top of page
  • Sailaja Menon


Are you feeling mentally exhausted or emotionally drained? If you said yes, then perhaps you are heading in the direction of a burn out.

Burn out is one of those mental hazards that crosses our life paths when you are constantly focused on perfecting everything you do such that the outcome is nothing but to excel. Burn out is one of those hazards in life that a high achiever with a personality of “I can do everything” should look out. High achievers are often so passionate about what they do that they work prolonged and extended long hours, take on tasks beyond their capacity and capability, cut off from social life, ignore their physical, emotional and mental health but instead put on enormous unreasonable pressure to excel and nothing but to excel – not realizing that they are heading for a burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout does not happen suddenly where you wake up one morning and realize that you have a burn out. It is a slow and steady accumulation of mental and emotional exhaustion where you do not realize the demands to deal with these stressors is simply poor and inadequate. Simply put, as an article in Psychology Today states - it is chronic stress that leads to -

  • physical and emotional exhaustion

  • cynicism and detachment

  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

When you are experiencing a full-fledged burnout, you find yourself struggling to function at a personal and/or professional level. Considering the symptoms are not obvious initially and makes it much more difficult to recognize. It is more insidious in nature and takes time to reach the optimum limit when your body and mind starts to pay the prize. It is extremely important that at this point they are not ignored.


  • Bottle Up Feelings

  • Work longer hours

  • Take on more tasks

  • Please people

  • Don’t say no

  • Be a perfectionist

  • Don’t take breaks

  • Isolate Self

  • Don’t talk about it

  • Squeeze out hobbies

What are the signs of burnout and are they similar as stress?

The three areas (from Psychology Today) described above are characterized by certain signs and symptoms, although there is overlap in some areas. The difference between stress and burnout is a matter of extent and degree to which symptoms are severe which means that earlier you recognize the signs, the better able you will be to avoid burnout (if you make a structured, consistent and meaningful life style changes in your work and personal life to address the symptoms when you recognize them).

Let us look at the 3 areas that are Red flags of a Burnout -

Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

  1. Prolonged and chronic fatigue - in the early stages you might feel a sense of lethargy and demotivation, however in the later stages it develops into emotional and mental exhaustion

  2. Insomnia / sleeplessness – in the early stages you might notice your sleep is disrupted once or twice a week where you are unable to, however in the later stages it develops into insomnia where you are unable to sleep for prolonged periods of times ( days and months)

  3. Poor memory / inability to concentrate - in the early stages it might be a mild distraction or inability to remember, however over a period of time it leads to inability to concentrate, poor memory and work and day to day to life tasks piles up and you are unable to catch up.

  4. Physical symptoms – in the early stages it might be intermittent body pains , however in the later stages these may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed)

  5. Frequently falling ill – in the early stages it might just be tiredness, but in the later stage your body is depleted and immune system is unable to cope and keep up making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

  6. Poor eating / loss of appetite - in the early stages, you might miss a meal or you may not feel hungry sporadically. In the later stages, this can become a consistent pattern of missing more meals and in turn impacting a huge weight loss

  7. Anxiety - In the early stages symptoms are mild- with tension, worry, and edginess. As you get closer to a burn out, the anxiety is at its peak with symptoms getting exacerbated and debilitates you from functioning - personally and professionally

  8. Depression - In the early stages, you may experience melancholic blues that makes you feel guilty and as a result worthless. However when it is at its worst you might experience immense and intense emotional pain, deep sadness, and feel trapped to the extent that you feel unworthy to live (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately)

  9. Anger- In the early stages its starts off with interpersonal tension and irritability. In the later stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or co-workers seek immediate professional assistance.)


  • Freeze and do nothing

  • Procrastinate

  • Overeat

  • Use more alcohol

  • Sleep too much or stop sleeping

  • Get distracted, inefficient, confused and indecisive on the job

Signs of Cynicism and Detachment

  1. Loss of enjoyment- At first, loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work altogether

  2. Pessimism- Presents with negative self talk initially that leads at a later stage to trust issues with coworkers and family members and a feeling that you can't count on anyone.

  3. Isolation- In the early stages, starting off with mild resistance to socializing to later leading to getting angry when someone speaks to you, or avoid interactions.

  4. Detachment- Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment. Detaching self emotionally and physically from your job and other responsibilities. Calling in sick, not coming into work and frequent tardiness.

Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment

  1. Hopelessness- Questioning the existence of your life and everything you do everyday Feeling helpless and hopeless

  2. Heightened irritability- feeling ineffective, unimportant, useless, and an increasing sense that you're not able to do things as efficiently or effectively as you once did. This in turn affects relationships personally and professionally

  3. Poor performance and non productivity-Unproductive due to chronic stress which results in long hours and unmanageable pile up of work and day to day chores.


  1. Breathe/ physically relax: focus on even steady breathing , muscle relaxation through meditation, yoga, therapy or recreational activities.


  • Take time to eat,

  • Attend to the eating process ,

  • Savor the flavor,

  • Talk to yourself about the nourishment,

  • Enjoy the eating

  1. Be Positive: Surround self with people who are positive, focus on the here and now, avoid vague fears from holding you back, do not act on impulse , engage rather than react to an emotion.

  2. Be assertive: Prioritize self, learn to say no, set boundaries and stand up for self

  3. Manage noise:create quite zones for self ,take a routine break at short intervals ,Get outside and distract self ,turn off electronic devices at designated times of the day to maximize quality of life

  4. Wait: Waiting is boring, Boredom is painful – However, create a waiting plan ,sort through a storage at home, clean out drawers at your work table, call your parents/ loved ones, keep your resume up to date

  5. Change your perspective: Be more creative, be better able to solve a problem ,improve your mood and improve your attitude

  6. Eat: Nourish yourself with positive eating where you practice the concept of TASTE

  7. Get Active: Exercise is both relief and prevention ,physical exercise gives you stamina to handle stress, walk and make exercise fun

  8. Achieve inner peace: Your spiritual self is a connection to something greater than yourself, practice mindfulness and compassion for self and others

  9. Play: Children need recess, but so do Adults ,encourage your own playfulness and develop positivity

Can anyone be Burnout Resistant?

Some stress and anxiety in life is normal considering our objective is not eradicate them but rather to manage them. Stress has some benefits – it keeps us competitive and break through higher levels of knowledge , creativity and strength when we stress the limits of our abilities- mental, physical or artistic .Therefore a burn out is avoidable or a person can be resistant to it if they proof themselves with the

3 C’s –

  • COMMITMENT – to your personal well being

  • CONTROL- to have the confidence and a sense of responsibility to take one’s life decisions , the ability to say no and draw boundaries

  • CHALLENGE: to reassure and convince self that life is uncertain and unpredictable and changes are normal.

6 views0 comments
bottom of page