Burnout: what it is and what you can do about it

Do you feel like every day is a bad day? Like caring about your work or home life is a total waste of energy? Are you exhausted all the time? Is the majority of your day spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming? Do you feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated? Collectively, these symptoms are burnout.


Burnout is a relatively new term, only coined in 1974 by the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It is the loss of motivation, growing sense of emotional depletion, and cynicism towards your job. Burnout doesn’t just affect our professional growth. Research shows that chronic psychosocial stress impairs personal and social functioning, which can overwhelm the cognitive and neuroendocrine systems, eventually leading to distinctive changes in the functioning and anatomy of the brain. Ultimately, burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.


Dealing with burnout requires prioritizing self-care. Reach out to those closest to you; you are not a burden for opening up to them. Being more sociable with coworkers could be another way to prevent burnout, however try to limit your time with negatively focused individuals. If quitting your job is not an option, reframing the way you think about your job can be beneficial. Try to find some value in your work by focusing on how your job is helping others, or how you play a role in keeping your place of employment afloat.

Look for meaning and satisfaction outside of your work by focusing on the parts of your life that bring you joy (e.g. family, friends, hobbies). Set boundaries; learn to say no to others so you can yes to yourself. Your time is valuable, and you deserve to spend it in ways that are fulfilling. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is making sure you get a restful 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you feel burnout is significantly affecting you and you need help coping, talking to a professional can be a good idea as well.


Razan Shaheen is a psychologist at Insights Therapy Center in Bahrain. She uses cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and talk therapy as her primary modalities to help individuals unlock their full potential.