self-neglect. This means if you’re struggling with fatigue or stagnant self-care, as mentioned above, you’re likely to find yourself suffering from this symptom as well.

Being short on focus means you require more energy to complete even the most basic of tasks. Feeling like you don’t have enough time or energy to do what needs to be done is a catalyst for overwhelm and burnout.

5. Minor Unexplained Physical Ailments

When it comes to burnout, tension is high on the list of underlying culprits. It’s common for stress to manifest as physical discomforts that can’t be attributed to any medical condition. This can be frustrating, especially when we are absolutely suffering the symptoms but unclear on the links between them and tension-induced burnout.

Some of the main physical symptoms of tension include headaches, neck and shoulder pain and tightness, and digestive issues (heartburn, stomach-ache, bowel irregularity). Frequent random aches and pains, stiff jaw, and inexplicable weight variations can also be symptoms.[3]


People in this situation often go from doctor to doctor seeking an explanation without resolve. Unfortunately, this is at least in part because burnout is not a diagnosable medical condition. It was, however, finally added to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) with a rigid definition as an occupational phenomenon in 2019, after decades of debate.[4]

If you experience these signs of work burnout and stress, try addressing the root causes described here. If you give an honest effort and continue to suffer, take this information to your doctor and keep advocating for your healthcare.

6. Self-Medicating, Numbing, or Escapism

When life feels stressful, one human tendency is to escape. Instead of dealing with our issues head-on, we look for an easy diversion to avoid the discomfort.

Food, alcohol, and drugs (prescription or not) release feel-good chemicals in the brain. This effect reinforces the behavior for us so that whenever we feel stressed or unhappy in a situation, our subconscious automatically signals us to reach for that quick fix to help us feel better.

Other examples of numbing and escapism include excessive busyness, video game addiction, and other mindless activities such as bingeing TV shows or endless scrolling of social media. To a certain degree, these behaviors are typically considered normal in our society. However, if you find you’re engaging in them to avoid certain tasks, situations, or emotions, this can be a sign that something is misaligned in your life.

7. Lack of Satisfaction in Activities or Tasks You Used to Enjoy

This symptom is also commonly associated with depression. There are several components of depression and burnout that overlap, but that doesn’t mean the two are mutually exclusive. You can have both simultaneously, or you can have one without the other.[5]

In the case of burnout, you tend to feel too exhausted, stressed out, or preoccupied with worries to be present in the activities. It’s hard to enjoy something when your mind and heart are too distracted to be fully involved.

Another aspect of this is not really knowing what activities you do enjoy. When your main focus has been work and/or taking care of others for the majority of our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple things that bring you pleasure.


What Is at the Core of Your Work Burnout?

Sometimes, these symptoms of work burnout are a sign of misalignment in our work, meaning we might be best served to pivot in a new direction. However, one of the most dangerous things we can do is to try to resolve work-related causes without digging deeper into the underlying problems.

Symptoms are exactly that—external evidence of an internal issue.

Mismanaged time and energy, trying to be everything to everyone, and lack of social-emotional support are some examples of the root causes of work burnout. When we bypass these by focusing on surface-level fixes, we risk repeating these patterns of burnout no matter what our work situation.

A simpler, more effective solution is to recalibrate our work-life balance—an approach that can serve us well in any work climate. Having a solid baseline of harmony and resilience helps us avoid and/or recover from burnout.

3 Steps to Recalibrate Work-Life Balance

  1. Create spaces in your schedule that are dedicated to both personal and professional endeavors to ensure you are incorporating a good mix of both. Include a variety of activities and tasks you enjoy.
  2. Take intentional relaxation breaks periodically throughout the day. When you make it a priority, it’s easy to manage just a few minutes to stand up and stretch, rest your eyes and focus on your breath, or take a quick walk around the block. These simple activities alleviate tension, refresh energy and focus, and boost your mood.
  3. Focus on “musts” first. These are your foundational, bare-necessity tasks and responsibilities both at home and work. Anchor these into your schedule, followed by your lower priority tasks and projects. Unexpected extras (such as taking over the school fundraiser or fulfilling favor requests from colleagues) need only be allowed to fill in the spaces surrounding these, not take up the majority of your precious time and energy.

Final Thoughts

I know it feels counterintuitive or cliché, but we need to take care of ourselves first. When we do this, we start building momentum toward feeling good. We have more energy and feel more vibrant and alive in our work—more connected in both our professional and personal relationships.

We can’t maintain good work if our work is all we do. When you begin to notice signs of burnout, remember that when we feel better, we can do better—and then balance accordingly.

Part of the reason behind the WHO’s limited definition is the fact that some of these symptoms also fit the diagnoses of anxiety and depression. If you continue to experience any of these symptoms despite lifestyle changes and tips mentioned here, please seek the support and guidance of a qualified medical professional.

Featured photo credit: Samuel Bourke via



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Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

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Published on June 11, 2021

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

Well-being is a term often utilized in psychology literature to describe healthy individuals. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, or fulfillment. However, there is debate about what well-being really is and even how to spell it.[1] With so much confusion around the definition, individuals are often left to wonder what well-being is and how to achieve it.

This article will unlock the answers to three questions:

  • What is well-being?
  • How is it measured?
  • How is it improved?

What Is Well-Being?

Well-being includes a combination of feeling states and lifestyle factors. Feeling states associated with it may include happiness and contentment. Lifestyle factors may include feelings of fulfillment, achieving one’s potential, having some control in life, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Well-being is also associated with positive mental health.[2] In simpler terms, It is a construct used to describe many facets of life including psychological, physical, and social health. Synonyms for it include happiness, health, positive feelings, welfare, and wellness.[3]

It may also be defined as a state of balance or homeostasis. This balance is achieved by having enough resources to cope with life’s challenges.[4] Both challenges and resources may be prevalent in three areas: physical, psychological, and social.

When there is an abundance of challenges and inadequate resources, well-being is lost. However, humans are designed to work towards achieving a state of balance. Well-being is linked to interpersonal, professional, and personal success. It often results in greater productivity at work, increased learning and creativity, prosocial behavior, and fulfilling relationships.[5]

Why is well-being difficult to define? Likely because it encompasses a variety of life experiences and feeling states that may vary among individuals. To help individuals assess themselves, several measures have been created.

How Is Well-Being Measured?

Researchers need to agree on a standardized definition of well-being to accurately measure it. An adequate measure must therefore encompass every facet of well-being, including as a feeling state as well as a lifestyle. In other words, an effective measurement takes both life satisfaction and functioning into account.


Well-being can be broken down further into two categories: objective and subjective.

Objective Well-Being

Objective well-being looks at standards of living. This is useful for research looking at cultures, countries, or groups of people. It includes measuring education, income, safety, and life expectancy.[6]

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United National Development Programme, and the Italian Statistics Bureau have identified six areas for study related to objective well-being:

  1. Health
  2. Job opportunities
  3. Socioeconomic development
  4. Politics
  5. Safety
  6. Environment

Subjective Well-Being

Subjective well-being includes an emotional and mental assessment of an individual’s life. Two prominent subjective measures are life satisfaction and happiness. Measuring subjective well-being is useful for predicting mental health patterns.[7] It is determined intrinsically by the individual. Regardless of how their life might be perceived by others on the outside, this measures how individuals feel on the inside.

Subjective well-being can be broken down further into two categories: hedonic and contentment. The hedonic component relates to feelings, emotions, and moods. The contentment component relates to thoughts and whether an individual feels their life has been fulfilling. Individuals often measure their thoughts and life fulfillment against social and cultural backgrounds.

In other words, it is important to consider the context in which an individual lives. Individuals may perceive their lives differently based on social and cultural expectations. Furthermore, individuals cannot be measured without taking their environment into consideration.

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development determined subjective well-being to be an important factor in assessing well-being. Because it is perceived by the individual, it is often assessed by self-report measures. In other words, individuals rate their own level of well-being through psychological tests.[8]


There are five areas associated with subjective well-being:

  1. Genetic factors
  2. Basic and psychological needs
  3. Social environment
  4. Economics and income
  5. Political environment

How to Improve Well-Being

There are many ways that individuals can improve their sense of well-being. It is a complex construct with a variety of factors at play. Therefore, there is no one, perfect solution for it. Instead, the goal should be to engage in a holistic approach the incorporates a variety of factors.

The following methods are not comprehensive. What works well for one individual may not be the right approach for others. Instead, these approaches should be considered suggestions for improving well-being.

Individuals looking for a truly comprehensive assessment of well-being should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist, therapist, or medical doctor. These individuals may also provide resources, prescribe medication, or share tips for making lifestyle changes to assist in overall improvement.

1. Spend Time in Nature

There is evidence to support the claim that interactions with nature increase well-being. This includes an increase in positive emotions, happiness, and subjective well-being. Time spent in nature is also linked with an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as the ability to manage challenges in life.[9]

One study found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature each week was associated with greater health. In the study, it did not matter if that time was spent all at once or stretched out over the course of a week. Peak gains in well-being occurred between 200 and 300 minutes of nature time, weekly.[10]

2. Practice Gratitude

Individuals who experience gratitude as a trait experience increased well-being. Trait gratitude refers to the willingness to see the unearned value in one’s experience. State gratitude is a feeling that occurs after individuals experience an act of kindness and, therefore, feel motivated to reciprocate.


One study assessed state gratitude, during Covid-19 in China. Individuals were instructed to journal while practicing gratitude for 14-days, which included a one-month follow-up. The study found that gratitude practiced in a natural setting during times of increased stress and anxiety resulted in increased positive feelings and increased life satisfaction. However, increased life satisfaction was not sustained after one month.[11]

As a result of the aforementioned study, there is evidence to support a daily practice of journaling and gratitude for increased well-being. Individuals should practice both trait and state gratitude, whenever possible. Over time, these practices will become a habit and lead to lasting improvement.

3. Develop Increased Awareness

Increased awareness is associated with improvements in positive subjective experience, increased self-regulation and goal-directed behavior, and successful interactions with others.

Increased awareness can be attained through meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is the ability to consciously notice an emotion, thought, or sensory experience. It is a skill that can be taught. Mindfulness-based meditation and psychotherapy are two ways in which meta-awareness is learned. Kindness and compassion meditations are both linked with improved well-being. Both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may help increase awareness.[12]

4. Achieve Work-Life Balance

An individual’s workplace has the potential to either help or harm them. Workplace factors that negatively impact well-being include:

  • Work-related pressure or demands
  • Lack of autonomy or flexibility
  • Poor coworker and supervisor relationships
  • Shift work
  • Longer workday length

Employers can directly improve their workers’ well-being by providing paid leave, opportunities for salary growth, support for individuals with disabilities or those returning after injury, and access to health care. Improvements in the work environment and job structure may also be helpful.[13]

Worker well-being is beneficial both for workers and their employers. It is associated with improvements in:


  • Performance at work
  • Coping with stress and self-regulation
  • Satisfying relationships, prosocial communication, and cooperation
  • Immune system functioning
  • And physical and psychological health

Workplace well-being is also associated with a decrease in burnout, stress, and sleep-related issues.[14]

5. Seek Out Positive Relationships

Individuals with caring and positive connections often rank higher in well-being. On the flip side, poor social relationships can be more damaging than excessive drinking and smoking. Positive social relationships also help to protect against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Prosocial behaviors are important for forming social connections that lead to increased well-being. Appreciation and gratitude are both pro-social traits. For example, focusing on the positive qualities and actions of others. Empathy for others also contributes to higher levels of well-being. Lastly, generosity is also a strong predictor of life satisfaction.[15]

6. Stay Hopeful

Hope is a concept often related to spiritual and religious traditions. However, it entered the world of psychology around the 20th century. It is now an important construct in positive psychology. Hope can be defined broadly as the belief that things can get better, and that goals are achievable.

Hope is associated with an increase in:

  • Emotional adjustment
  • Positive feelings
  • Life satisfaction and quality of life
  • Social support
  • A sense of purpose


Well-being is a construct that is hard to define, yet widely cited in psychological literature. It is linked with feelings of happiness and contentment. It might also be described as a sense of purpose or satisfaction with life.

To accurately measure it, there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. In general, it has been separated into objective and subjective categories. Objective well-being considers social and cultural constructs. Subjective well-being refers to the individual’s felt sense and internal assessment of their own.


There are several things that individuals can do to improve their well-being. However, no one thing will improve everything. Rather, this requires a holistic practice of mental and physical health. Nevertheless, individuals who spend time in nature, develop positive connections, practice gratitude, stay hopeful, and develop awareness have a greater chance of experiencing better well-being.

More Tips For Your Well-Being

Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via


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