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Job Burnout: Here’s How to Handle It!

by Carolyn Lee Sep 2, 2019

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Photo credit Irfan Raza from Unsplash.

Stress contributes to several illnesses today.  

Excessive and prolonged stress is a key contributor to job burnout; a topic that has increasingly become more popular among professionals across industries. 

While stress may result in some work-related challenges, it is often usually short term and lessens or disappears once the challenge has been resolved. Conversely, burnout takes place over a longer period and can create a feeling of hopelessness. 

Job burnout can lead to poor work performance, insomnia, heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, fatigue and alcohol or drug abuse, etc. In this article, we look at what job burnout is and how it can be handled. 

What is job burnout? 

There isn’t a medical definition or diagnosis for the term. American psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in the 1970s. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “vocational type” professions. At the time, the term was more specific to doctors and nurses.  

Another explanation of burnout comes from authors of the book Career Burnout: Causes and Cures by Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson. Their definition is that burnout is “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” 

These definitions cover a wider crosssection of professionals who may be experiencing the symptoms of job burnout.  

Some common symptoms of job burnout may include: 

  • Low energy/motivation and disinterest in work. 
  • Difficulty concentrating and a general dissatisfaction with personal performance. 
  • A noticeable change in sleep patterns – struggling to sleep.  
  • Unexplained irritability or snapping at others even when not provoked.  
  • Frequent illnesses, muscle aches and pain. 
  • Regular absences from work or habitual lateness. 

The list above is not exhaustive. There are many physical, mental and emotional symptoms that can be linked to persons feeling burnt out. Some of the causes of job burnout are poor work-life balance, toxic work environment, intense work periods, unclear job expectations and so on. 

If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of job burnout, the following tips might be useful in getting back on track. 

Do a life-audit.Identify the areas of your life that you are having trouble managing. Do a pros and cons list. Focus on the things that you can control. 

Assess your work environment. Are there triggers there that are causing you to feel demotivated, dissatisfied or unhappy? Are some actions or activities out of alignment with your own value systems? Perhaps a meaningful conversation with colleagues or your supervisor could help to create a positive change. 

Focus on your overall wellbeing. Practice mindfulness. Look for the things that you are consistently succeeding at and use those as inspiration to do even better. Stop trying to control everything. Set clear and practical boundaries. Eat well. Rest. Exercise and find things to laugh about! 

Be grateful. Look at the changes that are taking place in your work environment as opportunities for growth. Focus on the things that work out well and seek workable solutions to those that didn’t. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. 


Important: Some persons may be experiencing depression, which shares similar symptoms to burnout. The common symptoms include, extreme exhaustion, very low energy and a lack of drive. Please speak to your healthcare provider, who will be able to guide or treat the symptoms that you may be experiencing. 


Sources: NCBIHelp GuideMind ToolsMayo Clinic,  Forbes and Entrepreneur.