Are You Burned Out Or Just Lazy? 5 Ways To Know For Sure

The phrase “feeling burned out” has been recurring more frequently with the rise of awareness of job satisfaction and self-care. We all tend to feel burned out from our jobs and activities at one point or another, but how do we know if we are genuinely burned out or are just lazy?

To know if you are burned out or lazy, you shouldn’t just look at your productivity levels. You should analyze your overall mood, how you handle stress, the quality of satisfaction you feel from your work, and show any physical symptoms.

Burn out can cause many long-term problems for people in the workforce and can be caused by many factors such as being overworked, low pay, and lack of support or consistent poor treatment from superiors. Many things can lead to being burned out, but sometimes the signs and feelings of being burned out can overlap with laziness.

Difference Between Being Burned Out and Lazy

Sometimes the way people present being burned out and lazy can overlap. They are similar in the sense that they both have:

  • Reduced or low productivity
  • Seeming constantly distracted
  • Having a dislike towards the job
  • Feeling overworked

While being lazy is a habit that can be worked on and improved over time, being burned out results from chronic stress in an environment that will eventually have physical manifestations in your body if you do not make changes.

Causes of Burn Out

Many people think that burn out just comes from having a high-stress job where every decision you make can have an enormous impact on something; however, this isn’t the case when it comes to stress at a job. Even people who love their jobs and what they do can experience burnout because no matter how much you love your work, stressors can cause burnout.

Many work stressors don’t have to do with decisions at work; they come from:

  • Unclear instructions and inadequate training
  • Unfair treatment between employees
  • Low pay for high work experience
  • Heavy workloads with seemingly impossible deadlines
  • Conflicts and relationships within the workplace
  • Poor relationship with superiors

Each of these aspects and many more can cause people to become burned out from their jobs and lead to many physical and mental problems if they aren’t addressed. People who feel burned out will experience these things and eventually get physical feelings, whereas lazy people will be detached from these things’ emotional and physical aspects.

Causes of Laziness

Unfortunately, people who are burned out may be perceived by their superiors as lazy, especially because of low productivity. This gives a bad rap to people who are burned out because the issues in the workplace won’t be solved.

Studies over the past 50 years have shown that laziness is a habit that is usually attributed to a lack of motivation and rewards. Studies have also shown that intelligence plays a role in why people are lazy.

Are Lazy People and Procrastinators the Same?

Tons of people procrastinate doing tasks and activities, but procrastinating is not always the same thing as being lazy. Sure, lazy people may procrastinate, but it is usually from a lack of reward or motivation to complete the task.

People who are chronic procrastinators aren’t usually lazy. People who procrastinate often have poor time management skills or subconsciously work better under the pressure of completing a task in a small amount of time, which can be at the expense of others or themselves.

How to Know You’re Burned Out

When you’re burned out, recognizing the signs can be hard. However, it’s important to be aware of them before someone else notices and it negatively impacts your relationship with others.

Your Emotions and Mood Have Changed

People who are burned out from their jobs can still have decent productivity, but unlike lazy people, people who are burned out are more likely to feel:

  • Irritated
  • Grumpy
  • Anxious
  • Passive-aggressive

If you usually are not this type of person and find yourself snapping at coworkers or clients, or you’re reluctant to do tasks to help someone, you’re more than likely burned out. People who are burned out can also develop depression, anxiety and can also fear that they make many mistakes with their work.

You Start Having Physical Symptoms

People with burnout will feel an array of physical symptoms from having to work, whereas lazy people will not feel these:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Stomach problems such as indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome

You Truly Hate Your Job

Lazy people may dislike their job for many reasons, but if you feel that you dread waking up every morning and are finding yourself slowly making your way towards work, you are most likely burned out.

People who hate their job will also often start progressively arriving to work later or finding reasons to get out of work. If you are already doing this, you should take advantage of the extra time and start looking for another job before your work reputation is tarnished.

You’re no Longer Close With Your Coworkers.

Most people who work become friendly with their coworkers due to proximity and a common interest. It’s widespread to go out for lunch or drinks after work for coworkers who get along; however, if you’re burned out, your relationship with your coworkers can start to deteriorate.

You’ll find you’re not going out with your coworkers or socializing with them as often. A big reason for this is that they remind you of what is making you burned out. Coworkers can also cause you to feel responsible for their mistakes or try to add to your workload.

Coworkers and superiors can also cause stressors for people with microaggressive behaviors, discrimination in the workplace, gossip and drama, and salary and vacation time disparities.

Personal relationships can also become tarnished due to burnout. Your loved ones and friends may start to dread talking to you because you might complain about your job frequently if you’re burned out.

You Have Difficulties Concentrating

Lazy people can have difficulties concentrating, but people who are burned out can typically focus, and this is something that they are newly experiencing. Concentration can be difficult when you’re burned out for many reasons, including:

  • Anxiety and preoccupations about the quality of your work
  • Daydreaming about being in a better place
  • Focusing on too many tasks
  • Feeling apathy towards your job and work tasks.

Problems with Being Burned Out for too Long

Since one of the predecessors of being burned out for too long is workplace stress, being stressed for too long can lead to burnout. Being stressed and burned out from work can lead to many physical and mental ailments that will need to be treated. If not treated, chronic high-stress and burnout can lead to long-term problems.



  • Hypertension
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Change in brain structure
  • Stroke
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Contempt towards career choice
  • Easily stressed
  • Nightmares

Here is an excellent guide on how to know if you’re experiencing a lot of workplace stress and are on the path to becoming burned out. You can also take this short test to evaluate if you are burned out.

What to do if You’re Burned Out

If you notice that you have some or all of these signs or have taken a test to see if you’re burned out, there are several things you can do. Firstly, you need to discover why you’re burned out. Once you figure out what your stressors are, you can try to find ways to address them. If not, there are other ways for you to reignite your passion for your work.

Recovering from burnout doesn’t just happen overnight or with a week’s vacation away from work. Many people who suffer from burnout take months to heal and have to make significant lifestyle changes.

Discover why You’re Burned Out

Knowing the reason why you’re burned out is an essential first step to fixing burnout. If you do many things to remedy your burnout but don’t address why you’re experiencing burnout, it will repeat itself, and you’ll be stuck in an unhealthy cycle with your job.

The best way to do this is to keep a journal. It can be on your phone or in a notebook but try not to let any coworkers see it. Write down any time you experience a stressor that triggers you to have stress, anxiety, or you’re feeling uncomfortable—Journal about your feelings towards coworkers and events within the workplace. Analyze your writings each day to find stressors.

Another way you can do this is to take time off of work. Not many people who are burned out from their jobs can do this, but if you can, try to take a few sick or personal days to look into and reflect on your workdays and feelings.

Once you know why you’re burned out, see what ways you can address the issues. Sometimes it may involve gaining the courage to ask for a raise and defend your quality of work. Other times you may have to confront your superior or go to human resources if you feel like you’re being discriminated against within your workplace by superiors or coworkers.


Self-care has become an extremely popular expression over the past decade, and the meaning is often misunderstood. Self-care is to do things to take care of yourself and improve your health. Many people have distorted the idea of self-care to getting manicures, massages, other spa treatments, and going shopping. However, in the long-run, these don’t help you.

Self-care can come in many forms, including learning how to advocate for yourself and changing your career path. Some of the best ways to practice self-care when you’re burned out are to:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Drink enough water
  • Pace yourself at work
  • Quit smoking
  • Get enough rest and sleep.
  • See a doctor if you need to
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness have many benefits and restorative potential for when you are burned out. When you meditate, you focus on your breath and tune out any stressors and distractions. When you are mindful, you become aware of your surroundings’ small aspects, such as how food tastes and the birds singing outside your window.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety at the moment and help you be able to cope with them if practiced enough. Doing these practices will also be restorative if you are burned out from your job. They can also provide mental clarity for you to make important decisions about your career and how to confront your stressors.

Some excellent ways to practice meditation and mindfulness are:

  • Watch a guided meditation video.
  • Live in the moment
  • Cook your meals and pay attention to each sensory aspect as you’re cooking and eating it, like how Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches in his raisin exercise.


Exercise is a fantastic way to escape and cope with feeling burned out. You should make time every day to at least go for a walk to get your body moving.

When you are burned out, you’re under a lot of stress. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are frequently high, and they can wreak havoc on your body. When you exercise, you release endorphins, which help to lower the stress hormones. People feel happier and even elated when they have higher levels of endorphins, such as a runner’s high.

Some fantastic ways to fit exercise into your day are:

  • Go for a fast-paced 15-minute walk.
  • Practice some desk exercises
  • Work with a physical trainer or go to the gym.
  • Practice yoga

Consider Changing Your Career or Job

While this is the most significant step, sometimes this may be the best option for helping you cope with and become relieved from burnout. Many people cannot afford to leave or change their jobs, and they also can’t take time off for interviews.

Before changing your career or job, make a list of pros and cons to staying at your current job. If you’re experiencing burnout, you’ll probably have more cons than pros. You should also look at the journal of stressors to see if any of the cons and stressors can be worked with or changed, such as talking to your boss or someone from human resources.

Even if you love your career and how fulfilling it can be, feeling burned out will affect your work quality and may even lead you to resent your career. It might even just be the workplace that is causing you to be burned out.

When applying for jobs and going on interviews, your goal should be to find a job and find a job that you can see yourself being happy at. See if you can get a tour of the workplace and get a feel for the atmosphere before accepting a job offer if you are offered one. At the interview, discuss with the interviewer roles and tasks and make sure they are clear.

Seek Therapy or Counselling

Some of the worst parts of being burned out are developing anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Even further, people with burnout can develop suicidal ideations.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (US phone number), call the emergency number, or go to the nearest hospital. Someone is always available to talk and help you.

Seeking therapy and counselling when you are burned out is extremely important to start feeling better. Having someone to talk to regarding your thoughts and emotions while processing everything is vital for feeling validated. Finding the right form of therapy, therapist, or counsellor isn’t magic and can take a few tries to build a stable relationship.

The benefits of seeing a therapist or counsellor are that you can process your burnout in a safe space, help decide what you will do in the future to prevent burnout, and learn techniques to manage stress, anxiety, or other things you are experiencing being burned out.

What to do if You’re Lazy

Laziness has been a common problem in the workplace and is often what managers and supervisors think some of their employees have, even if they are burned out.

Being lazy is a habit that developed over a person’s lifetime. Studies have shown that laziness can be from a lack of motivation or rewards. Studies have also found that lazy people tend to work more efficiently; however, they will feel little personal gain from the task.

Find Motivation

One of the hardest things for a lazy person to do is find the motivation to do something. From washing the dishes to checking your emails, laziness can plague our personal and work lives. However, how can you find the motivation to do specific tasks, no matter how monotonous they are?

Create a Personal Rewards System

An excellent way to find motivation in doing tasks and working (besides getting the task out of the way) is to create a personal rewards system. This works like positive reinforcement, where you reward behavior that you want to see repeated. Parents do it all the time with allowance for their kids to do chores.

However, as an adult, creating your own personal rewards system can be challenging. A great way to work towards this is to create a money jar and a reminder system with a big reward at the end. It could be a weekend vacation, a small shopping spree, anything that will persuade you into breaking laziness. Add some money to the jar every time you complete a task.

In time, you will see that your home is clean, you’re eating healthier, you’re not dreading doing any tasks, and you get a big reward at the end of all of it.

Learn to Work More Efficiently

Lazy people have been known to be some of the most efficient workers because they want to get their job done, so they don’t have to continue working. Another problem with laziness is that lazy people tend to get distracted and procrastinate or become idle.

Learning how to work efficiently is a great way to break out of the habit of being lazy.

Consider Changing Your Career or Job

As with people who are burned out, lazy people may have to consider changing their career or job. Sometimes at work, it can be challenging to find the motivation to be productive throughout the day. A big part of it is that you’re unhappy with your tasks, or you’re not motivated for the outcome of your work, your salary, or the benefits you receive.

If you’re changing your job from a lack of motivation, try taking a course at a local school or online to help you find inspiration for something that you enjoy and want to work towards. Once you find it, you can see if you can find any jobs or careers in that field so you will be willing to work and be productive.


Being lazy can be fixed as long as you find the motivation and rewards to get your work done. Burnout is something much more severe that requires reflection and lifestyle changes. It may even require seeking professional help or changing your job or career.

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