Signs You're Burnt Out (& How to Act Fast)

Signs You're Burnt Out (& How to Act Fast)

Sep 05, 2019

How is work these days? Are you having trouble focusing? Maybe taken a dip in productivity? How about your motivation – do you fear you’re running on empty? If you’ve answered yes to most of these questions, you may be burning the candle at both ends. For many, the workplace has become an increasingly stressful environment, giving birth to a state of exhaustion we had yet to coin…until now.

What we’re talking about is burnout.

What is burnout?

According to Stats Canada, 1 in 4 Canadian workers report feeling stressed, and 60% of them naming their workplace as the root cause. Most recently, the World Health Organization has included it in the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases) as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout, a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, is a result of chronic stress, and though often normalized, it can have a significant impact on your overall health. In keeping with Optima Global Health, the primary cause of burnout is the decline in quality of life at work, which often ends in feelings of overwhelming exhaustion.

So, what are the signs, and how do we fix them?

How to spot burnout

You’re so, so tired
One of the earliest signs of burnout is lack of energy. In this instance, going to bed early and waking up the same won’t even seem to help as lethargy sets in. At the core, this is a symptom of both physical and psychological exhaustion and manifests itself as lack of energy. It definitely doesn’t help when you visualize the mountain of work piling up in your (mental) absence.

Your motivation tank is on empty
Having trouble peddling your wheels? Productivity experts have determined this as one of the clearest symptoms of burnout. No matter the amount of time spent on the job, you just can’t manage to get your gears going long enough to tick through your to-do. Burnout can really change the way you see and approach work. If your motivation is on the dip, check in with yourself to unpack the ‘why’.

Your immune system is dwindling
Your sleep pattern is on the fritz, your eating is half hazard and with your mind, body and soul on empty, you are literally spent. Since chronic illness usually weakens your body overall, this combination tips the scale when it comes to your body’s wellbeing. For this reason, you can become more vulnerable to common colds, infections, and immune disorders. If you do find yourself stressed, here are some ways you can help keep your immune system strong.

What you can do

Take regular breaks
Burnout is when your workload surpasses your energy levels. Working hard can be hardly working when you’re having trouble with focus, energy and motivation. Restocking your mental energy is instrumental to workplace performance. Get out of the weeds and take a walk, a run or just a breath outdoors. Walking away from your stress from a moment gives you the opportunity to recoup, regroup and look at things in perspective. And besides, a lot of mental magic happens during the break periods.

Digidetox once in a while
With access to your workplace a tap of your screen away, it can a challenge to leave work where it belongs. Setting boundaries with your devices is a great way to ensure your off hours stay that way, off. Alternatively, many of today’s smartphones come with functions that allow you to set rules for when, and how long, you can use your phone a day. Whatever way you do it, always remember that, after hours, whatever is in your inbox can wait until tomorrow.

Be prepared to make a change if this persists
It’s possible that this isn’t burnout as much as it is a sign for you to change course. Ask yourself this: is it the amount of work or the work itself? Are you getting what you need? And most importantly, do you mean what you do? If you’ve had a hard look but can’t shake the feeling, it may be time to consider a different position.

Now affecting people across all ages, genders and disciplines, it’s safe to say that stress does not discriminate. Pro tip: you can do anything, just not everything. If you feel things coming to a head, take a moment to ‘zoom out’, evaluate your circumstance, and remember “it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”. 


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Leonard, J. (2018, October 24). Emotional exhaustion: Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and prevention. Retrieved from

Chatterjee, R., & Wroth, C. (2019, May 28). WHO Redefines Burnout As A 'Syndrome' Linked To Chronic Stress At Work. Retrieved from

Lloyd, S., Streiner, D., & Shannon, S. (1994). Burnout, depression, life and job satisfaction among Canadian emergency physicians. The Journal of Emergency Medicine12(4), 559–565. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(94)90360-3

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