Burnout involves feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment, as well as an overall sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment.1 With time and effort, and if necessary, the support from a therapist, you can implement coping techniques to manage and reduce symptoms of emotional burnout.
What Is Emotional Burnout?
Emotional burnout is frequently linked to emotional exhaustion from work, school, or other major life stressors. It often evolves from interpersonal relationship conflict and stress. Essentially, emotional burnout is accumulated stress that causes people to feel anxious, immobilized and emotionally overwhelmed.
Certain careers include more inherent risk of emotional burnout due to elevated levels of stress. Examples of these high stress jobs include caregiving, teaching, nursing, social work, and healthcare. That said, the condition doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone and any job.2
Potential causes of feeling emotionally burnt out include stressors related to:
- Chronic illness
- Loss of a loved one
- Major life changes like divorce or moving to new location
- Job change or job promotion
- Financial pressures
Emotional Exhaustion vs. Emotional Burnout
Emotional exhaustion and emotional burnout both have elements of physical and emotional exhaustion; however, emotional exhaustion is a symptom of emotional burnout. Emotional burnout is a consequence of ongoing stressors in the work environment, your personal life, or both.
Signs You’re Experiencing Emotional Fatigue
People who suffer from emotional fatigue tend to be empathetic, but the weight of balancing their emotions and being overly sensitive to other people’s emotions can develop into emotional fatigue.
Common symptoms that could signal emotional fatigue are:
- Increased isolation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased agitation and irritability
- Increased headaches or body aches
- Physical exhaustion
- Mental exhaustion
- Onset of depression
- Increased anxiety (even if you can still function)
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Decrease in productivity
13 Tips to Prevent Emotional Burnout
There are things you can do to deal with feeling overwhelmed and address emotional burnout before it becomes debilitating. To start, it is important to be self-aware of any ongoing physical, emotional, or cognitive changes. Many people don’t practice self-care or self-awareness, which can lead to a variety of problems including emotional burnout that could be prevented with appropriate attention and care.
Here are 13 tips to prevent or alleviate emotional burnout:
- Practice self-reflection: Realign goals and expectations for yourself. Evaluate a typical weekly schedule and reduce or eliminate unnecessary items3
- Practice self-care and mindfulness techniques: for example, try meditation, yoga, exercise, and breathing exercises; this can reduce stress, help with sleep, and reinforce staying present
- Be honest with yourself: the first step in healing is recognizing that there is a problem and initiating action to cope
- Be kind to yourself: take time off to recharge and do something fun. Re-evaluate the choices that create stress and cause emotional burnout
- Seek a mental health professional with expertise in stress management: therapeutic techniques like stress management or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help change negative patterns of thought and behavior
- Make small choices to make stress and overwhelm more manageable: for example, break a large project into smaller parts or decide to spend more time with friends to ensure you don’t isolate yourself while undertaking a stressful project
- Separate yourself from stressors that cause burnout: for example, meet with a supervisor to brainstorm new ways to approach stress, or take on a project that better suits your skillset. Speak with a counselor to help you better manage school stress.
- Focus on trying to create a healthy work/life balance: setting realistic limits in terms of work can help you to achieve this goal
- Create healthy routines when you wake up, during the day, and before bed: for example, when you wake up, eat something healthy and take time to stretch; during the day, take a break, take a walk, or listen to music; before bed, take a bath, read a good book, or listen to a podcast
- Strengthen important relationships with family and friends: spend time with people who nourish your spirit and are good listeners
- Look for a community support group or online chat room: it can help to recognize you are not alone in your struggle; these people may be able to offer tips and guidance to help you cope
- Re-evaluate your priorities in all aspects of your life: determine what is important to you, create new goals, and give yourself permission to say no
- Identify and pursue activities that bring you pleasure: find a new hobby, travel somewhere new, find a place of worship, or volunteer for a cause that is meaningful to you
Can Therapy Help?
Therapy can alleviate stress and help you cope with emotional burnout. When it seems like emotional burnout is jeopardizing your physical health, you feel mentally and emotionally exhausted, or you notice negative changes in behavior, then therapy is an important option to consider. It can help you develop more awareness about the causes and triggers for stress and identify solutions or lifestyle changes to reduce it.
Expert researchers say that emotional exhaustion is the central quality of burnout and refers to feeling overextended and depleted of one’s emotional resources.4 It may be hard to believe that you can reduce the negative effects of emotional exhaustion; however, if you recognize and identify symptoms and take the proper steps to combat them, you can prevent or put a stop to emotional exhaustion.