Burnout: How to Recognize and Prevent It

By Jenna DeRosa, LPCC 

verified by Psychology Today

Burnout: how to recognize and prevent it. Most of us have experienced this or are currently experiencing it now. We’ve recognized the stress, lack of motivation, exhaustion, disruptions with sleep, and more. You may not have been able to target where it’s coming from or how it’s come on so suddenly. The reality is that burnout is not sudden, it’s a prolonged state of stress that leads to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. This may be coming from your work or personal life, or even both.  Throughout the article, I am going to provide signs, causes, and how to deal with it.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Constantly feeling tired and drained
  • Changes in appetite
  • Change in sleep
  • Feeling of helplessness and doubt
  • Loss of motivation
  • Detachment
  • Feeling cynical
  • Increased usage of alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Feelings of frustration and taking them out on others
  • Isolation
  • Procrastination in responsibilities
  • Frequent illness

Causes of Burnout:

  • Lack of recognition for work
  • Taking on too many responsibilities
  • Work in a chaotic environment
  • Not prioritizing self-care or relaxation
  • Not prioritizing out of work/social relationships
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Having a perfectionist approach to work
  • Reluctance to delegate responsibilities
  • Lack of boundaries between work and private life
  • Insufficient vacation time
  • Personal stress outside of work

While you may relate to many of the symptoms and causes, the hardest part for individuals is figuring out how to manage and decrease burnout. The reason for that is the importance of boundaries which many individuals have a hard time implementing.

Boundaries require a strong sense of self and prioritization of self. So if individuals find themselves to be “people pleasers” or “perfectionists” then the act of doing this is going to be very challenging because you will find yourself worrying that you are letting others down. Setting boundaries will not happen overnight, so allow yourself time. Prioritize yourself and be compassionate with yourself while practicing this.


  • Use your vacation time and take time off
  • Reduce working hours
  • Delegate tasks/ask for help
  • Say no to taking on extra tasks
  • Prioritize sleep hygiene
  • Implement self-care and relaxation
  • Physical activity
  • Say “No” (I write this again because it’s extremely important)
  • Meditation
  • Therapy
  • Reach out to friends and loved ones
  • Decrease consumption of alcohol and drugs
  • Implement a healthy/work-life balance
  • Setting boundaries and being consistent with them

Implementing boundaries and self-care is a process, it’s crucial to remember that the people that take it the worst, are the people that need that boundary set. Setting boundaries is prioritizing you, your mental and physical health, and your own self-care. At the end of the day all you can control is you and how you take care of you.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” –Brené Brown

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