One day you’re ticking tasks off your to-do list, chatting with colleagues over lunch, and stopping at the gym on the way home. Then, you notice that work/school has become chaotic, your tasks seem unmanageable, and the last thing you want to do is hang out with your colleagues/friends. What happened?
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been adequately managed.1 However, burnout can also occur in other settings and doesn’t have to be work related. Parents, non-professional caregivers, and partners, and even children and teens can all struggle with stress and anxiety that may eventually lead to burnout.
Read on to find out how burnout relates to anxiety and stress, tips to manage emotional exhaustion, and lastly how to recover from burnout.
Anxiety Burnout Overview
Commonly triggered by anxiety, burnout can cause symptoms that are both physical and mental. The most common signs of burnout include:
- Constant irritability
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor sleep
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Low motivation
- Feelings of cynicism or apathy
- Substance use
- Changes to your appetite
Research has shown that over time burnout may lead to a number of physical consequences, such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, musculoskeletal pain, prolonged fatigue, respiratory problems, severe injuries, and mortality below the age of 45 years.2 Burnout is also associated with hospitalization for mental disorders.
Is it Stress?
Burnout is a response to chronic stress. Knowing the signs of chronic stress can prevent burnout as well as a number of other stress-related health conditions, including cardiovascular issues, diabetes, obesity, depression, immune disorders, and sexual dysfunction.3 The most common signs of chronic stress include:
- General aches and pains
- Low energy
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Social withdrawal
- Brain fog
- Change in appetite
- High blood pressure
- Stomach or digestive issues
- Self-harming behavior
- Skin flare-ups (psoriasis, eczema, etc.)
Is it Anxiety?
Some research has suggested that individuals who are more prone to experiencing higher levels of anxiety are also more likely to develop burnout as well.4 Like stress, anxiety and burnout have many symptoms in common, but they are two different constructs. The most common signs of anxiety include:
- Excessive worry
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling restless
- Lack of concentration
- Stomach or digestive issues
How Are They All Connected?
Because of their overlapping symptoms, stress, anxiety, and burnout are often used interchangeably, but there are some crucial differences. According to Julianne Schroeder, a licensed professional counselor who spoke with Counseling Today, the source of stress is often external, while anxiety tends to be an internal response.5 Stress also typically dies down once the stressor is removed, whereas anxiety is future-focused and plagued by “what if” thinking.
When stress and anxiety occur over an extended period of time and are not addressed, burnout may follow. It is a gradual process likened to a bubble bursting when cumulative trauma becomes unmanageable. Like anxiety, burnout can also be internally focused; a person may feel angry at themselves for not being able to handle their stressors adequately.
Do Stress & Anxiety Lead to Burnout?
Yes, stress can lead to chronic stress, which can eventually lead to burnout. Anxiety can also lead to burnout when not addressed. But because burnout is a gradual process, noticing the signs of stress and anxiety and learning tools to manage them properly can help you avoid the fallout. After all, if burnout is not addressed, it can lead to a whole other host of problems: reduced job/school performance, relationship issues, alienation from others, and the physical illnesses mentioned above..
How to Stop Anxiety Burnout Before it Starts
To stop burnout before it occurs, you may need to make changes at work, school or home to get the support you or your child needs. If your stressors are work-related, try talking to human resources to establish a healthier work environment. Make sure you don’t sacrifice your health for your job by skipping lunch, eating at your desk, letting your exercise routine fall to the wayside, or staying after hours. The more often you neglect yourself, the easier it is for stress to build and burnout to ensue. Teens can follow the same guidelines, by trying to keep a balance between schoolwork, their mental and physical health.
If your stressors are related to parenting or your home life, outsource where you can to reduce your burden. If you have a partner at home, make sure you’re both taking on a fair share of chores (including the mental load of remembering dates, planning appointments, meal planning, etc.) Make use of digital assistance through shared calendars, shared grocery lists, and apps that help lower that mental load. Teens have additional sources of stressors, including the pressures of academic performance as well as social issues that are exacerbated by social media. Helping teens carve out time for family time, and one-on-ones check ins at home can be very impactful in helping your teen manage the stressors in their lives.
Lastly, familiarize yourself with the early signs of stress and anxiety before they lead to burnout. This includes physical signs like frequent headaches, skin flare-ups, and GI problems. It also includes the emotional signs like lack of concentration, irritability, and restlessness.
Tips to Manage Stress & Anxiety
If you or your teen are struggling with stress and anxiety, try the following tips:
- Don’t skip meals, and make sure you’re not overloading on sugary sweets, caffeine, and processed foods. They may give you a jolt of energy initially, but they’ll also send you into a crash, which will only exacerbate your symptoms.
- Get enough sleep and try to follow a regular sleep routine to keep your circadian rhythm (and your stress levels) balanced.
- Limit your screen time; excess screen time is associated with increased irritability, poor sleep, and worsened anxiety.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques on a regular basis, such as meditation, mindful breathing, yoga, tai chi, and more.
- Carve out at least 30 minutes of each day for an activity that brings you joy, whether it’s journaling, painting, taking a walk, or listening to a podcast.
- Increase your physical activity to offload stress and anxious energy while staying physically healthy.
- Practice saying no if you already feel overextended.
- Try non-prescription Brillia, a clinically-proven medication that reduces stress, anxiety, irritability, and restlessness without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia combines antibody science with behavior modification for a long-term strategy with proven efficacy. Learn more about how Brillia works and explore our Five Pillar methodology.
When to See a Professional
Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you uncover the roots of your stress and anxiety and come up with tailored solutions based on your unique needs. In addition to teaching you some stress-reduction tools and mindfulness practices, they can also work with you to practice these skills in session, so they eventually become automatic.
Find out how to prepare for your first therapy appointment, what you should know about combining therapy and medication, and find more resources on managing stress and anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
We’ll share helpful tips, the latest studies and personal experiences.