What is burnout and how to avoid it

What is burnout and how to avoid it

Burnout is on the rise. Reports suggest that the number of people reporting they are burnout has increased by 7% in the last year. Whilst research by Glassdoor suggests that discussion about burnout has actually gone up by 48% in the last 12 months. These are worrying figures, but what exactly is burnout and why is it something we should be worried about as individuals and as businesses?



Burnout is when

  • A person feels physically and emotionally exhausted.
  • They may feel drained and tired most of the time.
  • They can also feel helpless and trapped in a situation that they can’t get out of.

People can experience burnout at home, at work, or both.

For example, a person may feel that they are worn out in their job, but unable to leave because they need the money and have bills to pay. A person may feel worn out at home, caring for other people, caring for children, engaging in activities and other things that they have to do.

Activities, socialising and so on can be enjoyable, work can be enjoyable, but sometimes it all comes together and is too much. The person begins to feel worn out and exhausted.

Sometimes, a good night’s sleep, a weekend off or a holiday can ease these feelings. But sometimes they are longer term and a day off or a week off will simply not be enough.

Why is burnout something to worry about?

Burnout, then, is much more than feel tired and stressed after a bad day. It is a longer term problem where the person is simply worn out.

Over the long term, burnout can have series effects on a person’s life –

Chronic stress and burnout can affect a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to colds, flus and many other viruses and diseases.

People can have psychological effects, feeling anxious, cynical and unmotivated.

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Extreme fatigue

Over time, this can affect a person’s –

  • Personal life
  • Relationships and social life
  • Professional growth
  • Promotion opportunities
  • Working life
  • And other areas of their life.

It is therefore essential to deal with the symptoms of burnout as soon as you become aware of them in yourself or someone else.

Dealing with Burnout

What can individuals and businesses do to avoid the long term consequences of burnout?


Whilst holidays are not the answer, it is important that people do take their holiday entitlement.

  • Glassdoor found that 40% of workers do not take their full holiday entitlement.
  • They also found that 50% of people find it hard to disconnect from work.
  • 21% felt the need to be aware of what is happening in the workplace when they are not there.

This is not good as a person is not truly getting a break from work.  Therefore -

  • It is important as an individual, and a business, to ensure that full annual leave entitlement is taken.
  • Some businesses do not allow staff to access their emails, messages and so on outside of work hours and during holidays.
  • Individuals need to try to find a good work/life balance, ensuring that when they are outside of work, they try not to think about work.
  • Some businesses offer unlimited time off to employees who are struggling with burnout. This may be paid by some organisations, but not by others, which can make it hard for the employee to take the time off.

Manage Your Time Better

We often consider how we manage our time at work, but also consider how you manage your time at home.

At the start of each day or each week, draw up a plan for what you have to do at work, and at home.

It can be easy to think you have to do a lot of things during the week, then realise you simply don’t have time to do them.

So, look at your week and try to plan in what is necessary and what is achievable. 

We can’t always do everything we need to do, so it is important to prioritise.

Consider –

  • What are your priorities in work today? This week?
  • What are your priorities at home today? This week?
  • What is not so important and can be left to tomorrow/next week?

Once you have drawn this up, consider how you are going to fit in your priorities.

Allow Yourself Enough Time

Think about how much time you need to do something. Say you need to go food shopping after work, but then have to drop the kids off at karate.  Between work and karate, you have one hour.

  • Could the food shop be left until the next day?
  • Could it a small shop be done to get the essentials?
  • Could you go shopping while the kids are in karate?

Try and plan things to make them easier for yourself, rather than rushing from one thing to another. Putting pressure on yourself at home will make you more tired at work, and vice versa.

Leave Work At Work

It can be hard, but try to leave work at work.  If you find you are thinking about work when you are home, try to think of solutions.

  • Could you work half an hour later every evening, or perhaps go in an hour earlier so that you are more on top of your work and can stop thinking about it when you are at home?
  • Can you turn off your work mobile/laptop etc as soon as you leave the office?

There is no right answer here. It is for you to find out what works for you, but try to leave work at work. 

This is not always easy, particularly for people who work for themselves or those who work from home.

At the end of the working day, why not try writing a list of –

  • Priorities for the next day
  • Things you haven’t managed to do today, so you need to do first thing tomorrow


This might help to clear your mind and prepare you for your priorities the next day.

Say No

Sometimes we have to say no. This can be –

  • At work – telling someone you simply don’t have the time to take on another task at work.
  • At home – telling someone that you cannot give them a lift or help them with something at that minute.
  • Socialising – you don’t have to go to everything. Socialising can be nice, but if it means you are worn out and tired the next day, sometimes we have to say no.

It can be hard to say no. We can feel that we are being rude or unhelpful, but sometimes we do have to think of ourselves first.


We all have different ways of relaxing.  Drinking alcohol, smoking and taking drugs can be negative ways to relax and harmful as well, so try to find positive ways to relax to avoid burnout. What makes you feel relaxed will be different to someone else, so find what relaxes you the most –

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Yoga
  • Exercise class
  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Spending time with friends and family

Many of us feel lazy sitting there and reading or watching TV, but our minds and bodies need a break to be able to work effectively, so there is nothing wrong with it!

Get Enough Sleep

It can be hard to sleep if we are worried and stressed, but try to ensure you have enough sleep.

  • Avoid electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Trying having a nice soak in the bath to relax
  • Read for a bit
  • Make sure the room is dark and the right temperature for you
  • Some people like using black out goggles or black out curtains to ensure that it is dark enough

Ask For Help

If you are really struggling, ask for help –

  • Tell your employer that you cannot do everything that you have been asked to do. Perhaps prepare an example of your typical day, so that they can see you cannot possibly fit everything in. This may be daunting to do and worrying for some, but a reasonable employer will hopefully be prepared to listen. If they do not listen, you may end up off sick or not able to do your work as well as you did, or you may simply leave, so it is in their best interests to pay attention.
  • Ask for help at home. If you are struggling to do the tasks you need to do, ask someone to help out. Perhaps help out with homework.
  • Don’t feel the need to say yes to everything.

If you really are struggling, then contact your doctor or a counsellor who can give you more in-depth suggestions and ideas for how to deal with burnout.


Find Your Passion

Burnout can make people feel worn out and disinterested.  It can make us lose our passion for work, for hobbies, for our families and friends.

Trying to find that passion back is important.

Try thinking –

  • Why do I like my job?
  • What is it about my hobby that I love?
  • What are the positive qualities of my friends and family that I’m missing?

Look at the positive side of life. Try keeping a gratitude diary and record the positive things in your lives.

These techniques are all suggestions. There are no easy answers when it comes to burnout. Some of these ideas will work for some people and not others. Find out what works for you. Give them a try!


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