Are you on the brink of burnout at work? These are the key signs to watch out for

If this sounds like you, you might be on the brink of a burnout.

These days everyone's working life is busy, resources are tight and demand is high – you're expected to do more with less.

While you may enjoy your job, there is no denying that extra demand can be hard to keep up with.

According to a labour force survey, stress accounted for 37 per cent of all work-related health problems.

Plus some 45 per cent of all working days lost were down to stress, anxiety and depression caused by workload pressures like tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

While not a recognised medical term, burnout is defined as a “chronic state of stress” by psychologists – but how can you tell if you're on the brink?

What are the telltale signs of a burnout

Burnouts are becoming increasingly common.

While a little bit of work-related stress can be managed from time to time, constant stress can cause a range of health worries including stomach ulcers, chronic pain, depression, failed relationships and a dependence on alcohol and other drugs.

Here are the key signs you could be on the verge of burning out:

Phil Parker, a British osteopath and expert on stress, said it is important to recognise the telltale signs of a burnout so you can try and manage it.

He warned it can also lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

He said: "Business can still do a lot to prevent burnout, it’s not too late to nip it in the bud.

"There are ways to build resilience and peak performance, with huge benefits to businesses who look after staff mental well being.

"Approaching the problem preemptively will hugely future-proof against lost productivity in the corporate world."

What is stress and what causes it?

Stress is a natural response to a threat and produces a very particular set of changes in our body.

Your body actually responds in a very similar way to getting sunburned, drinking too much, interviews, exams and traumatic events.

It triggers the production of adrenaline in your body, the hormone responsible for the body's fight-or-flight response.

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When your body produces adrenaline your airways open up more to provide more oxygen to your muscles, your ability to feel pain decreases and you become more alert.

This is all OK for us in small doses, like when you see a scary film or are surprised by something.

But the longer we stay stressed the more impact it has on our body.


While not a recognised medical term, burnout is defined as a “chronic state of stress” by psychologists, and can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.

It slowly creeps up on you over time – you don’t suddenly wake up with it – and it means you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.

Physical symptoms can include changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleeping patterns, frequent coughs or colds, anxiety, depression and headaches.

Prolonged stress can stop you sleeping properly, can cause you to lose your appetite and can make you feel socially isolated.

Luckily the body has a good system for reducing stress quickly, called the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps our body's conserve energy, slows the heart rate and helps digestion.

Although our body thrives on short bursts of stress and activity, it also gets depleted by long term or repetitive exposure to stresses.

In the long term, stress has a damaging effect on a number of body systems including our digestion, sleep, reproductive and immune system and even our ability to think clearly.

BREAKING POINT Here are top tips on how to pause a burnout before it is too late

The World Health Organisation predicts that work-related stress, burnout and depression will top the list of the world’s most prevalent diseases by 2020.

In the past three years, 45 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression, according to the UK Statistics Authority.

Phil Parker, who founded The Lightning Process – a three-day personal development programme – added: "Forward thinking businesses can create environments where they recognise the value of a healthy and happy workforce, and the cost of sickness and churning staff.

"They can encourage a climate of it being OK and important to take breaks and ask for support and, they can also find ways to reduce some of the pressure.

"Businesses should increase useful support and training programmes so that their workforce can continue to work together healthily and successfully from the boardroom down."

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