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Burnout and Stress…They’re Similar but Not the Same

Posted by: Wendy Webber
Category: Stress Management

Burnout and Stress…They’re Similar but Not the Same

Imagine you are driving home from work after a long day and it’s nearly Christmas.

Going up a hill your car starts to just miss a beat, then it starts to backfire, the brakes are squealing as you brake for the traffic lights and your car stops running.

You are surrounded by people rushing home to their loved ones for Christmas, yet your car won’t start and you’re stuck in the middle of the road at the traffic lights!

Burnout is a road hazard in life and common among mental health professionals.

Burnout is feeling like you are under constant stress, you feel helpless, disillusioned, exhausted, loss of empathy towards others and feeling incompetent in the workplace.

You may feel stressed at this time of the year but stress and burnout are very different.

You may find that the stress you have in your life has caused burnout but this isn’t the same as having a lot of stress.

Stress is generally manageable but overwhelming and prolonged stress can often lead to burnout.

Stress is having many pressures and demands on you physically and mentally.

If you are stressed you may use self-talk, if I can finish this then I will be fine, if I get through my list then it will all be better.

Burnout is about feeling empty, mentally exhausted and beyond caring. People who are experiencing burnout don’t see any hope for change, they feel like they are drowning.

If you are feeling under pressure and have a lot of stress in your life you may not notice when burnout happens.

What are the signs of Burnout?

The following symptoms are what you need to look out for:

Physical signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain
  • Lowered immunity, getting sick a lot

Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking out your frustrations on others
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Actively dealing with burnout using the 3 Rs

Dealing with burnout in the most effective and easy way is to follow the method known as the 3 R’s. By taking these steps and applying them to your daily life not only will it assist you in recovering from any existing burnout but it will also help to prevent it from reoccurring again in the future.

The 3 R’s:

Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout

Reverse – Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress

Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

10 Tips for Assisting to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout

  1. Talk with someone about your feelings
  2. Reschedule your work
  3. Cut down on your workload
  4. Take a holiday
  5. Use the Christmas time to recharge your batteries
  6. Use relaxation and meditation
  7. Use positive self-talk
  8. Allow yourself to enjoy life and have a laugh
  9. Care for yourself, do something nice
  10. Find new friends and a support network


Finally, find what you are passionate about in life. You may need to redefine your goals or find a balance so you can enjoy life once more.

If you require further assistance please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14


Wendy Webber

ACCA President



Author: Wendy Webber