What Is Burnout: Identifying and Preventing


Burnout can happen to anyone, from a first-year college student to a professional working in their position for 30 years. Although this term is comparatively new, it is better to stay informed about the common symptoms of burnout and its prevention. Find all the useful information below.

Symptoms of Burnout

In 2019, burnout was included for the first time in the official classification of diseases, called the International Classification of Diseases. Burnout was added in the eleventh revision of the classification that will come into effect in 2022. According to the definition of the World Health Organization, it is characterized by three main symptoms:

  • a feeling of intense fatigue and exhaustion;
  • negative or cynical feelings about work;
  • reduced professional efficiency.

Stages and Development of Burnout

Burnout begins (in the vast majority of cases, without the affected person being aware of it) by over-engagement in one’s professional activity during which a person feels fulfilled. Then, this overactivity begins to influence one’s family and social life. In the months or years that follow, a person manifests anxiety, which gradually worsens by the fear of not being as effective and efficient as they used to be or as they expect. The individual begins noticing the first flaws, and the fear of doing wrong is compensated by the desire to work even more. Several months or even years generally pass before the critical event occurs, which is sometimes manifested by the sudden onset and clear signs of depression. One morning, a person might find themselves in the situation of the inability to get up to go to work.

During burnout syndrome development, various symptoms may emerge, including irritability, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness, or a feeling of worthlessness. If the symptoms go away after a couple of days off or a vacation, it means that one was experiencing fatigue. If, on the contrary, a break does not bring much relief, a person feels drained and is no longer able to recharge their batteries, then we are talking about burnout. This syndrome causes great fatigue at the mildest thought of going to work and does not go away during periods of rest, weekends, and holidays.

Professional burnout expands on the private sphere as well. Little by little, an individual under consideration becomes detached, negative, and indifferent. They may say that they feel like a squeezed lemon. Social and personal life become less important for a person, and they tend to feel more negative towards the people they work with. As long as one maintains an interest in their private life, for their close relations, for their family, it is still fine. When people shut themselves off completely, they cut themselves off from their relationships, from their activities, they don’t do anything except sleep, one has to react. At that point, the symptoms of burnout are obvious.

Difference Between Burnout and Stress/Depression

Stress should not be confused with burnout syndrome. Usually, stress is caused by specific events, so once time passes or the person either moves away from the source of stress or excludes the latter entirely, stress goes away. Conversely, for the person suffering from burnout symptoms, nothing changes with time or with such accommodations as a vacation, change of project, etc. However, the symptoms here are very similar to depression. Specialists in this area of studies have different opinions on the separation of depression and burnout as different conditions. In any case, such severe symptoms are a reason to see a specialist.

How to Prevent Burnout

While there’s no specific treatment for burnout, you can prevent this syndrome using the following techniques.

  1. Mindfulness

To put it simply, to be mindful means being conscious of what is happening in the exact moment. The opposite of being mindful is to pay too much attention to the thoughts about the past or future instead of focusing on the present. You can try meditating to practice mindfulness. Meditation has numerous advantages approved by science, including a decrease in stress levels and better productivity. If you tend to worry a lot about your work or studies, try 10 minutes per day. There are many free apps with guided meditations, such as Calm, 10 Percent Happier, Wake Me Up, and others.

  1. Elaborating a Realistic Schedule

If you tend to procrastinate during long periods of time and then trade sleep for study before the deadline, it increases your chances to feel devastated and “gain” burnout by the end of your studies. Instead, try learning your habits and set healthy boundaries between yourself and your work/study duties. If you lack time to finish your assignment, you could seek professional assistance on paperwritingservice.com. In the future, try to prevent such situations by planning realistically.

  1. Avoid Multitasking

Although multitasking is often required from the potential employee in the job descriptions, this is not a harmless habit. Doing one task at a time will actually help you save time because when you multitask, your brain gets tired more quickly, and you end up working much slower. For the same reason, it’s recommended to turn off notifications on your phone during studying or working. Set time for a break to check all of your messages at once instead of changing your focus every five minutes.

To sum it all up, similarly to many conditions, burnout is easier to prevent than cure. Main preventive measures include planning wisely and taking enough time to rest. However, nobody is immune to burnout, so there should be no shame or guilt if you recognize yourself in such symptoms as apathy, exhaustion, and ineffectiveness.