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What are the symptoms of Burnout?

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Each person is different

Each person is different. And each burnout is different.


Not everyone will have the same symptoms.


Not everyone will stay in burnout for the same amount of time.


Some recover in weeks, some in months and some in years.

Common symptoms

Despite differences in each person, there are some symptoms that tend to occur often. A person will usually only have some of these, and not all at once.

  • A feeling of hopelessness ('how will I ever get out or function normally again?')

  • Profond exhaustion

  • Feeling numb and detached

  • No motivation

  • Muscle pain

  • Insomnia and other sleep problems

  • Poor digestion

  • Forgetfulness and brain fog

  • Chronic headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Negativity

  • Easy to enrage

  • Unable to perform at work or in the day to day

  • Lack of motivation

  • Procrastination

  • Panic attacks and intrusive thoughts


Please keep in mind that these symptoms can also appear with other conditions. Therefore, it is important for you to reach out to someone and get a professional opinion on your situation.

The four stages of the stress continuum

There are different models out there that show many steps towards burnout.  Some of them have 10 or 12 steps. I personally believe that this is only useful to a therapist. You, as a sufferer, do not need this level of complexity. 


I like a four step process called the stress Continuum. The four steps area:

  • Thriving

  • Surviving

  • Struggling

  • In crisis


We don't need to speak too much about thriving.

In 'Surviving', you're already feeling that something isn't quite right. You're still performing but there's starting to be some ups and downs. You're beginning to notice something. You may start to have less energy but most people will tend to still experience high energy levels at this stage. Adrenaline and cortisol, which are stress hormones, are fuelling this energy. It is not sustainable, but for now, it still works and you can function. 

In 'Struggling' mode, you're starting to feel exhaustion. You still have some energy but less and less. And this energy does not feel 'right'. Your performance at work and your decision making are affected. You are starting to have aches and pains. You are irritable. Perhaps you are not sleeping well and your digestion is giving you problems. The signs are becoming very clear. The question is, are you listening?

And then, suddenly, you find yourself in the 'Crisis' mode.

Your body decides to shut down. Your motivation is gone. You find it difficult to do the simplest task. In some cases, getting out of bed is difficult. You're experiencing a shutdown. You are in a frozen state.


Don't let it come to this point. This is a burnout. Things are much more difficult to fix in this stage. It is much easier to create change before burnout.


But even in Burnout you can come out of it and find solutions. I did it twice. There is hope. Just be ready to work hard and to transform. Transformation is the way out of Burnout.


So don't wait until you are in crisis to get assistance.


But again remember, if you're asking yourself this question 'I wonder what the symptoms of burnout are, I wonder if I'm experiencing too much stress', it means that, yes, you are experiencing too much stress and you need to act. Don't think for a second that you can manage to keep going like this because you're not yet in the struggling or in the in crisis phase. Don't think that way.


As soon as you're thinking you're having too much stress, that means you need to pull the brakes.

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positive thinking, resilience, stress and burnout.

How do I know if it is stress, burnout, only fatigue, depression or something else?

A professional, whether a doctor or therapist or coach, can help you make sense of your symptoms.

Each person is different and each has a different sensitivity.


For example, someone who is prone to 'hyper-vigilance' and anxiety might develop very strong symptoms. Due to the intensity of the symptoms, it might be difficult for this person to accept that there is no 'real/traditional' medical illness behind these symptoms.  

This person might go to a doctor and feel depressed upon hearing that, from this doctor's perspective, everything looks ok. This leads to more confusion and hopelessness.

'Why do I need to sleep 12 hours a day and still not feel refreshed? How can this be?'

'I feel dizzy when I stand up and walk. Surely, there must something really wrong with me!'

'I have no desire for anything. I must be a depressed person.'

Being close to a Burnout or in a Burnout is a difficult and daunting experience. The condition makes it difficult to think positively and objectively.

Fatigue is usually relieved by sleep and rest and energy returns relatively quickly. In a Burnout, the fatigue is persistent. No amount of sleep relieves it as long as the person is still in a Burnout. The body has gone into shutdown to preserve energy. Until strong signals of 'safety' are sent again to the cells, energy will not fully return.

Depression and Burnout have a lot in common, but they are not the same thing. The 'depression' associated with a Burnout is more of a transient nature and is specific to that situation. A person in a Burnout might be experiencing depression in that moment, but that does not mean that they are depressed normally.

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