Is Burnout a Mental Illness? What You Need to Know

We’ve all experienced burnout at some point, whether it’s with someone or something, but burnout can lead to mental illness. It’s just natural to sometimes reach a point of frustration. However, how do you know when the “normal” feelings of being fed up are related to something larger? 

Burnout is not necessarily a mental illness, such as depression, but rather a mental health concern related to working too much that deserves our attention. When burnout isn’t taken care of, it can lead to other mental health concerns, resulting in mental illness.

If you’ve found yourself on this page because of your intrigue about burnout or because you’re worried that maybe you yourself are experiencing feelings of burnout, then keep on reading to learn more about the condition and simple things you can do to help feel better. 

Burnout as a Mental Health Concern

Many times when we hear the word “burnout,” it’s referring to the idea of being fed up or just completely over something. Frequently it’s work-related. The technical definition of “burnout” World Health Organization includes: 

  • “Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.”
  • “Increased mental distance from one’s job or feel negative towards one’s career.”
  • “Reduced professional productivity.”

Although it’s not technically considered a mental illness, burnout is undoubtedly a mental health concern. According to the Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, burnout is often characterized by “emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness in the workplace, and by chronic negative responses to stressful workplace conditions.”

Experts have identified some common factors in the workplace that can lead to more burnout amongst employees:

  • Set the bar too high for themselves
  • Feel inadequate
  • Are placed in the incorrect role
  • Feel underrepresented & appreciated
  • Believe their efforts are not enough
  • Have too much asked of them

The 5 Stages of Burnout

Over the years, burnout has become increasingly more documented. This is good news because the amount of people who experience burnout is growing. For example, in the UK, during the year 2020, feelings of burnout increased by 24%

With more people experiencing burnout, it’s become more important to understand the condition, and it manifests. Here are the five stages of burnout:

  1. The Honeymoon Phase: If you create good coping mechanisms early, you can avoid burnout altogether.
  2. An Onset of Stress: You are beginning to experience the physical and/or mental aspects of routine stress related to your work
  3. Chronic Stress: You’ve struggled to de-stress and recharge from work for a while now, and you feel stressed on a frequent basis.
  4. Burnout: Beginning to cope with the stressors of work has become entirely difficult, and you dread the prospect of going to work and struggle to maintain a positive mindset about work.
  5. Habitual Burnout: The experience of burnout has become thoroughly embedded in your life, and the occasional physical and emotional symptoms of burnout have become chronic.

If this resonates with you, and you think maybe you are experiencing one of these five phases, or if you want to avoid them altogether, keep reading to learn about some tips that help you prevent burnout.

How to Prevent & Treat Burnout 

Preventing burnout is incredibly important for feeling satisfied and purposeful in the workplace. The last thing you want when you think you’ve found a vocation that suits you is to dread going to work every day after a couple of years. The good news is that there are some actionable steps you can take to continue enjoying your work and to prevent experiencing burnout. 

Find a Fresh Perspective on Work

Quitting a job that makes you feel burnt out is not always an option. When you are not able to drop what you are doing and start up a job that you’ll love forever, sometimes a curating fresh perspective on the matter goes a long way. 

A few things you can do to help foster a new perspective on work are:

  • Take time off. Some good ole fashioned R & R can go a long way in helping to reset your mindset towards work.
  • Find new value in our work. If the bigger picture of work is bothering you, try to appreciate the small things like benefits you receive from working and your meaningful interaction with customers. 

Reconsider Your Priorities

Sometimes burnout presents itself when something is out of balance. If you think your priorities are out of wack and that you could benefit from a reorganization, consider these helpful tips:

  • Get more sleep. Deep, rejuvenating sleep is sometimes the first thing we lose when we work too much, and feeling exhausted can worsen your burnout.
  • Try something creative. Sometimes work can be too one-sided. Try something new or pick up a new hobby. 
  • Set aside relaxation time. Throughout the day, or after you get home, block out a time to try and relax. You can practice relaxation techniques to try and help unwind.

Rely on Your Support System

  • Confide in Friends & Family. Relying on your loved ones is important for sharing how you feel about work. Venting and sharing your frustrations can help you feel better and look for solutions.
  • Connect with Coworkers. You are probably not the only one feeling fed up with work. Your coworkers can be valuable resources regarding sharing strategies for preventing and treating burnout. 

Eat Healthier

Food is like the oil and gasoline for your vehicle. If you use poor quality oil and gas, year after year, eventually you might run into some engine problems. The same goes for food. The more nutritious your meals can be, the happier your body will be. This, in turn, will allow your body to handle the stressors of work more effectively. 

  • Eat a Better Breakfast. Sometimes breakfast gets skipped in the morning to get to work or handle other items before a full workday. But eating breakfast has been shown to include many health benefits.
  • Bring your Own Lunch or Dinner. Eating take-out or delivery for lunch every day is normally the least healthy option. And the most expensive. You can save money and provide your body with healthier food if you prepare your lunch and dinner ahead of time.

Exercise More 

Physical exercise does wonders for mental health. The two go hand in hand. If you are experiencing burnout, there’s a chance you might not be exercising enough. And if you want to prevent burnout, firing up a new exercise routine can make the difference. 

  • Set Aside Exercise Time: Setting non-negotiable exercise time is crucial to follow through with an exercise routine. For some folks, it’s a morning workout before work. For others, it’s a trip to the gym on the way home. If you are really pressed for time, it could even be as simple as going for a walk during lunch, parking farther away, or using the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Bicycle Commuting: If you live close enough to work, commuting by bicycle is a fabulous way to get exercise. It helps energize your body in the mornings and wind it down on the way home.


Burnout should not be underestimated. It is a serious mental health concern with complicated implications. So much of our life is spent in the workplace, and so it’s vital we feel comfortable and fulfilled while we are there. 

Burnout is no longer a mysterious syndrome of feeling exhausted or generally fed up with work. It’s well studied and documented, and thankfully, so are the ways to prevent burnout and treat it if it presents itself in your life. 

By following some of the tips we’ve presented from above, you will hopefully feel more satisfied, and less burnt out with your work or avoid burnout altogether. And remember, don’t underestimate the power of the good company, great food, and steady physical exercise.

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