How to avoid burnouts

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Nowadays, when society glorifies hustle culture and productivity, many students and professionals alike feel compelled to push themselves to their limits and as a result, burnout frequently. How can you spot signs of burnout and recover from it? Is there a way to balance work and life to protect your long-term wellbeing?

Let's first look at how to spot burnout. Burnout is a period of prolonged mental and physical exhaustion caused by continuous stress, either from work or other circumstances such as taking care of kids. Symptoms of burnouts include:

  • Exhaustion: include both mental and physical fatigue, along with symptoms like headaches, insomnia, appetite changes

  • Isolation: feeling overwhelmed will make people stop socializing and reaching out to others around them

  • Escapism: many seek a way to get out of their reality by fantasizing about holidays, or resort to substances such as alcohol, drugs, or food as a distraction

  • Irritability: people under burnout are more affected by small annoyances and snap easily to people around them.

  • Frequent illnesses: chronic stress can decrease the immune response and make one more susceptible to sicknesses such as the flu, colds, and insomnia.

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it progresses through 12 stages. Knowing where you are can help you intervene quickly and take appropriate steps to get out. Here are some of the important stages to look out for:

  1. Excessive drive: this is an early warning sign - it’s easy to be too ambitious when you start a new job/project and take on more than you can handle

  2. Pushing yourself to work excessively

  3. Neglecting your own needs: you start to compromise your sleep, exercise and eating habits, and self-care time.

  4. Displacement of conflict: you start to blame your stress on external factors like your school, work, or other people, instead of acknowledging that it’s you who are pushing yourself too hard

  5. No time for non-work-related needs: social events and spending time with others start to feel like a chore, an annoyance that takes away your time instead of being enjoyable.

  6. Behavioral changes: you become irritable and snap at loved ones easily

  7. Depersonalization: you feel detached from your life, like you don’ have control over it

  8. Inner emptiness or anxiety: to cope with feeling empty or restless all the time, you might turn to addictive behaviors

  9. Depression: a feeling that life lacks meaning and a loss of hope, motivation, interest in all things

So what can you do to prevent having a burnout? How can you maintain a work-life balance in this ever-busy world?

  • Make your physical and mental health unnegotiable and keep up healthy habits no matter what: stick to your exercising, eating, and sleeping habits even when you’re busy

  • Open up to your friends about your struggles and feelings.

  • Make time for your loved ones every day

  • Ask for help: if things get overwhelming, seek helps from your coworkers, teachers, or anyone that can assist or give you advice

  • Examine your beliefs about success: Do you really need to push yourself that hard? What is important to you?

  • Work smarter, not harder: find ways to make your working time efficient so you have more free time

In the end, your health, peace of mind, and happiness should come first. Your work should add to your life, not worsen it. Learn to make your work enjoyable, approach it relaxed and open to learning, and you will be able to lead a more balanced life.


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