Signs of Burnout and Mental Exhaustion

Feeling chronically exhausted and totally over it? It’s important to know the signs of burnout.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get swept up into the idea that we have to be doing all the things all the time. Overwhelmingly, millennials are experiencing burnout at an alarming rate, and it’s affecting their health and wellness in more than one way. The signs of burnout are not to be ignored.

Recognizing Burnout

An important note: in some cases, depression can develop with extreme burnout. If you feel like you might harm yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.

The dangers of burnout

So what is burnout and why is it so serious?

According to the good ol’-fashioned dictionary, burnout is defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Sounds pretty familiar, right? It seems like the majority of people experiencing burnout are the do-everything type. Often, they don’t recognize their struggles until it’s too late, and burnout hits them like a ton of bricks. Knock-down included.

Burnout is a dangerous condition that can manifest itself in your life in more than one way. It’s important to tune into the early signs of burnout (more on that below!) and begin to make lifestyle changes as soon as possible.

Recognizing burnout: the early signs

Do you remember the last time you were so stressed that it was hard to form thoughts?

Or maybe you found it hard to recall common words or complete sentences?

That’s because forgetfulness and inability to focus are two early signs of burnout. In this phase, it’s not uncommon to feel like your brain has turned to mush, and it’s all of a sudden hard to form a proper thought. When this happens, I like to suggest giving your brain a break from thinking and practice physical self-care.

Another early sign of burnout is a higher susceptibility to getting sick. It’s a symptom of overworking your body. Your immune system lowers and you no longer have the strength to fight off colds and infections that usually wouldn’t affect you.

Also, a distinct lack of appetite might be a sign that something’s going on. When your body is constantly living in fight or flight mode, hunger usually is the first thing to go out the window.

Who has time to eat when we’re just trying to survive?

Other early warning signs of burnout include constant worry, irritability, and mild sadness.

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More serious burnout symptoms

If you failed to miss the early warning signs that burnout is looming, these are some of the more serious burnout symptoms.

  1. Trouble sleepingburnout can cause many sleepless nights as your brain stays fired up and overthinking and worrying. Plus, fight or flight, remember? We can’t sleep if we’re worried about getting eaten by a lion, hypothetically speaking.
  2. Anxiety: when mild worrying becomes constant anxiety, it’s usually a sign that your burnout has just kicked it up a notch. It might even begin to affect your personal or professional life.
  3. Depression: you might begin to feel feelings of hopelessness and guilt, like what you’re doing will never be enough. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support.
  4. Anger: what started as mild irritability usually makes its way to full-blown outbursts and yelling matches as burnout becomes more serious. When you’re giving so much of yourself to something (like work, for example) you have little bandwidth left to deal with anything else that comes your way.

The above symptoms are signs of serious burnout and may be best navigated with the support of a professional therapist. Online therapy is a great option to help mitigate the effects of burnout.

How to overcome burnout

Do you think you’re experiencing burnout? Thankfully, there are some tools to help you overcome those current feelings of doing too much.

First and foremost, I think it’s essential to examine the why behind doing everything you’ve committed yourself to. Is it possible you’re tying your own self-worth to accomplishing everything under the sun? Or maybe you only feel productive when you’re physically and mentally exhausted?

Adding in moments of self-care throughout your day can help remove some attention you’re giving to everything else. It’s important to remember to check in with how you’re feeling throughout the day. Also, focus on creating a mindset of gratitude as you go while always making space to experience emotions as they come.

Like I mentioned above, if you’re experiencing serious burnout to the point you need professional help, do not hesitate to reach out to the appropriate parties for guidance and support. This is what I use to help me feel my best when overwhelmed and burned out. You are not alone on this journey.

woman meditating in nature free self-care

Coping with burnout in someone you love

It can be so painful to watch the ones we love struggle.

Recognizing burnout in someone close to us is not always easy. As someone who has once been burnt out, it’s easy to brush it off and simply tell others we had a bad day/week.

If you think someone you love is experiencing the early signs of burnout, don’t be afraid to ask what’s going on. Approaching this conversation in a supportive and loving way will show the other person that you truly care. Help them recognize that there is more to life than burning out at work or in home life.

Read next: The Power of Holding Space for Someone You Love

Avoiding burnout in the first place

In an ideal world, we would be able to avoid burnout in the first place. Our boundaries would be steady and strong, and we wouldn’t be afraid to use the word No.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Personally, I believe that avoiding burnout starts with prioritizing small acts of self-care throughout your day. Start as small as you need to, but ensure that you’re making your needs a priority. Also, give yourself permission to take a break and disconnect from your phone. Reducing screen time can have a major impact on your overall wellness.

Remember, nothing is more important than your health and happiness. Shift your mindset from doing it all to one of caring for yourself first, and then assisting others.

Books on navigating burnout

Girl sitting outdoors
Know the signs of burnout


  • This was really good. I’m so glad people like you are sharing information. I just recently left nursing for an indefinite hiatus due to severe burnout. I wish it was easier to explain to others how it feels. I’ve had people nonchalantly ask me why I just don’t go into another area of nursing. I was so burnt out I was having random panic attacks and severe depression. It’s only been a couple of weeks and I don’t have everything figured out, but I feel so much better since I left my job.

  • This article is really insightful. It’s always good to be aware of what’s going on with our mental health. Thank you for sharing ✨🍀

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