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How to Manage Signs of Burnout

By DeVry University

October 5, 2021
5 min read


Balancing work-life responsibilities can take a little bit of practice. Sometimes, if your plate gets too full, it can lead to burnout.

The good news is that burnout can often be avoided. By understanding the signs of burnout as well as how to prevent and manage it, you can learn to balance your obligations in a positive and effective way.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical fatigue accompanied by stress that can cause you to feel overwhelmed, leaving you mentally and emotionally exhausted. While you’ve certainly heard this term before, did you know that it is classified as an actual medical condition?

Burnout is recognized in the International Classification of Diseases database (ICD) by The World Health Organization (WHO). For the latest ICD-11 release expected in 2022, WHO identifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon, defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

According to the ICD-11, there are three key dimensions to burnout:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativity related to one’s job.

  • Reduced professional efficacy.

A study conducted in 2020 by Spring Health discovered that 76% of U.S. employees surveyed have experienced burnout. While stress from work can be a major contributor to burnout, other stresses in your life can also cause extreme exhaustion and have a significant effect on your career, health and relationships.

Symptoms and Signs of Burnout

If left untreated, burnout can also cause serious problems for your mental and physical health and make it difficult to cope with daily stressors. But signs of burnout can be difficult to spot. That is why learning about the various signals can help you recognize when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Burnout can manifest as physical symptoms affecting your health. Studies show that employees with high levels of burnout report a range of psychological and physiological health complications.

Some of these physical symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion and/or disturbed sleep

  • Headaches

  • Frequent illnesses, such as gastrointestinal issues

  • Change in appetite

  • Muscle tension

Emotional and Behavioral Signs and Symptoms

Burnout doesn’t just take a toll on you physically. It can also cause changes in the way you feel and behave, whether you are at work or at home.

Emotional or behavioral signs of burnout can include:

  • Detachment and isolation

  • A negative outlook or attitude

  • Self-doubt and a sense of failure

  • Emotional numbness

  • Decreased job satisfaction or low sense of achievement

  • High procrastination and/or low motivation

  • Lack of creativity

  • Irritability and quick temper

  • Use of food, drugs or alcohol to cope

How to Manage and Prevent Burnout

When you recognize the signs of burnout, it’s important to pause to re-evaluate your situation and then take steps to make things more manageable at work, home or while studying in college. Here are a few tips you can implement in your life:

  • Take a break from work.  If you can, take a vacation or staycation, which gives you time to recharge. That way when you return, you’ll have a fresh outlook and renewed energy to take on your task list.

  • Reach out to someone you are comfortable with who is a good listener, such as a family member, friend or colleague. Sometimes just talking through things can feel like a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, which can ultimately help provide a buffer from various stressors.

  • Seek advice from your supervisor or manager and let them know how you are feeling. They may have suggestions to lighten your workload or help you work through any other stresses you may be facing.

  • Talk to a healthcare professional, counselor or psychologist. With their guidance and advice, you can learn to cope with stress and manage burnout.

  • Develop healthy lifestyle habits. Try to exercise every day. This is not only good for your physical health, but it can also help improve your mood. Start with a brief walk if you are short on time. Aim to maintain a healthy diet and cut out any junk food, excessive caffeine and alcohol.

  • Practice good sleep habits. Disturbed sleep can leave you feeling tired and moody,  which only exacerbates stress and symptoms of burnout. When you are fatigued, it’s harder to think clearly or rationally, which can make it more difficult to find creative and effective solutions to your problems.

  • Set some time for relaxation. Practice yoga, meditation or breathing techniques to calm your mind. Indulging in activities or hobbies that are relaxing can help boost your happiness levels and creativity.

  • Limit social media usage. Studies show that spending an excessive amount of time on social media can aggravate low self-esteem, depression and stress. In fact, taking regular breaks from technology like your phone or laptop can help you recharge and relax.

  • Evaluate your work. Consider aspects of your job that positively impact others and try to focus on those. Learning a new skill, for example, can help build your confidence and even prepare you to pursue more rewarding projects or roles.

Learn How to Balance School, Work and Life

Considering going back to school and wondering how to fit it into your busy schedule? We can help. At DeVry, we offer the tools, resources and support designed to help you stay balanced and on track.

If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression or self-harm related to burnout, contact:


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Chat
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-726-4727
Emergency Medical Services: Dial 911

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