Stress + No rest = Burnout

The WHO has recently announced that ‘burnout’ will be recognised in the International Classification of Diseases manual. It is described as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.  

Burnout has three main elements: feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment from one’s job and poorer performance at work (WHO). 

To put it another way, work loses meaning and you feel exhausted because of long-term, unresolved stress. 

A recent Gallup study in the US of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent reported feeling burned out at work ‘very often or always’, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out ‘sometimes’.

Burnout can affect anyone, at any time in their lives. However, it is most common in people from 25 to 44 years.  

The 5 stages of burnout are: 


When we start anything new, we often experience high satisfaction, creativity and enthusiasm. As stress start to creeps in more, this is the time to implement positive habits to effectively manage stress. If you don’t, it gets works.  


Overtime, your positive outlook changes and you feel stress symptoms more often than is helpful. Motivation and happiness wane.  


The third stage is chronic stress. You experience high stress frequently.  


In stage four, symptoms are critical. Continuing as normal is not possible.  


The symptoms of burnout are embedded in your way of being. 

Burnout requires lifestyle changes – not just a rest. When people are over-engaging in work, they are under engaging in other things that matter. We have a mind, body, heart and soul and all need nourishment.  

A lot of the signs and symptoms of pre-burnout would be very similar to depression,” says Siobhán Murray, author of ‘The Burnout Solution’She suggests to look out for the early warning signs of poor habits that give short term energy like relying on sugar to get you through the day. Feelings of tiredness that persist and having no energy to exercise are also signs.   

“Depression and pre-burnout are very similar’ says Murray. She recommends getting help from a medical professional who can help you distinguish between the two.  

Stress is part of a successful working life. “It’s when we’re continually exposed to stress and anxiety, that we’re not letting go, that it starts to turn into burnout.”

A major driver of burnout as per Murray is us ‘wanting it all’. Being the perfect parent, partner, friend and doing the perfect job and getting to the gym and doing all the other things you need to do to have a ‘perfect life’ may just be what is pushing you towards burnout.  

At this time of year, most of us are looking forward to some kind of summer break. If you are on the brink of exhaustion before you go, use the break to think through lifestyle changes that will help you effectively manage stress and take regular rest. Waiting until you are ‘burned out’ before you take action is playing with fire.   

The growth equation has a lot of applications.  Stress + Rest = Growth

Stress + No rest = Burnout.   

When people operate with high-stress levels without rest, they reduce productivity and risk their health. Some people continue working in their minds long after the workday stops. If this is you, there are ways of changing this too. Just as you can train your physical muscles when you exercise, you can also train your mental muscles through practices like meditation and make your mind strong balanced and flexible and able to focus at will. 

If you are feeling the burn, take action to address it.