How To Turn Your Burnout Upside Down (And Get Your Life Back)

By Nicole Charky

Let’s be real. Burnout happens. And when it does, it can be a major bummer.

Burnout is generally described as a state of chronic stress. If you work exceptionally long hours, have a heavy workload, or put a lot of pressure on yourself, then you, my friend, are susceptible to burnout.

There are several ways that your body tries to scream and remind you to SLOW TF DOWN. And when those signs happen, it’s in your best interest to listen.

Three symptoms can indicate or signal burnout:

  • Exhaustion: You feel wiped out, drained, emotionally exhausted, and feel unable to cope.You’re tired, you’re down, and you lack energy. Physical symptoms could also be expressed through pain, or stomach or bowel problems.
  • Alienation: You may find your job increasingly stressful and frustrating if you’re experiencing burnout. You might feel cynical about your work environment and your colleagues. You begin pushing away emotionally and feel numb or disconnected from your work.
  • Underperformance: You feel negative about your everyday tasks, find it hard to concentrate—either with the activities you do at home or caring for other family members. You’re listless and struggle creatively.   


The term ‘burnout’ was coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. But the bad news is that there’s currently no established method or criterion used to diagnose burnout—or ways to measure and understand if it’s distinguishable from other symptoms or illnesses.

It could be a slow build after months of hustling, which is how it often hits me. I remember reaching a moment of total burnout a few years ago. I had a boss tell me that she wanted me to tell her every time I left the room where our team sat. I felt like my workload was overwhelming. I had no privacy whatsoever—and that loss of personal freedom—the ability to go to the restroom when I needed to, really pushed me to feel angry and unmotivated when I was already experiencing some of the physical signs I’ll describe below.

The resources I needed to deal with those stressors were not available to me. And that’s when I started to detach from my work. I used to think it was just me rebelling against working all the time, but now I recognize that it’s real burnout. And there are very real, physical signs that can manifest:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Forgetfulness/attention
  • Insomnia
  • Increased illness
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


Some of the main components of burnout are detachment and cynicism. It’s important to recognize those signs.

  • Pessimism
  • Isolation
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Detachment  


Burnout isn’t sustainable, but it also doesn’t just disappear overnight. You have to make some lifestyle changes to reduce it.

Start by honestly addressing the stress in your life. How much of it are you dealing with? How are you coping? What are some of the ways you can overcome this?

Make sure you handle the basics: sleeping, eating, drinking. Try sleeping as much as you can, eating regularly, and drinking a lot of water. Force yourself to start saying “no” to things that overwhelm you or consume your time. Look for windows in your life to exercise. That might be a quick walk for 10 minutes during your lunch break, or parking away from the store so you can walk a further distance. Try taking the stairs sometimes.

Start to unplug and take your relaxation seriously. Set boundaries and make sure to stick with them. Chronic stress over time can lead to digestive issues, depression, heart disease and obesity.

Consider having a discussion with your employer about whether you’re lacking the resources you need in order to succeed in your job. Take steps to speak with HR so you can learn more about mental health benefits, training, or how you can improve your work environment. But if that doesn’t work, it’s sometimes time to break up with your job and find a new one. That’s because, at the end of the day, your health is more important than any job.