What is burnout and why do we experience it?

What is burnout and why do we experience it?

What’s the buzz on burnout?

Burnout has become a buzzword in the workplace. And it doesn’t just mean you hate your job. The fact is, burnout is a chronic and debilitating condition that deserves more airtime. 

How many of us experience the dreaded Sunday Scaries? That feeling of doom that prevents you from enjoying your weekend to the full? Knowing you have to set the alarm for work on Monday and the cycle starts all over again.

For those of us on the verge of burnout, Sunday can be totally triggering. The number of people absent from work due to stress has increased dramatically in recent years. In the 2022 Health and Wellbeing at Work report by Simplyhealth, 76% of UK workers had stress-related absence.

It’s a fact that working hard doesn’t necessarily breed success. Instead it can breed resentment, fatigue and ultimately burnout.

Burnout and the rise of ‘quiet quitting’

Tik Tok and all the socials are trending with ‘quiet quitting’. Quiet quitting doesn’t actually mean you quit your job. But your attitude towards it certainly changes. It’s when you essentially give up on your job whilst remaining at work. 

You just keep doing the bare minimum rather than going all out and doing all the things. No more going above and beyond as there are no rewards for doing so. No more hustling, just doing exactly what’s written on paper - so there’s no risk of being fired. And you need to pay the Netflix subscription, right?

Burnout can be the reason a lot of people quietly quit. The daily grind, the hustle culture and the pressure to deliver more and more and more… It becomes unmanageable and your mental health starts to suffer.

Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workforce report revealed that only 9% of workers in the UK were engaged at work. Lack of interest, goals and motivation has led to dissatisfaction at work and the rise of the ‘live for the weekend’ vibe. 

Homeworking during the pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to the harsh realities of the day job. Being micromanaged and unable to experience the flexibility that the pandemic provided. A lot of us might be feeling demotivated and on the lookout for other opportunities.  

What is burnout?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially defined burnout in 2019. The term itself has been around since the 1970s. It was first used by the American psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger. It was used to describe the stress and exhaustion caused by overwork in the caring professions. Nurses and doctors suffer when they sacrifice their own health and wellbeing to care for others.  

Today, burnout describes anyone feeling stressed and unable to cope from ever-increasing demands on their time and energy. 

What causes burnout?

It is generally agreed that the main cause of burnout is work. That’s right, the workplace - the place you spend the majority of your time - is the number one cause of burnout. 

Research has found that workplace stress is at an all-time high with 44% of workers reporting stress, it seems that employee wellbeing is currently low on the list of priorities.  

Some things that increase the chance of work burnout are:

  • Being treated unfairly
  • Lack of communication
  • No support from managers
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Being micromanaged 
  • Feeling under-challenged

These situations create long term pressure and excessive stress. This creates mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. 

How do you know you’ve got burnout?

What are the symptoms?

It’s important to remember that your symptoms might be completely different to someone else’s. 

Some common ones to look out for include:

  • Lack of joy and purpose at work
  • Feelings of stress, depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue and exhaustion, feeling tired and drained
  • Sleep problems
  • Fantasies about leaving your job
  • Using alcohol or other substances to cope
  • A cynical and increasingly negative attitude
  • Feeling helpless and trapped

What does burnout feel like?

Burnout makes you feel utterly hopeless. You dread going to work, but feel like you have to, or your absence will put pressure on others. Because of the nature of burnout, it can creep up on you. It might not be obvious that you are building up to burning out. Your cup gradually empties over time, and there’s nothing to fill it up. 

Is it really burnout?

Burnout can be difficult to diagnose. This is because the experts don’t always agree on what it actually is. There is overlap between the symptoms of exhaustion, depression and burnout. If you are feeling unable to cope it’s important to talk to a medical professional who can help figure out the best steps to take next. 

Self-care for burnout

Prevention is better than cure

When you feel unbalanced and off your game, you need to take steps to prevent things spiralling. It’s easy to neglect our mental health and keep pushing on, hoping things will improve. But chances are, they won’t unless you take some action. 

If you are feeling negative at work, reach out to someone. Talking about it can help put things in perspective. Make sure you are doing some form of self-care every day. 

Some ideas are:

  • Spend time on your hobby
  • Meditation
  • Listen to your fave tunes
  • Take frequent breaks 
  • Plan a holiday
  • Walk in nature
  • Relax with some aromatherapy
  • Get in some gym time

Taking time out for YOU, is the best thing to prevent total burnout. If work is a major stress for you, have a look for alternative roles. It will help inspire you and remind you that the world is bigger than your workplace.

Recovery from burnout

Recovery from total burnout takes time. The complete exhaustion can linger for weeks. Dragging yourself out of bed takes so much effort, you need to get back in again to relax. Remind yourself to take it easy and remember you are not alone. 


When you feel stressed, it can feel logical to reach for the nicotine. Although smoking appears to provide temporary relief, the effects are short-lived. In fact, it can contribute to stress and anxiety long term. If you are hooked on nicotine and in need of some stress relief, there are alternatives to smoking. Our Ripple+ nicotine-free puffs use the natural powers of essential oils. They deliver a hit of pure calm. 


Recovery from burnout is possible by making some important lifestyle changes. Various strategies have been suggested by experts. 

The key things are:

  • Recognise you have a problem - realise you have reached your limit and you need to stop and evaluate the situation.
  • Take a break - take some time to distance yourself from the cause. A holiday can do you the world of good. Prioritise sleep and get your 8 hours of shut eye every night.
  • Create a work/life balance - you shouldn’t live to work. Plan your week so you have plenty of social time and downtime alongside work.
  • Reflect regularly - make it a weekly task to reflect on your progress. Celebrate what you’ve achieved - however small - and implement any changes.
  • Make self-care top priority - if you haven’t got your health, what have you got? Do the things that make you happy and boost your mood.
  • Find your tribe - talk to people you can trust and share your feelings with. A social network brings good vibes and human connection is essential. 
  • Is work really to blame?

    Generally, work is the main cause of burnout. But other situations can lead to burnout too. Think about the stressed-out parent constantly focused on getting all the things done. Or the emotional exhaustion from being in the position of caregiver. Looking after another person’s needs whilst neglecting your own. Or even from a difficult relationship. These are all situations where we can give so much of ourselves, that there’s nothing left to give.

    Final thoughts

    The Brooklyn-based designer, Frank Chimero said: “fatigue happens to your body, but burnout exhausts your soul.”

    It’s become a cliche, but YOLO remember? Check in on yourself regularly so you don’t head into burnout territory. You got this!