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Whether you label it or not. Burnout is real. It often presents itself with feelings of apathy. These feelings can be more exaggerated if your team feels that they are not given autonomy, aren’t made to feel that their efforts make a difference, or even feel they are part of a toxic work environment. Despite what may be said, even the most loyal and passionate team members can fall victim to burnout. Some managers would rather write off the employee than put in the effort to re-engage them.

Let’s look at the connection and differences between stress and burnout.

What is burnout?

It happens when we get overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands.

Burnout reduces productivity, reduces energy, and increases feelings of hopelessness, cynicism, and resentment. The effects of burnout can hurt home life, work life, and social life. Like stress, long-term burnout can increase susceptibility to illness.

Types of Burnout

Three types of burnout have been identified, each with its own cause:

Overload Burnout

This happens when becoming frantic in pursuit of success with a willingness to risk well-being and personal life to feel successful at work.

Under-Challenged Burnout

This happens because there is a feeling of being underappreciated and/or bored, or with a job that doesn’t provide learning opportunities or room for professional growth.

Neglect Burnout

This happens when there is a feeling of incompetence or inability to keep up with responsibilities.

Signs of Burnout

Burnout can have many symptoms.

Burnout doesn’t happen immediately. It’s a gradual process that builds with stressors.


Feeling drained and unable emotionally to deal with professional and personal challenges.

Alienation from Activities

Look out for signs of cynicism, and frustration toward work and colleagues. Distancing emotionally and feeling numb about your work and workplace.

Reduced Performance

Burnout makes it hard to concentrate, handle responsibilities, or be creative.

Personality traits that can contribute to burnout.

Perfectionistic tendencies: nothing is ever good enough.

Pessimistic view of yourself and the world.

The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.

High-achieving, Type A personality.

What is stress?

The human stress response is an evolutionary adaptation that has helped humans cope with moments of crisis through the ages. It occurs in response to danger in any form.

In the face of a perceived threat, the sympathetic nervous system floods the body with stress hormones (Adrenalin and cortisol being the primary player) and initiates a complex cascade of events known as the “fight-or-flight response. This can include tightening muscles, clenching jaws, raised heart rate and blood pressure, and short breaths from the chest rather than the diaphragm.

These physiological changes are meant to support us in navigating (and hopefully surviving) the crisis at hand. Truth be told, the system serves us beautifully, if the crisis is coupled with periods of rest, recovery, and recuperation, which is generally WHERE WE FAIL.

Stress hormones cannot be turned off; long after a stressful event is over, the stress hormones released still linger in our systems. Chronic stress tends to keep our tissues bathed in stress hormones almost continuously, making us hyper-vigilant and more likely to trigger the fight-or-flight response again—even when faced with rather minor stressors.

Stress vs. Burnout



Characterized by over-engagement.

Characterized by disengagement.

Emotions are overreactive

Emotions are blunted.

Produces urgency and hyperactivity.

Produces helplessness and hopelessness.

Loss of energy.

Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope.

Leads to anxiety disorders.

Leads to detachment and depression.

Primary damage is physical.

Primary damage is emotional.

May kill you prematurely.

May make life seem not worth living.

What can be done to address burnout?

It is important to reframe the conversation about burnout, not as an individual issue that can be fixed with quick self-help strategies, but as a systemic issue that everyone is responsible for reducing. Burnout is a big problem, and to solve it, we have to start talking about it in the right way, with meaningful strategies that address the core causes. There is something we can all do about it – let’s start now.

Encourage employees to take care of their health. Make it easy for employees to see to their wellness. Activities like yoga, meditation, and wellness workshops offer countless benefits to employees and employers. These types of activities not only assist those that may have scheduling challenges outside of work hours to address wellness but can Improve output, by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. These programs can build a sense of community and connection among coworkers, demonstrate a commitment to employees, and promote a positive, holistic approach to personal and professional development.

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