Recognising Burnout

Written by Melissa Kugelman, Psychologist

Recognising Burnout 

Many people can relate to experiencing stress, and the feelings and physical sensations that can come with it. When we are stressed, we may experience: 

● Fatigue and lower energy levels 

● Physical exhaustion 

● Difficulty feeling relaxed 

● Nausea 

● Increased anxiety or hypervigilance 

● Insomnia 

● Difficulty concentrating 

● Increased irritability 

Many things can contribute stress to our lives, including work, study, interpersonal relationships, health concerns, finances, caring for children, and major life changes. As well, we live in a highly interconnected world, where social media and news make it easy to learn about the events occurring on a global scale. Recently, there have been many major global events, including most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, the current conflict in Ukraine, and the ongoing climate crisis. On a more local scale, Australians have faced a number of natural disasters recently, including the 2022 QLD/NSW floods and the 2019/2020 bushfires. External stressors like these can add to our pile of personal life stressors, and can exacerbate levels of stress, anxiety and overwhelm. 

When stress is chronic, consistent and prolonged, it can lead to burnout. Particularly in the context of COVID-19 that has consistently impacted our society for over two years, many people may be experiencing burnout caused by a combination of these many stressors. As distinct from stress, burnout can involve: 

● Loss of motivation 

● Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated

● Emotional exhaustion 

● Increased cynicism or apathy 

● Disconnection from others 

● Depressed mood 

● Difficulty concentrating 

● Increased sleep, however not feeling rested 

Being aware of the common signs of burnout may be especially useful right now as many people are returning to pre-existing routines, social events and work environments. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of burnout, it may be useful to be in touch with your GP or a mental health professional for further support and guidance.

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