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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Last Updated on March 17, 2021

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the present when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or planning for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of learning how to live in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present in the moment can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them is extremely difficult. How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions when you are living in the moment. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.


3 Steps to Start Living in the Moment

Follow these simple steps for more balance and clarity.

1. Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, you need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

2. Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

If you find that you’re easily distracted, you can begin to tackle this with lifehack’s Free Guide: End Distraction and Find Your Focus.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So, how do most people cope with painful emotions? By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.


In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born until the time we die, our body and mind are actively performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy, which does nothing to help us learn how be present.

3. Practice Mindfulness

How can we start living in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

What Is Mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.


You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day, and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here are some breathing exercises you can try to learn to help you: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking, but are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.


Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So, how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness as you start living in the moment. 

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. 

    More About Living in the Moment

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via


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