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by Rob Porter | July 25, 2023


If you’ve ever experienced burnout, you already know how crippling it can be. We talk about burnout as if it’s a fact of life; however, there are ways to mitigate it and strengthen our resistance to it. Today we’re going to talk about the components of burnout, its symptoms, and what you can do to combat burnout at work. Let’s begin.

The Components of Burnout

Experts agree that there are three main components that contribute to burnout. The first is exhaustion, which in this context can be described as a depletion of cognitive and emotional energy that is so severe that a person can no longer perform tasks effectively, and thus begins to fall into a pattern of negative thoughts. The next component is cynicism, which in this case means that a person no longer feels invested in their work, and begins to feel a distinct disconnect from other people around them.

The third component of burnout is inefficacy. Once exhaustion and cynicism have crept in, a person might begin to feel that they are no longer competent in their role. This can have a major impact on productivity, and can lead to feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, and even depression. These components may come into play all at once or separately, as each individual will experience burnout in their own unique way, which is why it’s also important to recognize the warning signs.

Symptoms of Burnout

The symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, depending on their own unique circumstances and tolerances. Most typically, your energy levels can be a good indication of whether you’re suffering from burnout. Do you feel tired all the time? Is simply getting to work becoming more and more of a chore each day? If this is the case, you might find it difficult to complete tasks you once excelled at, or you might find it hard to concentrate.

Have you noticed a lack of patience for those around you? If you’re finding yourself irritated by everyone and everything, it could mean you’re headed towards burnout. Other things to look out for are a lack of enthusiasm for new achievements, headaches, and even an upset stomach. In serious cases of burnout, people might turn to alcohol or drugs to make themselves “feel better.” If any of these warning signs apply to you don’t ignore it, as it could also indicate other serious, underlying issues.

How to Recover from Burnout

You might be thinking it’s impossible to recover from burnout while you’re still required to go to work, but that’s not actually the case. First and foremost, make the issue known. If you’re having trouble, talk to someone about it—this could be a trusted friend or family member, or perhaps a coworker. Something as simple as “I’m feeling very overwhelmed” can alert others to what’s going on, and in most cases, people are more than happy to help or provide support.

Believe it or not, speaking to your boss or supervisor can be extremely helpful. In certain cases, we might lose sight of our priorities or the expectations of those around us, and a good boss should be able to help put it all back into perspective. Make a list of your tasks by priority and keep in mind what is expected of you—this will lead to more organized thought, and can provide protection against burnout.

Depending on your employer, you might have access to assistance programs in the event you’re suffering from burnout. Employee assistance programs are there for individuals who are experiencing any number of issues, work-related or otherwise. This typically includes in-house counseling, or a referral program. If you’re unsure of whether your employer offers such programs, reach out to a human resources representative.

Another great way to combat burnout is to find relaxing activities to engage in. Going for a walk on a nice day is extremely beneficial, and if you do it consistently, you’ll start to feel much more at peace. This could be as simple as a walk down the street in a quiet neighborhood, or perhaps a relaxing trail where you can take in the sights and sounds around you. Meditation can also work wonders for those experiencing burnout, so it’s worth looking into even if you’ve never considered it before.

Your overall health is incredibly important to eliminating burnout. A simple, regular exercise routine will help you to remain positive and motivated, and will contribute to higher energy levels and increased resistance to stress. Along with this, make sure you’re getting enough rest. Aim for 6-8 hours of quality sleep each night, and do your best to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. For our purposes, rest can also mean periods of quiet reflection, which are integral to our health and well-being. 

Lastly, be mindful of each and every interaction at work. If you’ve been feeling particularly stressed by certain situations or even certain individuals, change your perspective. Allow yourself to engage each situation with a renewed sense of patience and openness. This can be challenging, but the rewards are worth it since you’ll be conditioning yourself to be more resistant to your triggers. Remember, work is just one of many aspects of your life, and it’s not worth letting it have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.