What Does Burnout Feel Like & How To Recover

Burnout is a very real thing.

What Does Burnout Feel Like & How To Recover getty

Many of us know what burnout feels like without even realizing it's burnout.

Have you ever been paralyzed by overwhelming stress? Did you begin to lose motivation and interest in the tasks at hand? Did you become detached from loved ones? Were you struck with feelings of helplessness and depression?

If you answered yes to all these questions you may have been experiencing burnout. 

Perhaps you’re even experiencing it right now. 


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When the stressors of life, typically stemming from a job, become too much to handle, a person may become burnt out. 

More severe than normal stress, this breaking point is very common in people who are overworked. 


Though the term ‘burnout’ was first introduced in 1974, it feels like a fairly new concept. 

As a result, not many people can identify what’s wrong with them or know how to move forward. 

That said, it’s time to dig into what burnout feels like and how to recover. 

First, what exactly is burnout?

As explained by Herbert Freudenberger in his 1974 book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, burnout is by definition “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one's devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

What does burnout feel like?

1. Feeling fatigued and drained.

Sometimes even the simplest of tasks feel impossible to accomplish. It’s as if no amount of sleep in the world could make you feel refreshed. 


2. Feeling like a failure and having self-doubt. 

Someone experiencing burnout will never feel good enough. They have low self-esteem and doubt their abilities to do the things they are good at. 

3. Feeling helpless and trapped. 

Almost like clawing your way out of a well, burnout makes you feel like there is no hope that the stress will subside. 

4. Feeling detached and alone. 

It’s normal for someone with burnout to detach themselves from others for fear of feeling like a burden. This leads to feelings of loneliness and sadness. 

5. Feeling unmotivated and dissatisfied with life. 

When the burnout becomes so intense, there’s no more fuel in the engine. The person doesn’t have the motivation to do normal things and is constantly unhappy. 


6. Feeling cynical and irritable. 

A person who has burnout will have a negative outlook on life, feeling that it’s a cruel world. This can cause outbursts of frustration and anger. 

RELATED: 6 Simple (Yet Powerful) Tips For Recovering From Burnout & Preventing It From Happening Again

There are common burnout signs and symptoms.

If you find yourself to be catching illnesses frequently, this may be a sign that the burnout has lowered your immune system’s ability to fight off disease. 

Some people with burnout may experience symptoms such as frequent headaches, muscle pain, or change in appetite and sleep patterns. 

Any withdrawal from responsibilities that used to yield enjoyment may be a sign of burnout. 


In addition, procrastination, skipping work, or coming in late and leaving early show that motivation has decreased and burnout is present. 

Lastly, any abnormal use of drugs or alcohol to ease the immense stress is a sign that there is trouble lurking. 

Who is most likely to experience burnout?

Perfectionists, pessimists, so-called control freaks, and type A personalities are at high risk for developing the symptoms of burnout

A lot of times, burnout occurs because of work-related demands. 

If you feel like you can’t keep up at work, aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, or feel a lack of control over the fast-paced environment, burnout may ensue. 


Despite popular belief, there are some lifestyle inconsistencies that can lead to burnout. 

For example, missing out on socialization because of work responsibilities, lacking loving relationships that don’t offer support, or not getting enough sleep. 

How do you recover from burnout?

It’s clear that burnout can influence our lives in a very negative way. 

That said, it’s important that we take the effects seriously and do what we can to regain balance

The first thing is to recognize that a change must be made. 

Although this can be hard to accept, it’s better than the alternative of staying stagnant in your burnout. 

Depending on your situation, a big change might be leaving the job that you hate. 


If that’s not a realistic pursuit, maybe you should consider talking to a supervisor about your options moving forward. 

This could be a change in the delegation of tasks, more support from your boss, an alteration of deadline, or more time off. 

One of the most important things to remember about burnout is that in order to recover, you need to speak up and seek the help of others. 


Reaching out to loved ones is a great way to combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

It’s time to stop detaching yourself and open up about what’s been bothering you. 

There’s also the chance that whoever you’re speaking to can help ease your workload — maybe they can do some grocery shopping or laundry for you. 

By also maintaining helpful self-care strategies, you can be better equipped to handle stressful situations. 

Get regular exercise and eat a nutritious diet to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. 

Make sleep a priority and engage in activities that bring you joy such as biking, coloring, reading, or the occasional Netflix binge. 


Take time for yourself until you’re you again! 

Burnout is not something to take lightly and by taking the proper steps necessary to recover, you can lead a more fulfilling life. 

RELATED: 4 Expert Tips On Overcoming Work Anxiety​

Isabella Pacinelli is a writer who covers relationship, self-love, spirituality, and entertainment topics.