What Does Burnout Feel Like? Signs, Causes and Prevention

What Does Burnout Feel Like? Signs, Causes and Prevention

Employee productivity in Canada and the rest of the world is rising, thanks to flexible work schedules, remote work options, and more. Unfortunately, this rise in productivity comes at a high cost—worker burnout.

What does burnout feel like? Let’s explore that a bit, define burnout, and discuss its causes and symptoms. We’ll also look at how to avoid and overcome burnout so you can live a healthy life and stay productive at work.

Table of Contents

What is Burnout?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is chronic work-related stress that manifests as exhaustion, cynicism about work, and reduced professional efficiency. This exhaustion isn’t just physical but also mental and emotional, and it is often due to work overload and job dissatisfaction.

Herbert Freudenberger created the term burnout and first mentioned it in his 1974 book—Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. Freudenberger defined burnout as losing your motivation because your efforts have failed to produce desired results.

In simple terms, if you suddenly hate your job and constantly feel tired and unmotivated, you are probably experiencing burnout. According to a recent report by Cision, 96% of Canadian managers believe their staff has some degree of job burnout.

Signs of Burnout

Experiencing burnout takes a significant toll on your physical and mental health. It also reduces your workplace productivity, which affects your ability to earn an income and support yourself and your loved ones. Loss of income can further exacerbate your mental condition and complicate your recovery.

Avoid the long-term effects of prolonged stress by knowing the early signs and symptoms of burnout so you can deal with it right away. These signs include:


Lack of Motivation

Cognitive Problems

Frustration or Cynicism

Reduced Job Performance

Home and Workplace Interpersonal Problems

Developing Bad Habits

Sense of Failure and Self-Doubt

Health Problems

Stages of Burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It occurs gradually and worsens if left untreated. People who experience burnout may go through these phases:

Honeymoon Phase

Stress Onset

Chronic Stress

Full Blown Burnout

Continued Burnout


What Causes Burnout?

Now that you have a better idea of what burnout feels like, let’s look at the factors that cause it.

Heavy Workloads

Poor Work-Life Balance


Personality Traits


Unhealthy Work Environment

Are Stress and Burnout the Same Thing?

Stress and burnout may seem similar, but they are not the same thing. Burnout is typically preceded by prolonged stress. The constant drain on your mental and physical faculties will transform from physical weariness to emotional and psychological tiredness.

Feeling stressed is your body warning you that you are about to experience burnout. Other notable differences between stress and burnout include:

  • Stress leads to loss of energy, while burnout leads to loss of energy and motivation
  • Stress may cause anxiety, while burnout triggers feelings of detachment and depression
  • The damage caused by stress is primarily physical, while burnout causes emotional and psychological problems
  • Burnout makes you feel helpless and hopeless, while stress creates a sense of urgency

Diagnosing Burnout

Medical practitioners use several tests to identify burnout. The most common being:

  • The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI): Uses surveys to evaluate your emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (the degree to which you’ve stopped empathizing with others), job satisfaction, and confidence in your competence. Various versions of the MBI test exist for students and people in care, teaching, assistance, management, or guidance roles.
  • The Job Diagnostic Scale (JDS): The test identifies the likelihood a job will cause employee burnout. Studies indicate that jobs with low motivation potential are the most likely to cause burnout.
  • The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES): Tests your level of work engagement. If your work engagement score is low, you are likely experiencing burnout. The UWES test also verifies employee engagement by measuring a subject’s self-esteem, confidence, and the quality of their work environment.

How to Treat Burnout

There are no medical treatments for burnout, but you can manage it and recover by:

Knowing the Signs of Burnout


Changing Your Work Mindset

Putting Yourself First

Prioritizing Exercise

Eating Well

Seeing an Expert

Does Your Insurer Cover Burnout Care?

If you have a tasking job and your insurer won’t cover the cost of seeking therapy for burnout, it’s time to get a new policy. Research your provincial healthcare plan, or better yet, contact our team here at Group Enroll. We help business owners, independent contractors, and the self-employed find the best group benefit plans possible.

Just fill our quote form, and we will call you to learn more about your options. Then we’ll contact top insurers on your behalf and send you the most competitive proposal for the coverage you need.

Our office is at 10 Great Gulf Drive, Unit 5, Vaughan, ON, L4K 5W1, and you can email us at hello@groupenroll.ca. Fill our quick quote form today to get the best insurance plan at the best price.