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On the Verge of Burnout: How to Take a Step Back

September 03, 2020

In the last few years, the word “burnout” has been in the news—with people in nearly every industry and walk of life experiencing it. It’s become an even bigger issue in this year’s chaos, but the good news is: There are things you can do to prevent it.

While we think of burnout as a relatively recent thing, the word has actually been around since the 1970s, when a book by Herbert Freudenberger first introduced the term.

Lynda Hughes, NP

Many Americans experience feeling burned out, even if they don’t quite know how to describe what they’re dealing with. In fact, a 2018 Gallup survey found that 23 percent of participants felt burned out “more often than not,” while another 44 percent felt burned out “sometimes.”

That’s a lot of people facing what can be a destructive force in the workplace, in our personal lives, and even in our health. Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.

What Burnout Looks & Feels Like
The logical question is—what is burnout? Burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

The odds are, you or someone you know are familiar with that sensation. 

“Burnout is incredibly common,” says Lynda Hughes, primary care nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Medical Group. “Even if you don’t necessarily know you’re feeling burned out, you have probably experienced some level of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by stress at some point. Over time, that feeling can harm your health and even put others at risk, depending on the work you do.”

Burnout occurs for many reasons—and not all of them are work-related. In fact, your personal life, caregiving, parenting, and relationships can also leave you feeling burned out at times.

If you think you are experiencing burnout, there are some signs you can look for in yourself and your habits:

  • Increased cynicism at work
  • Decreased motivation to perform tasks
  • Increased irritability or impatience with coworkers or customers
  • A lack of energy or productivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Diminished satisfaction in your work and achievements
  • The use of drugs, food, or alcohol to cope with stress
  • Changed sleep habits
  • Unexplained headaches, GI issues, or other physical symptoms

If you’re facing any of these issues, you may be dealing with burnout. Talking with your doctor about what you’re experiencing is a good first step, but there also other things you can do to cope

5 Steps to Battle Back Against Burnout
If you’re feeling stressed and believe you’re at the verge of burnout, it’s important to stop and reflect on what needs to change. Try these steps:


  • Determine what’s stressing you. If your stress is a result of your work, think through what’s causing it. Many times burnout is the result of feeling a lack of support, dysfunction in the workplace, too much or too little work, a perceived or real lack of control, or a work/life imbalance. Determining what’s causing you stress is step one in alleviating it.
  • Seek support and help. Talk with your manager about the issues you’re facing in the workplace and ask for potential solutions or changes that may help. You can also share what you’re feeling with others, including your coworkers, friends, and family members. Many are likely familiar with feeling burned out and may be able to offer suggestions and ways to cope.
  • Relax, recuperate and rest. Too much stress can make you feel physically run down and fatigued. Find some relaxing activities that you enjoy, such as yoga or meditation, and incorporate them into your daily life. It’s also very important to prioritize your sleep, particularly when you’re stressed. Adults need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night for optimal health.
  • Practice healthy lifestyle habits. While exercise is probably the last thing on your mind, when you’re feeling physically and mentally burned out, it’s very important. Regular physical activity prepares your mind and body to better manage stress and offers you a constructive way to work through frustrations. What you eat is also important when you’re trying to prevent burnout or heal from it. Fill your plate primarily with fruits and vegetables, which are packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients
  • Take a tech break. This may require taking a little time off work, if possible. But your mind and body will thank you if you regularly take breaks away from your computer and other technology. That’s especially important if you’re working from home these days, where the boundaries between work and home tend to blur. Be sure to prioritize some screen-free time.


Not sure whether your symptoms are related to stress or something more serious? Talk with your provider about what you’re experiencing!  FIND A PROVIDER HERE.