With remote working blurring the lines between work and home life and a global pandemic causing ongoing stress in many areas of people’s lives, it’s no wonder that burnout is on the rise.

In fact, a recent report from Indeed found that 52% of all workers are feeling burned out, and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic.[1]

But what exactly is burnout? And how can you recognise the onset of burnout in yourself and others, to prevent it from happening?
 
What is burnout and what causes it?
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion which occurs when you experience long-term stress. Rather than being something that occurs immediately, it’s a condition which develops over a long period of time when you feel under pressure, overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands of your life.

Burnout is usually caused by a demanding job, but it can be triggered by anything that puts strain on you for a significant period. This could be having a poor work life balance, placing too many expectations on yourself, or feeling like you have a lack of control due to juggling too many responsibilities.

Whatever the cause, burnout has a negative impact on your physical and mental health, so it’s important to look out for the tell-tale signs.
 
Most common signs of burnout

The typical burnout symptoms can be characterised into physical, emotional, and behavioural. Here are the main indications that you or someone close to you may be at risk of burnout:

Physical – exhaustion and feeling constantly drained, difficulty sleeping, headaches and muscle pains, weight loss and change in appetite.
Emotional – lacking motivation, sense of failure and self-doubt, constantly feeling negative and helpless, loss of interest and enjoyment in activities.
Behavioural – feeling irritable, withdrawing from others, substance abuse, procrastination, cancelling plans and skipping work.
 
How to prevent burnout

Luckily, there are some things you can do to help manage ongoing stress and reduce the risk of burning out.

People and Culture Director at Ingeus, Juliet Mortiss, offers her insight: “It’s really important to take active steps to ensure a good work-life balance, for example, we have introduced the ‘Daily dose of sunlight initiative’, where we encourage employees to get out and go for a 30-minute walk in their lunch break.”

As the winter sets in and the nights get darker, it’s important to ensure that you’re taking breaks, getting away from your desk and topping up your Vitamin D.

Exercise is great tool for relieving stress and anxiety as it releases endorphins, a chemical which triggers a positive feeling in your body. Find what works for you – whether that’s going for a walk, hitting the gym or practicing some gentle yoga.

Juliet continues: “We also have 40 wellbeing champions across the business who support and help people manage their wellbeing. We know that if you’re struggling, speaking to someone can make the world of difference and sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone unbiased and separate from your life, rather than a close friend or family member.

Other things you can do to reduce burnout is ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eat a well-balance diet and practice breathing techniques such as meditation. By doing these things, you’re giving your body the tools to look after itself, manage stress and prevent the onset of burnout symptoms.”
 
How to help struggling friends, family or colleagues

Is someone close to you displaying one or more of the tell-tale burnout signs? Although it’s not possible to ‘fix’ someone who could be struggling with burnout, here are a few ways to make sure that you are being supportive:

Ask how you can help: People struggle and recover from burnout in different ways, but rather than assuming you know what they need or trying to find a solution to them feeling better, asking how you can provide support may be more beneficial.

Offer a listening ear: Make sure you regularly check in on them and be there to listen if they need to offload. If someone is burnt out, they may struggle to get out of bed or leave the house, why not offer to go on a walk with them? This is a casual, non-pressurised setting where they may feel more comfortable to open up.

Exercise kind gestures: Sending something as simple as a text to say that you’re thinking of someone can be really comforting. People suffering from burnout often feel lonely and can have low-self-esteem, so letting them know that they’re valued and loved can go a long way.

Be patient: Burnout can make someone irritable, cynical and unreliable. Although it may be frustrating, try your best to be as patient and compassionate as possible.