Causes of Burnout

Burnout is typically the result of exposure to chronic work-related stress, however it can also be associated with caretaking, parenting or relationship issues.

Trying to do too much on your own is usually a signal for burnout as it creates an ideal environment for burnout to fester.  We need to pay heed to these symptoms as burnout can severely affect your well-being and quality of life.

    • Chronic low energy and low interest
    • Feelings of emptiness
    • Becoming easily irritated
    • Withdrawal from those around you
    • Thoughts of making drastic life changes
    • Headaches, and back pains
    • Gastrointestinal disorders
    • Sleep disturbances
    • A susceptible immune system

These symptoms are usually indicative of burnout. As these tend to happen gradually over time, it can be easy to miss or we may have ‘normalised’ the symptoms.

While burnout is the result of excessive and prolonged stress, it isn’t the same as experiencing too much stress.

Stress is a part of normal, everyday life, and is typically experienced in short bursts in response to specific events. You may experience stress several days in a row, particularly if you’re working on a difficult project, but stress will typically lessen or disappear entirely once the project is complete.

If you identify with some or all of these symptoms of burnout, check for the underlying cause(s):

    • Lack of autonomy
    • Work that you find unstimulating
    • Having unclear goals
    • Working in a dysfunctional team
    • Excessive workload
    • Lack of support from those around you
    • Misalignment between your values and work
    • Feeling misunderstood or underappreciated

Mayo Clinic states that you may be more prone to work-related burnout if:

    • You identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life
    • You have a high workload, including overtime work
    • You try to be everything to everyone
    • You work in a helping profession, such as health care
    • You feel you have little or no control over your work
    • Your job is monotonous

When our emotional and physical resources are spent, they can present as being in a state of constant exhaustion and intense stress at the same time.

Continuous stress on our body over a prolonged period of time disturbs our “fight, flight or please, freeze” response. Once disturbed, our body limits functions that would be considered “nonessential” in an emergency, like sleep. It often results in withdrawal behaviour, withdrawal from everyday activities, social relationships and or work.

In contrast, it amplifies those we would need in an emergency, including muscular and cardiovascular functions preparing to fight, flee or freeze.  

If we don’t make lifestyle changes we head down the road to overwhelming emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion.

Causes of burnout - ways to alleviate stress

To find out where you are at on the burnout scale, download our burnout quiz here.