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Burnout: Warning signs and recovery

Published by: LifeWorks,

Each aspect of our lives affects the other. When you are experiencing burnout—a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion—it’s helpful to look at all areas to see where you are struggling the most; this can be at work, home, or school, or in your social or personal life. Warning signs are helpful reminders to take a step back and re-evaluate your self-care.

Here are some warning signs of burnout:


  • You start taking on more work than you can manage.
  • You do not leave the office or finish work assignments on time.
  • You begin looking at work emails outside of your working hours.
  • You stress, worry, or obsess about work in your free time.
  • You are constantly playing catch up.
  • Your inbox is overflowing, and you don’t have time to respond.
  • You start to feel annoyed and irritated at your boss/coworkers.

Family and friends

  • You begin to neglect family and friendships.
  • You become impatient and snappy with loved ones.
  • You start declining or cancelling invites to socialise.
  • You are short tempered with the kids.
  • Arguments with your partner increase.

Personal life

  • Self-care begins to disappear.
  • Sleep becomes disturbed.
  • You ditch healthy eating and go for instant gratification.
  • Alcohol consumption increases.
  • Mental health begins to deteriorate.
  • Exercise routines stop.
  • You become closed off or avoidant of how you feel.

What to do about burnout warning signs

The first step is to recognise that things might be slipping and to remind yourself that you have choices. Don’t beat yourself up for struggling with these areas of your life. Instead, take action and reach out to those you trust for help. Sometimes it takes an honest self-assessment and a decision to share with another your intention to get the ball rolling.

Make a plan

Have a ‘burnout plan’ with ideas of what you can do if you feel yourself slipping. It might be as simple as telling your boss you’re heading toward burnout and you need to discuss the workload, or reaching out to a friend.


This may be a new encounter for you. Or you may already recognise your early warning signs for burnout because you have been here before. Either way, know that recovery from burnout is possible, and learning from your experience will make you stronger. Here are a few tips to get you back on track:

Set boundaries with yourself and with others. Recognise what you want to change in your life and take action by affirming to yourself that change is possible.

Take time to recharge. Take a morning, or a day or two, free from responsibilities to decide what is important to you.

Re-establish your efforts in self-care. Make this your number one priority; if you don’t take care of yourself, how do you expect to look after family or meet work demands and other commitments?

Ask for help. Access your assistance program, speak to someone you trust, or go to your doctor and ask for further support. Reaching out is a stepping-stone for more change in your life.

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