What Causes Burnout and How to Prevent It

how to deal with burnout

We’ve all heard the phrase “you can’t burn the candle at both ends” to symbolize what happens if we overextend ourselves by working too much without rest. But in an increasingly stressful world where Americans are working more than ever, it seems that lots of candles are already totally burnt out.

This unique type of stress has a name: burnout, or occupational burnout. It is an all-encompassing state of physical and emotional exhaustion induced by chronic workplace stress. Sound familiar? You bet. Employee stress has been increasing for over a decade and remained at a record high in 2022, according to a survey conducted by Gallup.

So, we’re all stressed. What now?

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Burnout Symptoms

Identifying burnout is the first step in addressing it. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is categorized by, “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

What Causes Burnout

Several factors contribute to these feelings, often stemming from a combination of professional and personal circumstances. Professionally, high work demands, lack of control, insufficient support and unclear expectations can create a perfect storm for burnout to rear its head. Individual traits like perfectionism and an inability to say ‘no’ can also increase the likelihood of burnout occurring.  

what causes burnout

Dealing With Burnout

Studies have shown that employees who experience workplace burnout have a 180% greater risk of developing depressive disorders, making it even more important to know how to decrease its effects.

When it comes to beating burnout at work, prioritizing self-care is a must to replenish physical and emotional energy. Establish a routine that includes plenty of sleep, nutritious meals and regular exercise. Taking breaks throughout the day can also prevent burnout by allowing moments of relaxation to create space between stressful tasks.

Learning to set clear boundaries between work and personal life can help, too. Establishing limits on the amount of time and energy dedicated to work-related tasks prevents work from pooling into other areas of your life and creating a false sense of urgency.

Of course, reaching out for support when you need it is never a bad idea. Discussing your feelings with friends, family or a mental health professional can provide valuable insights and coping strategies to help you manage and overcome the feelings of burnout.

How to Prevent Burnout

Experiencing burnout once is more than enough. To avoid feeling its effects again, there are a few things you can do. First, regularly assess your stress levels and overall well-being. Incorporating self-reflection into your routine, like performing daily check-ins on how you feel, can identify potential stressors before they escalate. Overcommitting to tasks, assignments and projects can lead to overwhelming stress, so be selective about the tasks and responsibilities you take on by developing the ability to say ‘no’ when necessary.

Burnout is a real and prevalent challenge in our fast-paced world. Recognizing its signs, addressing its root causes and adopting a proactive approach to well-being can help in navigating and preventing burnout once and for all.

Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you resolve it? Tell us in the comments.


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One Thought on “What Causes Burnout and How to Prevent It

  1. What follows is intended to be an economic commentary, not a political commentary.

    The causes of burnout go beyond the day-to-day frustrations of a job; there is also a feeling of hopelessness in the average worker’s inability to get ahead financially in today’s economy. The national average ratio of median house price to income is at an all-time high of 5.6 with many metropolitan areas exceeding 7. New and used cars are similarly out of reach. Rent inflation approached 10% last year, so the dream of home ownership is just a dream for many. Those fortunate enough to own their home see skyrocketing property taxes. Most jobs have a terrible upside/downside tradeoff, with no profit sharing but an ever-present threat of downsizing. Employers can combat this by treating employees as having an equity interest in the company, with profit sharing opportunities. For non-profits, flexible scheduling and job security must be emphasized. And we need government at all levels to view workers as their constituents and not just a source of ever-increasing revenue. When workers see themselves getting ahead in life, they will be more motivated to work.

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