The burnout 101:  what you need to know

The burnout 101: what you need to know

Burnout is a phenomenon that people suffering from chronic stress are particularly susceptible to. At its worst, it can prevent you from functioning effectively on both a professional and personal level. Here we explain everything you need to know including ways of preventing burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is the state of having little or no energy or enthusiasm at work or in your personal life due to chronic stress. It typically results from consistent overwork. You may hear burnout caused by work sometimes being referred to as career burnout or job burnout.

Burnout is often associated with three main themes:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Lack of interest / detachment
  3. Feeling ineffective

What are the causes of burnout?

There can be many causes of burnout. However these are often due to your work, lifestyle and personality. For example, those who do not take care of themselves are at a greater risk as well as those who have perfectionist personality traits or excessive workloads.

What are the common signs of burnout?

Burnout does not happen suddenly overnight at the flick of a switch. It is a gradual, insidious process closely linked to your stress levels. It worsens over time if no action is taken to prevent it. As such, it is not always obvious to tell whether or not you are suffering from burnout.

As a general rule of thumb, typical signs of burnout are when you feel like just giving up or simply cannot motivate yourself to do what is expected or required.

Here are some signs which are commonly associated with burnout.


Exhaustion is one of the more common effects of burnout. For mild cases, this could mean lacking energy or feeling tired during the day. In more extreme cases, it can involve feeling completely mentally, physically or emotionally drained and spent. 

Trouble sleeping

Insomnia is a common symptom of burnout. You may have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep on a regular basis or in more severe cases the insomnia may be persistent.

Poor concentration and memory

People suffering from burnout may find it increasingly difficult to pay attention and concentrate at what’s at hand during their day. In cases of job burnout, you may find it difficult to focus, struggle to complete previously trivial tasks (e.g. basic mental maths) and be more forgetful.

More regular illness

As your body becomes more and more drained your immune system weakens which may make you more prone to illnesses such as flus, colds and infections.

Mental health problems

Burnout is often connected to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression which may play with your ability to work effectively. With anxiety you may frequently feel tense or on edge. With depression there may be thoughts of guilt, worthlessness, being trapped or in the worst cases thinking the world would be better off without you.


People who are burnt out or close to burnout often have short fuses where the smallest thing can set them off. Other signs include increased feelings of anger and resentment. In more extreme cases, you may find yourself in more frequent outbursts or arguments which could damage your personal relationships or work opportunities.

Bad habits

People who are burnt out are more likely to take up bad habits such as excessive drinking and drug usage. You may also find yourself overeating, skipping meals, or staying up late at night. 

Lack of enjoyment and interest

You may find that you are finding less enjoyment and interest in your daily life and work. This may mean that you don’t feel like going to work in the morning or doing things you may have enjoyed in the past. You may find that you are becoming more detached from your family, friends and colleagues and less inclined to speak or socialise with them.  

Negative mindset

This may mean a gradual shift from a glass half full to glass half empty mentality. In more extreme cases, it may lead to more negative views about colleagues, boss, employer or even friends and family. You may find yourself trusting people less and focusing more on their bad points.

Apathy and hopelessness

You may find that you start caring less about aspects of your life that may have been important in the past. Often this is combined with feelings of hopelessness and a general sense that nothing is or can go right for you. You may also have feelings of inadequacy.

Poor performance

In cases of career burnout, you may find that your productivity and performance at work drops due to burnout. This may manifest itself in a growing to-do list, more incomplete projects and poorer feedback from your boss or customers.

Why should I worry about burnout?

To put it bluntly the effects of burnout stop you from living. It stops you from performing effectively and reaching your full potential in both your professional and personal life. For example, job burnout could stop you from progressing in your current role, or even worse contribute to you losing your job due to your inability to perform at the expected level.

The health consequences are similar to those experienced from stress and this includes cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation, increased risk of diabetes and mental health problems.

What can I do to prevent or reverse burnout?

The good news is that there are plenty of ways of preventing burnout. Preventative action can be taken to reduce your chances of both chronic stress and burnout. Many of these are broadly related to eating the right diet, getting enough sleep, finding time to relax and exercising regularly.

As stress and burnout are so closely related - burnout being a direct result of stress - the key to preventing burnout is to find ways to reduce your stress levels.


Burnout is a negative consequence of chronic stress that can lead to all sorts of problems in your professional or private life and stop you from living and achieving your goals. Although the effects of burnout are not at all desirable, thankfully, there are many preventative measures that can be taken to reduce stress in the first instance and your chances of burnout.

Interested in finding out how stressed you are? Take our stress quiz now to find out.


This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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