“Burnout” typically refers to feeling exhausted from working hard. But, burnout is about more than being worn down from work. This guide will teach you about how to identify the signs of burnout and how to tackle it.
Man looking at his phone on the subway

What is it?

Burnout is a state when you’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed or unappreciated past the point of exhaustion. It’s typically associated with three categories of symptoms: 

  1. Emotional exhaustion: which can often look like physical exhaustion
  2. Depersonalization or cynicism: when you start to feel disconnected and negative in the workplace with others and the tasks at hand
  3. Decreased sense of personal accomplishment

With extra societal pressure to feel productive all the time, it’s arguably one of the biggest issues affecting workplaces and retention. In fact, a recent survey found that 77% of respondents have experienced burnout in some capacity at their current job.1

While burnout is often associated with work, the feelings can blur into other aspects of your life and cause a general lack of energy, focus and motivation. Burnout is different from sadness or anger, but it can lead to it. 

The fact that burnout is so common can make us think it is an expected outcome of hard work. But, that isn’t true, and ignoring it can often make it an even bigger challenge that requires more than a small solution. Identifying burnout, just like any feeling, is the first step in coping with it.

What's causing it?

Burnout is usually the impact of the workplace on our mindset. It can feel like a “you” problem, but it is really an issue of “you” in the system of your work and how you react to it. 

Particularly at the height of COVID-19, when many people began working from home—or not working at all—it became increasingly difficult to set healthy boundaries between personal life and professional life. When we feel out of control, or like our work has lost meaning and purpose, we are much more likely to be burnt out. We will then become cynical, less connected, emotionally exhausted and less productive. 

Burnout can look and feel different for everyone, but you may experience it as: 

  • Overload Burnout: This is the most familiar form, caused by working unsustainable hours in an effort to succeed at a faster rate. 
  • Under-Challenged Burnout: This happens when you feel underappreciated, bored and/or generally lack the motivation to complete tasks. 
  • Neglect Burnout: This happens when you feel unsupported—you want to do a good job but lack the proper resources to do it.

One of the things that makes burnout so hard to get rid of is that it’s difficult to identify until it’s fully set in. We wait until our work is affected, or someone mentions it to us in a review. But, there are earlier signs that something is wrong—we get angry at our emails, or maybe we change our schedule and are no longer getting dressed every day to work from home. Whatever the slight changes are, if we notice them, we can try to cope with burnout earlier.

The good news is—no matter what stage of burnout you’re in or what kind of burnout you have—there are proven ways to help fight it. While systemic change in the workplace can always help, that change may be slow-moving. To take back control over what we can do in the existing structure until larger changes happen, there are ways to help yourself thrive.

Burnout, if ignored, can affect your mindset and quality of life in many ways.

Having burnout doesn’t mean you have a mental health condition. That being said, there are some conditions that are connected to burnout. It’s worth considering if something deeper is going on under the surface. 

How should I deal with it?

Feeling burnout can seem like you’re trying to run in quicksand. The more you fight and struggle to move, the more it just feels like you’re sinking. 

But the first step—and arguably the most important step—is recognizing you’re burnt out and having the desire to make a change. That change may include finding ways for more control, talking to supportive peers or supervisors, and looking for ways to promote meaning and gratitude in the workplace. 

Some people might even need time off from work to recover. If you feel better after time off, that can even tell you something about your mental state in the first place. Finding your way here (to this page) and taking time to learn more about what you’re experiencing is a great start. 

Things to try

If you think you’re experiencing burnout, here are a few little things you can do to reduce that feeling now and in the future.

Video Play Watch 1 min. 16 seconds
Take a nap
Anger ,
Grief & loss ,
Worry ,
Chronic health issues & disabilities ,
Relationship issues & breakups ,
What do Winston Churchill, Damon Wayans, and the majority of professional athletes have in common? They all openly love napping. A short 10-20 minute nap (ideally early in the afternoon) can have numerous physical and mental health benefits. If you're in a funk, adding a short nap to your routine might be a good way to decompress and jumpstart your day.

Video Play Watch 3 min. 16 seconds
Do that new thing you've been meaning to try
Burnout ,
Grief & loss ,
Loneliness ,
This can mean trying a new hobby, restaurant or even a new haircut. When you're in a rut, sometimes mixing up your routine and treating yourself to a new experience can help improve your mindset. So, take this as your sign from the universe to give that new thing you've maybe been putting off a try.

Book Read 3 min.
Plan out an enjoyable day
Burnout ,
Grief & loss ,
Loneliness ,
Sadness ,
Relationship issues & breakups
Taking the time to plan out an enjoyable day for yourself can give you something to look forward to, and the day itself can have numerous benefits ranging from reduced feelings of burnout to more energy and a fresher perspective. Instead of wondering what you should do, think about what you want to do. Though taking a joyride in a stolen Ferrari isn’t recommended, Ferris Bueller had some pretty good ideas—taking a long shower, hanging with your friends, going to the top of a tall building, treating yourself to a nice lunch, catching some sports, visiting a museum, singing and dancing, soaking in a hot tub are ideas that might help you start dreaming up your own options.

What can I do now?

It may feel like taking on burnout could be a long journey, but there are resources that can help you make small changes now to reduce burnout’s impact on your mental state and start to find relief.

  • Online interactive tool(s)
    Take a Mental Health Test | Mental Health America
    Mental Health America provides online screening tools for a variety of mental health conditions. Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
    Anger, Family conflict, Grief & loss, Trauma, Addiction, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, For young folks, For parents, Eating disorders, Postpartum Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Online mental health screenings, Depression
  • Website
    Wondermind is an inclusive online space where people could come together to explore, discuss, and navigate their feelings. It provides content, tools and resources for mental fitness.
    Anger, Grief & loss, Guilt, Mental fitness


  1. Deloitte. Burnout Survey