Mid-year burnout: feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? It could be seasonal burnout.

For the very first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) is recognizing “burnout” as an official medical diagnosis – this according to their International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” burnout is characterized by three different elements: 


  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 
  • Increased mental distance or feelings of negativism/cynicism related to one’s job 
  • Reduced professional efficacy 


Essentially, burnout can develop as a result of being in emotional, frustrating, and/ or demanding situations and environments; those with high-demand jobs, however, are particularly susceptible – from having long working hours or having to meet certain deadlines. Along with feeling fatigued, there are other physical, emotional and behavioural signs of burnout that can occur, such as a decrease in immunity and increase in illnesses, headaches, muscle pain, changes in both sleep and eating habits, feelings of self-doubt, failure, helplessness, lack of motivation, detachment and isolation, decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, withdrawal from responsibilities, procrastination, as well as using things like food, drugs and/or alcohol to cope. 


You might also be wondering what the difference is between stress and burnout. While the two can certainly co-occur, there are also some things that set them apart. When you’re stressed, it often involves too much of something – i.e. you may be feeling pressured or be doing too much of something that leaves you both physically and mentally exhausted and will think to yourself, “If only I had this under control, I’d feel better.” Burnout, on the other hand, is when you are left feeling not just mentally exhausted, but devoid of motivation, disengaged, and sometimes even past the point of caring. With burnout you may also not feel as though there is any hope for change, and it can even lead to depression. It can also be difficult to notice burnout when it initially happens. 


As mentioned, burnout commonly affects those with high-demand jobs. You may be someone who feels overworked, undervalued, or haven’t had a proper vacation or time off work in years. Burnout can also impact stay-at-home parents who tend to younger children. Other factors such as lifestyle and personality traits can also play a role in contributing to burnout, such as lack of socializing,  


When it comes to preventing burnout, there are certain things you do. First, you need to be self-aware of how you handle stress. It’s also important to know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your job and job performance, be willing to try new things, make sure you have a good support system of individuals who you can turn to for help both in your personal and professional life if need be, as well as have a good overall sense of your wellbeing. If you know you’re already experiencing burnout, trying to push past the demands and exhaustion you’re feeling will only cause further emotional and physical damage. You may also find it helpful to join a local group in your community – whether it’s a religious, social or support group – as these can be great places for you to speak with like-minded people, share ideas on how to appropriate deal with everyday stress, as well as meet new friends. In extreme cases, you may find that you have to take some time off work – whether it’s using sick and/or vacation days or taking an extended but temporary leave of absence. Just as you would recharge your phone at the end of the day, it’s important to recharge yourself as well.