If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, you may be on the road to burnout.

The unhappiness and detachment caused by burnout can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health.

Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, ineffectiveness in the workplace, and by chronic negative responses to stressful workplace conditions. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Many of us have probably experienced these feelings at one time in our lives. Since May in Mental Health Awareness Month I thought it would be appropriate to discuss burnout in the workplace and what you can do to regain your balance and start to feel positive and hopeful again.

Check out the latest Tuesdays at 2 discussing Mental Health Awareness Month.

Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out.

You may be on the road to burnout if you have any of these physical or emotional signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Because Burnout can be chronic in nature, prevention strategies are considered the most effective approach for addressing workplace burnout. If you can relate to any of the above it may be beneficial to start working on a few changes in your work by being more aware of the demands and expectations you are putting on yourself. Make attainable weekly goals to feel more accomplished or talk to a friend if you are feeling unappreciated. Sometimes just talking and getting things off your chest can help relieve the pressure and change your mood.

Stressed man with closed eyes leaning on the gray wallWhen you’re on the road to burnout, you can feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and get your life back into balance. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.

Here are some additional steps you can take to avoid getting burned out.

Work with a purpose. How does your work make life better for other people? How could you add more meaning to what you do every day?

Perform a job analysis.  Clarify what's expected of you, and what isn't. This tool will help you identify what's truly important in your role, so that you can cut out or delegate  tasks that aren't as essential.

Take more control. Find ways to create more autonomy in your role. See if your boss is willing to let you have more control over your tasks and projects.

Exercise daily. You will  experience increased energy and productivity when you exercise regularly.

Learn how to manage your stress. Keep a stress diary to document what routinely causes you stress. Practicing deep breathing, meditation , and other relaxation techniques  can help you calm down when you're experiencing stress.

Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.


Heidi Wilcox is a Director of Market Development for Excelerate America, the ultimate one-stop shop for entrepreneurs. Have a question about burnout and how it could be holding you back? Send Heidi an email at heidi.wilcox@excelerateamerica.com

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