12 Warning Signs of Burnout and How to Prevent It

Are you looking for signs of burnout for yourself or a loved one? Burnout can happen to anyone, and the signs and symptoms can be hard to spot, or simply mixed up with your thinking it's something else.

Burnout is a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion that is often caused by prolonged stress. It can affect anyone, from professionals in high-pressure jobs to individuals juggling multiple creative responsibilities. Did you know that 73% of creative people in the UK experienced burnout in the last year? (Source: WeTransfer Ideas Report 2022)

Recognising the signs of burnout is crucial in order to prevent further deterioration of mental and physical health.

Burnout doesn't happen overnight; it develops slowly over time. By paying attention to the warning signs, you can take proactive steps to address the issue and avoid reaching a point of complete burnout.

In this article, we will outline the key signs to watch out for, such as fatigue, irritability, and decreased productivity. Additionally, it will provide practical strategies for managing and recovering from burnout, including self-care practises and seeking professional help if needed.

If you suspect you may be experiencing burnout or want to prevent it from happening in the future, keep reading for valuable insights and advice.


Definition of Burnout

Burnout is an occupational phenomenon characterised by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion resulting from chronic workplace stress.

It manifests as a state of overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of energy depletion, and a sense of cynicism or detachment from work.

Prevalence of Burnout in British Modern Society

In today's modern British society, burnout has become increasingly prevalent due to the high levels of chronic stress experienced in the workplace.

Many individuals face heavy workloads, long working hours, and demanding expectations, which have a significant impact on their mental health and overall well-being.

The symptoms of burnout can affect various aspects of a person's daily life, including their personal life and their ability to engage in everyday tasks.

Lack of motivation and feelings of energy depletion are common signs experienced by individuals suffering from burnout. Over a prolonged period, continuous exposure to chronic workplace stress can result in job burnout or burnout syndrome.

Physical symptoms of burnout may include fatigue, frequent headaches, muscle tension, and changes in sleep patterns.

Mental health is also affected, with individuals experiencing increased levels of anxiety, depression, and irritability. They may struggle with concentration, experience a lack of communication in their relationships, and find it challenging to maintain professional efficacy.

Factors such as heavy workloads, a lack of control over one's job, a lack of social support, and personality traits can contribute to the risk of burnout. Additionally, substance misuse or unhealthy coping mechanisms may arise as individuals try to manage the stress and emotional burden associated with burnout.

The effects of burnout can extend beyond the workplace, impacting an individual's physical and mental well-being. Chronic stress can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular problems, a weakened immune system, and mental health disorders.

Don't let burnout consume you! Spot the signs, reach out to mental health experts, and reclaim your life's equilibrium.


Warning Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a serious condition that can affect anyone working in high-pressure environments. The key to preventing burnout lies in recognising the warning signs early on so that proactive steps can be taken to address the issue.

Some of the most common indicators of burnout include:

Physical signs

Burnout, caused by chronic workplace stress, can have various physical signs that manifest in individuals.

These physical symptoms serve as warning signs that indicate the presence of burnout and the need for intervention and self-care.

1. Chronic fatigue

One of the primary physical signs of burnout is chronic fatigue. Individuals experiencing burnout often feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, even after a full night's sleep.

This fatigue persists over a prolonged period, regardless of rest or relaxation attempts.

The persistent feeling of tiredness can hinder their ability to perform daily tasks and have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives.

2. Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns

Burnout can disrupt a person's sleep patterns. Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or frequent waking during the night are common issues experienced by individuals under chronic stress.

On the other hand, some individuals may experience oversleeping as a way of escaping from the demands and stressors of their daily lives.

These changes in sleep patterns can further exacerbate feelings of exhaustion and hinder a person's overall well-being.

3. Frequent headaches or muscle pain

Physical manifestations of burnout can include frequent headaches and muscle pain.

The prolonged stress and tension experienced by individuals with burnout can lead to persistent headaches and migraines.

Muscle pain, such as tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, can also be prevalent. These physical symptoms are a result of the body's response to chronic stress and can significantly impact an individual's comfort and ability to concentrate on tasks.

Recognising these physical symptoms is crucial to identifying burnout and taking the necessary steps to address it. If these warning signs persist over a prolonged period and interfere with daily life and well-being, seeking support from mental health professionals or healthcare providers is recommended.

By tackling the relentless physical symptoms of burnout head-on, individuals can power up their overall health and slam the brakes on any further deterioration in their precious well-being.

Emotional signs

One common emotional sign of burnout is an increase in irritability or frustration. Individuals experiencing burnout may find themselves becoming easily agitated, snapping at others, or feeling impatient even in minor situations.

This heightened emotional reactivity is a result of the emotional exhaustion caused by chronic stress and can strain personal relationships and interactions.

4. Increased irritability or frustration

One common emotional sign of burnout is an increase in irritability or frustration. Individuals experiencing burnout may find themselves becoming easily agitated, snapping at others, or feeling impatient even in minor situations.

This heightened emotional reactivity is a result of the emotional exhaustion caused by chronic stress and can strain personal relationships and interactions.

5. Loss of motivation or enthusiasm

Burnout can lead to a profound loss of motivation or enthusiasm. Individuals may feel a lack of drive or interest in their work or activities they once enjoyed.

The chronic stress and feelings of energy depletion associated with burnout can dampen their passion, making it challenging to find fulfilment or satisfaction in their daily tasks.

This loss of motivation can extend beyond the workplace and impact their personal lives as well.

6. Feeling overwhelmed or helpless

Burnout can create a sense of being overwhelmed or helpless. Individuals may feel as though they have lost control over their work and personal lives, leading to a sense of hopelessness.

The demands and pressures of burnout can make even simple tasks seem daunting, further exacerbating the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Emotional exhaustion, a key component of burnout, can have far-reaching effects on mental health and overall well-being. To learn more about emotional exhaustion and its impact on burnout, you can refer to OCCO London's blog on the topic.

Spotting these emotional signs is vital to pinpointing burnout and taking action to tackle it head-on. Reaching out to mental health experts, embracing self-care, and cultivating healthy coping strategies are absolute must-haves for conquering burnout and nurturing your emotional bliss.

Cognitive signs

Burnout, resulting from chronic workplace stress, can significantly impact an individual's cognitive abilities and mental functioning.

The cognitive signs of burnout reflect the strain placed on the individual's cognitive resources and can have a profound effect on their daily life and overall mental health.

7. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

One of the cognitive signs of burnout is difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

Individuals may find it challenging to stay focused on tasks, experience mental fog, or have a reduced ability to process information.

The overwhelming nature of burnout can impair their cognitive functioning, making it harder to perform effectively and efficiently in both professional and personal settings.

8. Memory problems

Burnout can also lead to memory problems. Individuals may have difficulty remembering important details, appointments, or deadlines.

The constant stress and exhaustion associated with burnout can affect cognitive processes, including memory retrieval and retention. This can further contribute to feelings of frustration and a sense of inadequacy when managing daily responsibilities.

9. Negative thinking or pessimism

Another cognitive sign of burnout is negative thinking, or pessimism. Individuals may develop a negative outlook towards their work, themselves, or their future prospects. This negative thinking pattern can be a result of the emotional exhaustion and chronic stress experienced during burnout.

It can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity, further intensifying the effects of burnout.

These cognitive signs of burnout can significantly impact an individual's performance, problem-solving abilities, and overall cognitive functioning. It is important to recognise these signs and take appropriate steps to address burnout.

Seeking support from mental health professionals, practising stress management techniques, and engaging in activities that promote mental well-being are crucial to mitigating the cognitive effects of burnout.

Don't forget, burnout is the sneaky monster lurking in the office, fueled by chronic stress, and ready to wreak havoc on your brain and daily existence.

By addressing the cognitive signs of burnout, individuals can work towards restoring cognitive clarity, enhancing decision-making abilities, and improving their overall mental well-being.

Behavioural signs

Burnout can affect a person's daily life and well-being, as shown by various behavioural signs. These behavioural signs highlight the changes in an individual's actions and tendencies as a result of burnout.

10. Withdrawing from social activities

One common behavioural sign of burnout is withdrawing from social activities. Individuals experiencing burnout may isolate themselves from social interactions, distancing themselves from friends, family, and colleagues. They may avoid social events or gatherings that they once enjoyed.

This withdrawal can stem from a combination of factors, including a lack of energy, decreased motivation, and a sense of detachment caused by burnout. It can further contribute to feelings of loneliness and hinder their support network.

11. Procrastination or avoidance of responsibilities

Another behavioural sign of burnout is an increased tendency towards procrastination or avoidance of responsibilities.

Individuals may find it challenging to initiate or complete tasks, leading to a cycle of procrastination and delayed accomplishments. The overwhelming nature of burnout can make even simple tasks feel overwhelming, resulting in a desire to avoid them altogether.

This behavioural change can have negative consequences for work performance, productivity, and personal life responsibilities.

12. Increased use of substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs)

In some cases, burnout can lead to an increased use of substances, such as alcohol or drugs, as a maladaptive coping mechanism. Individuals may turn to substances to escape from the stress, emotional burden, or feelings of emptiness associated with burnout.

Substance misuse can further exacerbate the physical and mental health consequences of burnout and should be addressed with the help of appropriate professionals.

Recognising these behavioural signs is crucial to identifying burnout, taking the necessary steps towards self-care, and seeking support.

Engaging in open communication with trusted individuals, setting boundaries, and seeking help from mental health professionals are essential to managing burnout and its behavioural effects.

Now that you're armed with the knowledge of burnout warning signs, it's time to kick some burnout butt! In the next section of this blog, we've got some killer steps and tips to help you stay burnout-free. Let's crush it!


How to Prevent Burnout

Burnout can be prevented by taking proactive steps towards achieving a balanced lifestyle. These strategies may include:

Self-care practises

Implementing self-care practises can help individuals manage chronic stress and mitigate the risk of burnout.

1. Establishing a healthy work-life balance

One key aspect of preventing burnout is establishing a healthy work-life balance. It involves setting boundaries and allocating time for personal activities, hobbies, and relationships outside of work.

This can include maintaining regular working hours, avoiding excessive overtime, and prioritising personal time for relaxation and rejuvenation.

By creating a balance between work and personal life, individuals can reduce the risk of burnout and maintain a sense of fulfilment in all areas of their lives.

2. Prioritising regular exercise and physical activity

Engaging in regular exercise and physical activity is essential for preventing burnout.

Physical activity not only improves physical fitness but also boosts mood, reduces stress levels, and increases energy levels. It can be as simple as going for a walk, practising yoga, or participating in a preferred form of exercise.

Prioritising physical activity helps individuals manage stress, improve their overall well-being, and reduce the likelihood of burnout.

3. Practising relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation, deep breathing)

Incorporating relaxation techniques into daily life can significantly contribute to preventing burnout. Practises such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can help reduce stress levels, enhance self-awareness, and promote relaxation.

Carving out a few minutes each day to engage in these techniques can have a profound impact on mental well-being and resilience to stress. Additionally, journaling can be an effective way to process thoughts and emotions.

The Morning Mindset Journal, for example, provides a structured framework for reflection and setting positive intentions for the day.

By adopting these self-care practises, individuals can actively prevent burnout and promote their overall well-being. It is important to remember that self-care is a continuous process that requires regular commitment and adjustment based on individual needs.

Seeking support from mental health professionals, practising effective communication, and developing healthy coping mechanisms are also vital in preventing and managing burnout.

Remember, preventing burnout involves consciously prioritising self-care and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

By implementing these strategies and engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, individuals can create a foundation for resilience and prevent burnout from taking hold.

Setting boundaries

Setting boundaries is an important part of preventing burnout. Boundaries help delineate what tasks you are responsible for, and which ones can be delegated or outsourced. Here are some tips for setting effective boundaries:

4. Learning to say no and setting realistic limits

Another important aspect of preventing burnout is learning to say no and setting realistic limits.

It involves recognising personal boundaries and understanding one's capacity to take on additional responsibilities. It is crucial to assess the demands and commitments before agreeing to take them on, considering factors such as time, energy, and mental well-being.

Setting realistic limits and being assertive in saying no when necessary helps individuals avoid overextending themselves and maintain a healthy balance in their lives.

The Priority Pad, a tool designed for effective time management and prioritisation, can assist individuals in setting and maintaining their boundaries.

5. Avoiding overcommitment and excessive multitasking

Overcommitment and excessive multitasking can contribute to burnout. It is important to avoid taking on more tasks than one can reasonably handle.

Instead of spreading themselves too thin, individuals should focus on prioritising tasks, delegating when possible, and practising effective time management.

By avoiding overcommitment and excessive multitasking, individuals can reduce stress levels and create space for meaningful engagement in their work and personal lives.

6. Allocating time for personal hobbies and interests

Engaging in personal hobbies and interests is essential for preventing burnout. Allocating time for activities that bring joy and fulfilment helps individuals recharge and rejuvenate.

It could be pursuing creative outlets, engaging in sports, reading, or spending time with loved ones. Making these activities a priority alongside work responsibilities allows individuals to maintain a sense of balance and enjoyment in their lives.

By learning to say no, setting realistic limits, avoiding over-commitment, and allocating time for personal hobbies and interests, individuals can actively prevent burnout and foster a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

Seeking support

Preventing and addressing burnout involves recognising the importance of seeking support from various sources.

Building a strong support system, communicating openly about stress and concerns, and seeking professional help when needed are essential components of managing and preventing burnout.

7. Building a strong support system (family, friends, and colleagues)

Building a strong support system is crucial for maintaining mental well-being and resilience in the face of burnout.

This support system can include family, friends, and colleagues who provide understanding, empathy, and a listening ear. Cultivating positive relationships and connections allows individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and receive emotional support during challenging times.

Having a reliable support network helps alleviate feelings of isolation and provides a sense of belonging and reassurance.

8. Communicating openly about stress and concerns

Open communication about stress and concerns is vital to preventing burnout.

It is important to express feelings and challenges openly with trusted individuals. This can be done through regular check-ins with colleagues or supervisors, discussing workload concerns, or seeking guidance and feedback.

By sharing stressors and concerns, individuals can gain different perspectives, obtain support, and potentially find collaborative solutions to manage work-related stress effectively.

9. Seeking professional help if needed (e.g., therapy, counselling)

In some cases, seeking professional help is necessary to address and manage burnout effectively. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counsellors, can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based interventions to cope with burnout.

They can help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms, improve stress management skills, and address any underlying mental health conditions that may contribute to burnout. Well-being coaching is one avenue to explore for comprehensive support in achieving and maintaining well-being.

Don't be afraid to ask for help! It's not a weakness; it's a powerful way to tackle burnout head-on and regain control. Building a strong support system, communicating openly, and seeking professional help when needed are important strategies for promoting mental health and preventing burnout.

It is essential to prioritise self-care and take advantage of the resources available to maintain well-being in the face of chronic workplace stress.

 Engaging in stress management

Effectively managing stress is crucial to preventing and mitigating the risk of burnout.

By identifying stress triggers, implementing coping strategies, practising time management techniques, and taking regular breaks, individuals can proactively manage stress and promote their overall well-being.

10. Identifying stress triggers and finding coping strategies

The first step in stress management is identifying the specific triggers that contribute to stress.

These triggers can be work-related, personal, or a combination of both. Once identified, individuals can then develop coping strategies tailored to their needs.

This can include techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, engaging in hobbies, practising gratitude, or seeking social support. By understanding and addressing stress triggers, individuals can adopt effective coping mechanisms and reduce the impact of stress on their well-being.

11. Time management techniques and prioritisation

Effective time management and prioritisation are key elements in managing stress. Individuals can benefit from implementing techniques such as creating to-do lists, setting realistic goals, and breaking tasks into manageable steps.

Prioritising tasks based on importance and urgency helps individuals allocate their time and energy efficiently, reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed.

By managing their time effectively, individuals can enhance productivity, reduce stress levels, and maintain a sense of control over their workload.

12. Taking regular breaks and vacations

Taking regular breaks and vacations is vital for stress management. Engaging in short breaks throughout the workday allows individuals to recharge, clear their minds, and reduce accumulated stress.

Additionally, planning and taking vacations, whether it's a short getaway or an extended break, provides an opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, and gain perspective. Disconnecting from work during these breaks promotes work-life balance and prevents burnout.

Incorporating these stress management practises into daily life is essential for preventing and managing burnout.

Each person's stress management strategies may vary, so it is important to explore and identify techniques that work best for individual needs. By actively engaging in stress management, individuals can enhance their resilience, maintain their well-being, and reduce the risk of burnout.

After going through the information provided above, you may still have some lingering questions about burnout. In the next section, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to address common concerns regarding burnout. Let's take a look at them.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about burnout and its warning signs:

How does burnout affect mental and physical health?

Burnout can have serious consequences for both mental and physical health. Over a prolonged period of time, burnout can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, impair cognitive functioning, and affect the overall quality of life.

Burnout can also manifest as physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, and difficulty concentrating.

It can even interfere with the immune system and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

What are the main causes of burnout?

Burnout can occur when an individual is exposed to prolonged stress, often in the workplace.

Common causes of burnout include having too much responsibility with not enough resources or support, working long hours without breaks, having unrealistic expectations from supervisors or coworkers, and feeling undervalued or unrecognised for their efforts.

Other factors, such as poor workplace culture, a lack of control or autonomy, and difficulty balancing work and personal life, can also lead to burnout.

How can I prevent burnout in the workplace?

How Can I Prevent Burnout in the Workplace?

Burnout can be a serious issue in the workplace, so it is important to take steps to prevent it from occurring. Here are some tips to help prevent burnout in the workplace:

1. Develop healthy coping strategies: Taking time for self-care and developing healthy coping strategies can help individuals manage stress and reduce their risk of burnout.

2. Set boundaries: Setting boundaries with coworkers and supervisors can help individuals maintain a sense of control over their work.

3. Take breaks: Taking regular breaks throughout the day helps individuals recharge and reduce accumulated stress.

4. Ask for help: Asking for help when needed can help reduce workloads and prevent feeling overwhelmed.

These are just a few of the steps that can help individuals prevent burnout in the workplace. For more information on how to manage stress and reduce the risk of burnout, please consult with your healthcare provider.

What are some effective strategies for managing and reducing burnout?

What are some effective strategies for managing and reducing burnout?

Managing and reducing burnout can be a difficult task, but there are some effective strategies to help individuals cope with the stress and feelings of fatigue that come along with it. Here are some of the most effective strategies for managing and reducing burnout:

1. Prioritise self-care: Taking time for yourself and engaging in self-care activities can help individuals maintain their well-being and reduce stress levels.

2. Exercise: Regular physical activity is important for managing stress and increasing resilience.

3. Set realistic goals: Setting realistic goals can help individuals stay on track and prevent feeling overwhelmed by workloads or expectations.

4. Connect with others: Spending time with friends and family can help individuals reduce stress and gain perspective.

5. Get plenty of sleep: Getting enough quality sleep is essential for managing stress and preventing fatigue.

Through these strategies, individuals can effectively manage and reduce burnout in the workplace.

When should I seek professional help for burnout?

Burnout can have serious consequences for both mental and physical health, so it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible when experiencing signs of burnout.

If individuals are feeling overwhelmed by stress, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, or changes in mood, they should consider seeking professional help from a qualified healthcare provider.

A healthcare provider can provide support and guidance to help individuals manage stress and the symptoms of burnout more effectively.

They may also suggest other forms of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques, or medication, if necessary.



Signs of burnout can be hard to spot, but it is important to be aware of them in order to prevent further deterioration of mental and physical health. The key is to take proactive steps to address the issue before it reaches a point of complete burnout.

By being aware of the warning signs and taking proactive steps to prevent burnout, such as setting boundaries, practising self-care, and seeking support, you can protect yourself from the negative effects of burnout.

It's important to prioritise your mental and physical health and make self-care a priority. Remember, burnout is not something to be ignored or pushed through.

Take the necessary steps to prevent and address burnout to live a healthier and more balanced life. If you have any further questions or concerns about burnout, don't hesitate to seek professional help or reach out to a support system.

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OCCO London is dedicated to providing you with the necessary information and resources to help you reach your full potential. We wish you all the best in your journey towards a healthier and more balanced life. You've got this!

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