How to detect Burnout Syndrome

Burnout Syndrome is an illness highlighted by emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

It’s not an illness you suddenly wake up with one morning, like a cold for example, it has a slow onset with more and more frequent warning signs. As such, knowing the early warning signs to look for in order to manage it at its onset, is the best prevention.

The condition is not only caused by stress from work, too many tasks or work endeavours, but also as a product of lifestyle choices and your overall outlook on life.

So, what are the warning signals?

Problems with communication

You start to find the your conversations end up in disagreement or conflict, with your tolerance becoming less and less. At work, conflicts with colleagues and managers are more easily raised and become more frequent. You start to surround yourself with an aura of impenetrability.

You become locked in, stopping communication with old friends and avoiding phone calls or emails. Slowly, supportive relationships start to disappear from your life.

At its worst, even people trying to talk to you makes you upset.

Lack of motivation

You no longer look forward to work or activities you used to enjoy. You lack the enthusiasm to finish tasks and anything you do fails to be good enough for your standards.


You start to feel exhausted, lacking energy, feeling physically and mentally drained when you wake up. You lack concentration, start to forget important information, find it difficult to learn new things and make simple mistakes; all due to your low attention span. Someone pointing these shortfalls out to you will likely leave you feeling irritated and angry. Going to bed and shutting out the world will likely feel the only solution.

Reduced work performance

Your workload starts to overwhelm you. Stacks of papers, unfinished projects with more and more tasks to complete. It seems whatever you do, you can’t get the job done. You start having to force yourself to complete even the simplest of tasks.

Lack of care for yourself or your home

You may have lost your appetite, enjoying an energy drink and a cigarette for breakfast rather than  your usual healthy start to the day. Your breaks are spent at the coffee machine, trying to get that ‘pick me up’. You lack enthusiasm for exercise, only raising your pulse slightly by walking between car and office, or home and car. Your intake of alcohol increases in an attempt for comfort and combating stress. Your home is messy, you lack the energy to take care of it. And your sex life is non existent.


Your days seem unfulfilling. You no longer socialise with friends or colleagues due to a feeling of isolation and inferiority. You are unhappy with your day-to-day feeling dissatisfaction morning to evening.

Health problems

Before long your physical health will start to suffer also. Headaches, stomach cramps, breathlessness. Sleep becomes an unobtainable reality with medication being the only thing that gives you some shut eye. Your immune system becomes weaker with colds becoming more frequent and body weight fluctuating.

Burnout is, in many ways, similar to stress, but with the real likelihood of having serious consequences to your health in the longterm.

So, how can you get back on track and put some wind in the sails?

Although it may seem like an impossible feat, you have the ability to influence it.

Try to limit contact with negative people, avoiding toxic environments. Forcing yourself to socialise with colleagues and friends will seem difficult but rewarding.

Try to find new friends to help motivate you. Reach out to others who have experienced a similar situation. Sometimes simply sharing your concerns can make a huge positive difference.

Identify your priorities and learn how to organise your time. Keeping a diary of past and future events and chores will help to motivate you and give you a sense of achievement when they’re completed. It’s surprising just how satisfying it can be ticking off those ‘to do’s’.

Get out and discover new activities and pastimes. Limit your screen time where possible, and try to have ‘offline’ days where good old fashioned communication becomes the priority.

Engage in things that fulfil and satisfy you.

Keep alcohol, caffeine and nicotine to a minimum. Drink to have a good time, not to solve a bad time.

Focus on your diet. Eating more healthily at regular intervals will give you energy and keep you feeling fresh. Avoid too many sugary snacks and drinks.

Keep a good balance of physical and mental activities. Set aside time for manual tasks as well as mental workouts. Allow yourself some me time, where you can sit relax and assess how your week is going.

It takes a big change to climb out of an illness like burnout syndrome. But step-by-step it can be done. If you find yourself too overwhelmed with no end in sight, seek help from a professional. Mental health is just as important as physical health and who wouldn’t go to a Doctor with a broken arm? With the right help you’ll have the wind back in the sails and the open sea at your disposal.

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