How to Recognise Signs of Burnout and Avoid it

With half of the world’s population in lockdown, burnout looks a little different but is still very much around. If you’ve been feeling exhausted off late with work, kids and your own mental health – you’re not alone. As the pandemic stretches on, it is important to understand why we feel this “new” burnout and how we can avoid this unwelcome companion.


Coined by the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, burnout is described as a reaction to extreme job stress that leads to severe physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Simply put, if you dread your job, feel exhausted and can’t concentrate at work, you may be showing signs of burnout. 

Quite contrary to popular belief, burnout is not always easy to spot. Keeping that in mind, we have put together a guide to help you identify the signs of burnout and prevent it. 


Do you feel like you might be experiencing burnout but not sure of the signs you should be looking for?

Here are seven early signs of burnout –

1. Exhaustion

You feel tired. And this is not just because you haven’t slept well the previous night. You’re physically and emotionally drained out. You’re running low on energy and can’t get yourself to exercise or engage with others.

2. Isolation

If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, you may find the need to isolate yourself from others. Socialising with friends and doing activities you previously loved may seem exhausting. You want to just crash on the couch or simply zone out by yourself. 

3. Escape fantasies

If you are aware that you are dissatisfied with your job, you may have frequent thoughts of quitting your job, running away or having a nice long vacation. You may find yourself depending on caffeine, comfort foods and a lot of time in from of the telly just to escape from reality. 

4. Irritability

Burnout may cause you to be short-tempered around friends, co-workers and family very often. Preparing for a meeting, dropping your kids to school or making yourself dinner every night can seem very overwhelming and too much to handle.

5. Illnesses

Similar to other kinds of long-term stress, burnout can weaken your immune system. The initial symptoms may be subtle like the flu, insomnia, headache or a stomach bug. If these early signs are constantly ignored, this may lead to more severe diagnosis. 

6. Anxiety

If you are someone that might be experiencing early signs of burnout, you might find yourself overthinking the tiniest details, especially at night. Feeling on edge all the time indicate high levels of stress and should not be ignored.

7. High self-criticism

You might hold yourself responsible for the feelings you feel. A critical voice inside you may tell you to work harder, even though you are doing all you can. If you’re overly hard on yourself but still feel your productivity declining, this may be a sign of burnout.


It is important to remember that stress is unavoidable, but burnout entirely is. Here are six tips to help you keep burnout at bay –

1. Exercise

It comes as no surprise that exercise is the solution to most problems. It is not only great for our physical health but can also provide you with an instant emotional boost. You do not have to while away the hours at the gym, practice some yoga like these desk poses or go out for a walk and you’re good to go. 

2. Healthy diet

We do not have to explain this one. You are what you eat, and it couldn’t be more accurate in this case. Incorporating fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet can make you feel fuller for longer, thereby eliminating any physical weakness. A diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids is known to be an anti-depressant, so make sure you add some walnuts and fish to your diet for a natural mood boost.

3. Sleep schedule

Our body repairs itself when we sleep. If you’re cutting down on sleep time, it means that you’re not letting your body rest or reset. According to Healthy Sleep Tips by the National Sleep Foundation, it is establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and smartphones before bed and introducing pleasant aromas can help you catch up on that much-needed sleep.

4. Take a nap

Naps are great for healthy adults just like they are for children. If you’re feeling low on energy, try to take a nap instead of reaching out for that cup of coffee. Even though your busy lifestyle sometimes does not permit you to take time out for a nap, try to get at least 20-30 minutes to relax. This can help improve mood, make you stay alert and perform better.

5. Pay attention to your breaking point

We live in a world that is so competitive and fast that burnout is almost inevitable at times. However, the earlier you detect the signs of a burnout creeping up on you, the easier it will be to tackle it. Check-in with yourself every day to listen to what your body is telling you. Maintaining a daily journal can help you identify trends and will also act as an excellent outlet for negative feelings. 

6. Ask for help

You cannot be a great parent, partner, friend or employee if you’re feeling burnt out from your job. This feeling of exhaustion can snowball and lead to something bigger. Remember, this is the time you reach out to friends, family or even your manager for help. Verbalising what’s happening and opening up is essential in starting to get the support you need.

It is easy to over-work yourself while working from home because of the need to be available all day long. We’ve written articles on how you can balance work and parenting and different ways you can achieve a healthy work-life balance, so do check them out.