Stress and Emotional Burnout 

 October 24, 2021

By  counselingwithnatalie

We’ve been forced to accept that stress is deemed “all part of being human”. While it isn’t exactly a far-fetched statement in relation to our lifestyles, it would be uninformed to spread the word that all stresses are equal in nature. There is a common belief that caving under pressure signifies weakness of spirit, though any wise person would agree that this is a shallow mindset. Every individual is born into an environment that is specific to themself, urged to thrive even through their own unique set of obstacles (regardless of how encouraging or extreme), yet expected to perform equally as efficiently. There is no such thing as hitting a pause button to catch a breath; no standard check-in to tend to wounds, or deficits, that are in need of desperate attention. One is treated as a statistic, rather than a being that requires sustenance, and that has remained a tremendous flaw in our system. Stressor layered upon stressor and unceasing pressure on the mind and body decays common stress into what is now known as “emotional burnout”.

Emotional burnout, also termed “emotional exhaustion”, is often mistaken for general exhaustion, though the difference in severity is considerable. While exhaustion is nothing to be taken lightly, emotional burnout can be life-altering in the long term if not treated adequately. Burnout is a product of aggregated stress, usually resulting from a series of negative and harsh life events. While each event may not be extreme, it is the buildup of tension over the course of a longer period of time with no opportunity for release that altogether ends in this state. Customary activities that would bring one joy, peace and affirmation are no longer enough to recharge and push further (ROA, 2021).

Symptoms of burnout overlap with a multitude of other conditions, allowing it to easily be misdiagnosed. Associated symptoms/signs include:

  • feeling exhausted and unable to perform basic tasks
  • losing motivation in many aspects of your life, including your work and friendships
  • feeling unable to focus or concentrate on tasks
  • feeling empty or lacking in emotion
  • losing your passion and drive
  • experiencing conflict in your relationships with co-workers, friends and family
  • withdrawing emotionally from friends and family

To recount the likeness of emotional burnout, HelpGuide International (2021), an independent nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the provision of free mental health education and support, affirmed the following:

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.”

Overlay of multiple of the symptoms above over an extended time is a recipe for a major breakdown, often characterized by the burnout being addressed. The drainage of both emotion and energy related to the condition presents itself, not overnight or even a week’s time, but over duration of that buildup. Like any object carrying a weight, there is only a certain volume that any one person can manage. A surplus of stress from all directions, as such, elicits a breakdown from which it can be incredibly difficult to recover from. In this condition, it may become almost impossible to assemble the motivation and care necessary to complete everyday tasks. What is frequently overlooked is the matter that the emotional, mental and physical states of being are codependent. With this, worsened emotional and mental pressure can effortlessly progress to exhibit themselves through physical sicknesses and ailments.

Treating burnout may be slightly more complicated than the treatment recommended for other conditions because it can be a challenge to pinpoint the causes that contributed to it. Nonetheless, miniscule and gradual improvements to the lifestyle can go a long way. In dealing with burnout, there is a known “Three R” approach (HGI, 2021):

  • Recognize- identifying warning signs that you may observe for burnout
  • Reverse- repair the damage done by the condition by learning of ways to manage stress,
    as well as seeking support
  • Resilience- strengthen your resilience to stress by properly tending to your emotional and
    physical health

For the purpose of developing a decent support system, it’s crucial that you reach out to individuals in your life that are reliable, such as friends or family members that are dedicated to being there for you. To further enhance this segment of your life, however, it requires also limiting as much contact as possible with negative people. Negative influences in one’s life can both contribute and add to the cause of the condition. Do your best to communicate well with colleagues and those that are a frequent part of your life and the settings you associate with. While it’s impossible to get along with everyone you interact with, the less negativity you are subject to, the better your mental wellbeing and, of course, an infinitely improved emotional state. In combatting emotional burnout, it’s urgent that priorities are reevaluated and healthy boundaries are set. Stretching yourself too thin will only overwhelm your stress load and increase burnout symptoms. Instead of overextending and pushing to go to a party that you know you just don’t have the energy or wellbeing to keep up with, prioritize exercise that day, develop a regularly healthy diet, or maybe even discover manners of relaxation through unleashing your creativity in investing time toward a hobby you’re fond of. The possibilities of self-care are limitless and incorporating even just a few in your daily routine can do wonders in reversing the effects of burnout (HGI, 2021). Curing emotional burnout isn’t a simple fix, though applying a healthy lifestyle on top of the assistance provide by healthcare professionals and being patient with your betterment will have you on your way back to your best self.

Written by Kristen Racktoo, Content Contributor


HelpGuide International. (2021, October 5). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. HelpGuide.Org. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm#

Mayo Clinic Health System. (2020, July 30). Emotional exhaustion during times of unrest.Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/emotional-exhaustion-during-times-of-unrest

ReachOut. (2021). What is burnout? ReachOut Australia. Retrieved October 18, 2021, from https://au.reachout.com/articles/burnout-and-chronic-stress


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