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5 Super Common Signs of Work-Related Burnout

By Randy Withers, LCMHC LCAS

5 Super Common Signs of Work-Related Burnout

Have you ever felt like you’re on an endless treadmill at work, with each day blurring into the next, offering no respite? This experience, increasingly common in today’s high-stress work environments, may be a sign of something more serious: work-related burnout. It’s a condition often unnoticed in the hustle of our daily routines, yet it impacts a significant portion of the workforce.

Imagine if you could identify these signs early and take proactive steps to protect not only your well-being but also enhance your work-life balance. This post aims to shed light on the more common symptoms of burnout, and offer valuable insights to help you navigate this challenging condition.

What Is Work-Related Burnout?

Work-related burnout is more than just a bad day or a rough patch at the office. It’s a complex condition recognized by the World Health Organization, described as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

The Core Aspects of Burnout:

  • Emotional Exhaustion: The feeling of being emotionally drained and depleted of emotional resources.
  • Depersonalization: Developing a negative, callous, or detached response to various aspects of the job.
  • Reduced Personal Accomplishment: A sense of ineffectiveness and a lack of achievement in one’s work.

According to a report from the American Psychological Association, a staggering 79% of workers polled in 2020 reported instances of work-related burnout. The data indicates that instances of burnout had spiked by 38& just from the previous year.

Work-related burnout is, if you’ll pardon the expression, an epidemic in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • Acknowledge Burnout: Understand that work-related burnout is a real and serious condition with emotional, physical, and mental symptoms.
  • Identify the Signs: Be aware of burnout signs like chronic fatigue, decreased job satisfaction, cynicism, irritability, and dread of work.
  • Consider Therapy: Therapy can provide critical support and strategies for coping with and overcoming burnout.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Regular breaks, exercise, good sleep, and enjoyable activities are crucial for managing stress and preventing burnout.
  • Set Work-Life Boundaries: Clearly define work hours and responsibilities to maintain a healthy balance between professional and personal life.

5 Common Symptoms of Work-Related Burnout to Look for

Recognizing the signs of work-related burnout is essential for maintaining your emotional health and for achieving a healthy work-life balance. Here are 5 symptoms that tend to indicate burnout, either in yourself or in someone close to you.

1. Chronic Fatigue

One of the most telling signs of work-related burnout is chronic fatigue. This isn’t just about feeling tired; it’s a profound and constant sense of physical and emotional exhaustion. It stems from the cumulative stress of workplace demands, often leaving individuals feeling depleted and unable to recover with regular rest.

  • Symptoms: Constant tiredness, lack of energy, feeling physically drained.
  • Example: Sarah, a project manager, finds herself too tired to engage in hobbies she once loved, struggling to muster energy even on weekends.

2. Reduced Professional Efficacy

Another common sign is a noticeable decline in job performance. Individuals may experience a lack of accomplishment, a drop in productivity, or a diminished sense of competence and achievement at work.

  • Symptoms: Missing deadlines, decreased quality of work, lack of motivation.
  • Example: John, an accountant, notices an increase in errors in his reports and struggles to concentrate, which was never an issue before.

3. Cynicism and Detachment

A growing sense of cynicism and detachment from the job is a red flag. This often manifests as negative or apathetic attitudes towards one’s work, colleagues, and even clients or customers.

  • Symptoms: Feeling disconnected, loss of enjoyment, negative attitudes towards work.
  • Example: Emma, a software developer, starts feeling that her projects are meaningless and avoids team meetings, preferring to work alone.

4. Increased Irritability

Burnout can lead to heightened irritability and shorter tempers. Minor workplace annoyances become significant frustrations, and individuals may find themselves having a lower threshold for stress.

  • Symptoms: Snapping at colleagues, frustration over small issues, feeling overwhelmed.
  • Example: Mike, a sales representative, finds himself getting irritated by client requests, which he used to handle with patience.

5. Dread of Work

Lastly, a clear sign of burnout is the feeling of dread that accompanies the thought of going to work. This goes beyond the usual Monday blues; it’s a persistent sense of anxiety or unhappiness about work-related activities.

  • Symptoms: Anxiety on Sunday nights, constant worry about work, feeling trapped.
  • Example: Linda, a marketing coordinator, feels a heavy sense of dread each morning, making it difficult to get out of bed for work.

What You Can Do About Burnout

Burnout doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of your professional journey. There are several proactive steps you can take to manage and prevent it. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Seek Therapy: Engaging with a mental health professional can provide valuable insights and coping strategies. Therapy offers a safe space to explore the underlying causes of burnout and develop personalized techniques to manage stress and improve well-being.
  • Take Regular Breaks: Integrate short, frequent breaks into your workday. Stepping away from your desk, even for a few minutes, can significantly reduce stress and improve concentration.
  • Exercise Regularly: Physical activity is a powerful stress reliever. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a workout at the gym, find an exercise routine that you enjoy and make it a part of your regular schedule.
  • Protect Your Sleep: Prioritize getting enough sleep. Good sleep hygiene—such as a consistent sleep schedule and a relaxing bedtime routine—can enhance your mood and energy levels.
  • Engage in Fun Activities: Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Hobbies, socializing, or simply engaging in leisure activities can provide a much-needed break from work stress.
  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. This might mean setting specific work hours, learning to say no to excessive demands, or creating a dedicated workspace if you’re working from home.

By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can mitigate the effects of burnout and foster a more sustainable, fulfilling professional life.

Final Thoughts

Work-related burnout is a major threat to today’s workforce. Recognizing the signs – such as chronic fatigue, reduced professional efficacy, cynicism, irritability, and a pervasive dread of work – is crucial in taking the first steps toward prevention and recovery.

But recognizing these signs is just the beginning. It’s essential to take proactive steps towards addressing burnout, which may include seeking professional therapy, implementing lifestyle changes, and making a conscious decision to leave work at work.

Are you seeing signs of work-related burnout in yourself? If so, consider this post a call to action. Seek support, start conversations in your workplace, and prioritize your well-being. The harsh truth is that it’s up to you to protect your mental health. It’s nice to think that employers care about the mental health needs of their employees, but let’s be honest – do you have any reason to think they actually do?


Can burnout affect physical health?

Absolutely. Burnout can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances.

Is burnout the same as stress?

While related, they’re not the same. Stress is often short-term and situation-specific, while burnout is a prolonged state of exhaustion.

Can taking a vacation cure burnout?

While rest is important, burnout often requires more comprehensive approaches, including lifestyle changes and therapy.

Are certain jobs more prone to burnout?

Yes, jobs with high stress levels and demanding environments are more prone to causing burnout.

Can changing jobs resolve burnout?

It might provide temporary relief, but understanding and addressing the underlying causes is crucial for long-term recovery.

Randy Withers LCMHC, owner of Practical Counseling and Wellness Solutions, PLLC

About The Author

Randy Withers, LCMHC LCAS is a board-certified Counselor licensed to treat mental health and addictions in North Carolina. He specializes in men's mental health, addictions, and enjoys working with LGBTQ, law enforcement, veterans, first responders, and therapists communities. He is the owner of Practical Counseling and Wellness Solutions.

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