5 Signs Of Burnout At Work That You Must Recognise Early

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Last updated: January 3rd, 2024

signs of burnout at work

Last updated: January 3rd, 2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Everywhere we look, people are speaking of ‘burnout.’ The signs of burnout at work are collectively rising, often characterised by intense mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. 

Many of us know this feeling well.

Almost every working person experiences burnout at some point during their career, triggered by ongoing stress or overworking for too long.

Paying attention to the early signs is crucial – if ignored, burnout can severely affect your health.

We have provided resources at the end for those needing additional support – particularly if you are experiencing multiple below warning signs.

(Related: The Hybrid Work Model Is Here To Stay).

1. Difficulty Sleeping.

Stressful periods at work, last-minute deadlines or major projects can induce anxiety and impact sleep.

It becomes increasingly difficult for the body to wind down when the mind is racing, even more so if you spend long days looking at screens.

Healthy adults require between 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to function adequately.

Not only that, getting a full night’s sleep can help prevent several chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. 

It’s also widely accepted that those running off little sleep have a weakened immune system and a lower libido. So, make sure to prioritise not only the hours you rest but restorative, deep sleep (REM)! 

How, you ask?

  • Set an alarm to stop working at least one hour before bed. 
  • Read, knit, or meditate with low light in the room (bonus points for staying off screens). 
  • Invest in a good quality magnesium supplement or CBD oil to assist the body in relaxing.

Expert Tip.

If you must look at your phone, ensure you enable the ‘Night’ setting or use blue light-blocking glasses. Your body’s circadian rhythm will thank you!

2. Constant Headaches Or Stomachaches.

Many elements can cause headaches or stomachaches, but stress is often a huge factor. IBS has long been linked to stress and anxiety, thanks to the vagus nerve’s direct link from the gut to the brain.

We subconsciously hold tension in our body, often in our neck, shoulders, and belly.

Mindful movement practices like yoga, dance and slow walking (at sunrise/sunset) can significantly assist in this dissipation of tension. 

You can:

  • Take a friend or loved one on a walk for co-regulation.
  • Find a quiet place to take some deep belly/slow breaths throughout the day. 
  • As hard as it is, it’s often the busiest days that require consistent practices to prevent stress from building – set a reminder in your phone to breathe if you must. 

You can also assist your body by: 

  • Eating a healthy, high-protein diet (abundant in fruits and vegetables).
  • Limiting salt, sugar and caffeine.

Expert Tip.

A water bottle close by will prevent dehydration when you’re stuck at your desk!

3. Using Food, Drugs, Or Alcohol To Cope.

Whilst managing work-related stress is not easy, avoid the temptation to numb it with drugs or alcohol, as this can become a very slippery slope. 

Alcohol can: 

  • Disrupt your sleeping patterns (limiting deep and restful sleep).
  • Affect your dopamine and serotonin production.
  • Cause you to think and act in a way that isn’t aligned with your long-term goals.

Alcohol in moderation is a wonderful social tool. However, if you find that you are regularly turning to alcohol or other substances, it might be time to seek additional support.

You might notice that you are also emotionally eating – because sugar and salt can temporarily make us feel good!

Whilst treats in moderation are something to enjoy, a healthy, fibre-rich diet will ultimately allow you to feel vital and energetic for years to come. 

Expert Tip.

Try preparing healthy snacks/meals in advance (on a Sunday) to prevent take-out or snacking during hectic weeks.

4. Feeling Detached, Unmotivated, Lonely Or Angry.

If you notice you’re starting to feel numb or apathetic towards your work or colleagues, you could be experiencing job burnout.

Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or frustration towards friends and family are also warning signs.


Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger or frustration towards friends and family are also warning signs.

It’s essential to know what aspects of work trigger this emotional disconnect or distress for you. We suggest you: 

  • Approach your supervisor to vary the work you’re undertaking – can they delegate to other team members to ease your load?
  • Take a short course, jump on board a new project or assist a different team. A sense of variety may revitalise your passion for work.  
  • Mentor a new employee or volunteer in a company coaching program. Acts of giving will allow you to connect, share your expertise, and feel more engaged with your work.
  • Join a support or community group, whether in person or virtually
  • Ask if your employer offers an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to see a therapist or counsellor who can provide you with monthly or weekly tips.
  • Schedule leave or an extended break. 

Prioritising work for long periods can be pretty lonely and isolating – it becomes difficult to relate to others who do not have the same schedule or responsibilities.

You can often feel like not many understand you.

Don’t be afraid to talk to trusted friends or family about your feelings. You’ll often find many have experienced mental health challenges before and will share what worked for them. 

Expert Tip.

Schedule a short break from social media (2 weeks), which can often heighten feelings of comparison and inadequacy.

5. Noticing A Loss Of Pleasure Or Joy.

Difficult days are inevitable, but when you have more bad days than good, it’s a sign that you need serious rest.

Depression and emotional exhaustion are certainly burnout symptoms, exacerbated by a potential lack of sleep or a healthy diet.

It’s worth noting that an exercise schedule that complements your body during these times of stress is crucial.

Expert Tip.

Instead of scheduling 5 x boxing sessions or intense runs throughout the week, aim for 3-4 x 20-minute walks or living room yoga. Yoga with Adriene is a great place to start –  your body’s stress response system will thank you!

Burnout will deplete your energy and prevent you from doing the things you love.

The cycle then begins, in which you feel frustrated or depressed that you aren’t productive, further increasing feelings of hopelessness.

If this sounds familiar, and your physical symptoms or hopelessness lasts longer than a few weeks, it might be time to check in with a health professional.

Depression can be a common underlying cause for these emotions and can be hugely supported with differing treatments.

(Related: 13 Best Home Business Ideas For 2024).

Frequently Asked Questions About Job Burnout.

You’re not alone. Chronic stress is a common issue. Here’s what other people who have experienced burnout typically ask.

How Does Burnout Show Up In Personal Life?

Burnout has far-reaching consequences that touch every aspect of a person’s life, from their personal and professional relationships.

When you’re suffering from emotional exhaustion, you’re more prone to taking it out on your friends and family members.

It’s easy to lose your cool over minor inconveniences like a dishwasher that hasn’t been arranged to your liking. Until you address burnout, these minor disagreements might escalate into major arguments.

What Are The Most Common Physical Symptoms Of Burnout?

An individual’s well-being can be impacted in many ways by workplace burnout. Physical and mental health issues can develop.

Anxiety, headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, heartburn, mouth ulcers, and a cynical outlook are all symptoms of workplace burnout.

Can You Be Fired For Workplace Burnout?

Yes, indirectly. Work-related stress can lead to workplace burnout.

As a result of a poor work-life balance, you may suffer from a lack of motivation, struggle to find pleasure in your job, and your self-belief may have taken a hit.

A decline in your mental health often leads to poor performance.


As the World Health Organisation (WHO) puts it, burnout is a ‘state of vital exhaustion’. In a study carried out in May 2020, researchers found that 41% of workers were experiencing chronic workplace stress as they struggled to keep up with work during the COVID-19 pandemic. That was an increase of 18%, compared with a similar study of employees who reported feeling burned out in January.

Final Thoughts About Burnout At Work.

The resources below are accessible in Australia if you want to speak to someone about your stress and overwhelm

These signs of burnout at work are not exhaustive; we hear from more and more people each month struggling to find joy in their jobs and connect with others.

If this sounds like you, there are solutions and actionable steps you can take today.

With the right tools, you can recover from burnout and learn the valuable skills to prevent it from happening again. 

Ultimately, you need to care for yourself before you can provide for others and produce your best quality work. If your burnout symptoms have been long-lasting, please check in with a health professional.


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