Burnout what is it and how it happens


Burnout – Part 1: What It Is And How It Happens

If you feel completely drained-out, helpless, tired, and lost all the time, you might be paving your way towards burnout.

Burnout is the state of being emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted due to excessively long periods of stress and trauma, or, well a lot of mental and/or physical work!

The term ‘burnout’ was made popular by Herbert Freudenberger, in 1974 in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.

He explained the term as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Certain people believe that they tend to perform well under pressure, but imagine being constantly under pressure, in a constant struggle of proving one’s self, we sometimes become exhausted, empty, and are unable to cope with it.

People mostly confuse burnout with stress, but there is a difference between the two. Stress is characterized by one’s over-engagement in work whereas burnout is characterized by disengagement from work.

Stress can lead to urgency and a state of hyperactivity whereas burnout can cause helplessness and hopelessness.

Simply, burnout is a condition much worse than anxiety or stress, and that is the exact reason why you have to understand it.

What Is Burnout and How Does It Happen?

Burnout is usually observed among employees who work either full-time or do multiple part-time jobs.

There has been a 24% increase in the search for symptoms of burnout from the previous year and the number seems to be increasing.

Now let’s look at some of the factors that may contribute to the manifestation of mental and physical burnouts.

Too Much Pressure

Working with an inflexible boss, assigned tasks that are unattainable, late-working regularly, or lack of training and support, all of these situations can be stressful, and too much of that stress can lead you to the road of burnout.

Going to work daily from 9-5 in a stressful environment means exposing yourself to constant pressure which highly increases the chance of burning yourself out.

Make sure to stay mindful during those situations and CHOOSE how to respond, instead of relying on your automatic reactions, which can often stress you out!

Deadlines On Top Of Deadlines

Cutthroat deadlines can be fun and motivating for some people as they find thrill in doing such a task.

For those people, being challenged with a deadline gives a sigh of relief once the task is completed.

Now imagine, you are barely at the finish line of your first task, and you are assigned another one?

If your supervisor is only piling up deadlines on top deadlines for you, it can eventually lead to a burnout, even if you love working under pressure.

Where is my Appraisal?

Remember when your mother used to reward you with your favorite food for completing your homework on time, or when you scored 10/10 on a test and received a star?

Well, we have been taught to expect a reward for our hard work whether it be materialistic, monetary, or appreciation.

However, MOST companies that employ plenty of workers, believe that payment is a sufficient stimulus.

Nevertheless, the thought and notion of living paycheck to paycheck, working a 9-5 job, is often stressful and can thus, lead to symptoms of a classical burnout.

If that’s the case for you, talk with your colleagues and the higher authority figures in the company to set up better reward systems, based on working performance!

When such systems are put into place, you and your colleagues will find burnouts to happen less often and may in fact be motivated and happy to work.

No-way Out!

People who are not happy or satisfied with their workplace tend to look for other jobs, but it’s not easy to find jobs in the market and they find themselves stuck with their current employer.

In the fear of losing the job, they can’t even discuss the issues with their employer and feel left out.

The feeling of no way out makes people depressed and less focused, thus increasing the probability of a burnout and even, a breakdown!

Final Thoughts

Our society is built in a way that demands workers to focus on a task for at least half of their wake time, with little to no rest.

Unfortunately, most positions you can take on, do not consider attention span & rest times between working sessions.

This, in combination with a variety of other factors, can make you exceed your working capacity, thus leading to a state of burnout.

Nevertheless, there are ways to deal with this, so stay tuned for the second article on this series, where I will give you actionable tips to stay on top of your productivity game!


Freudenberger, H. J. (1989). Burnout: Past, present, and future concerns. Loss, Grief & Care, 3(1-2), 1-10.


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