A man experiencing symptoms of burnout.
Healthy Living

Burnout Symptoms: How to Tell If You Need a Break

Oct 5 2020

Feeling overworked and overwhelmed these days? You’re not alone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our worlds upside down, including our work environments. Whether you’re still working remote or are now back in your office, you are most likely dealing with uncertainty and change in your job unlike ever before.

Back in the 1970s, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger used the word “burnout” to describe the consequences of lasting workplace stress. People who are experiencing burnout aren’t just tired, they experience many unpleasant symptoms.

Here are a few ways you can tell if you’re burned out.


Although feeling tired isn’t the only symptom of burnout, it is a big sign. You might feel emotionally, physically or mentally drained. This can lead to additional problems at work and in your social life.


When you’re experiencing burnout, enthusiasm is hard to find. You might feel unmotivated to continue working or engaging with coworkers. Some people feel so demotivated that they stop tending to their personal hygiene.

Cynicism and frustration

Have you ever stayed up late and then felt grouchy the next day? Burnout can bring about those same emotions. You might find yourself lashing out at others or unable to see the positive aspects of your work.

Distracted thoughts

Burnout makes it difficult for you to focus on the tasks in front of you. Your thoughts might seem scattered. You might frequently lose your train of thought. An inability to concentrate could lead to a noticeable drop in work performance.

In some cases, you might even find yourself unable to shake thoughts about work when you’re off the clock. This tunnel vision elevates your stress levels. It prevents you from separating your personal life from your work life.

Unhealthy coping habits

People who experience burnout often experience a decrease in work satisfaction. That unhappiness can lead to unhealthy coping habits, such as overeating or an overreliance on substances like caffeine and alcohol.

If left uncorrected, these habits can pave the way to all sorts of physical and mental problems. Those might include dehydration, heart disease and depression.

Ways to avoid burnout

Not everyone who works hard ends up suffering from burnout. Use the following tips to stay in a good mental health space:

  • Take multiple breaks. Set a timer when you begin an intense, focused work session. When the timer goes off, take a break. Stretch, be social, write in your journal or go for a walk. Get your mind off of work. Then you can start your next work session feeling refreshed.
  • Set limits with other people. Sometimes the demands of employers or coworkers can lead you to burnout. Let others know when your workday is over or when you’re unavailable to take on more work throughout the day.
  • Remember to abide by your own rules. It’s easy for a quick email to a coworker to snowball into an extra 30 minutes of work. When you turn off your computer for the day, don’t turn it back on.

Need help managing your burnout symptoms? Learn more about the behavioral health services we offer and find a Mercy Health provider near you.

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