Stress and burnout

Stress and burnout: signs, symptoms and treatment

After a couple of ‘unprecedented’ years, including dramatic changes in how we live, work and interact, it’s natural that stress has become a greater factor in many people’s lives. Here’s how to understand the signs, effects and ways of managing stress and burnout.

What is burnout?

‘Burnout’ generally refers to a point at which a person’s job has exhausted them, physically and emotionally, to the point where they have begun to feel hopeless and disillusioned.

While it isn’t an official medical diagnosis, it can be related to other conditions such as depression. People are more likely to experience burnout if they have a lack of balance between their work and life, they feel they don’t have control over their work, or they try to ‘do too much’, taking on too many roles or work areas.

Symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feeling negative or critical about your job
  • Irritability with colleagues or clients
  • A lack of energy or reduced productivity
  • A change in sleep habits or insomnia
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol in an unhealthy way to cope
  • Unexplained physical discomfort such as headaches, bowel issues or stomach pains

Signs and symptoms of stress

Stress is a natural response to situations that are overwhelming, scary or unpredictable, triggering physical ‘fight or flight’ responses which can help us to get out of danger or make it through a specific event.

This can be a good thing in the short term but, if stress is ongoing, also known as chronic stress, it can be negative for both mental and physical health.

Symptoms of stress include:

  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Difficulty sleeping or relaxing
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Irritable or easily startled
  • Emotional responses such as crying or angry outbursts
  • Loss of concentration

Effects of stress and burnout on health

When stress becomes too much, it can impact our lives in many ways, including both our bodies and minds.

Ongoing stress can cause physical issues such as weight loss or gain, frequent colds or infections, muscular aches and pains, heart problems and a loss of libido.

Mental illnesses can also be made worse by ongoing stress. Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders can be triggered and, in some people, chronic stress can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety[1].

Seeking help for stress or burnout

To manage stress, the Black Dog Institute recommends first understanding what triggers your stress response. Write down what happened, how you felt, what you were thinking and what you were feeling every time a stressful event takes place. This way you can begin to see patterns and understand what the triggers for your stress might be.

From there, you can use a number of tools to manage stress, including:

  • Caring for yourself through rest, relaxation and routine
  • Stepping back from a situation and considering what you do and do not have control or influence over
  • Understanding that stress is a normal response to abnormal surroundings and is not a permanent state of being
  • Reaching out and seeking help, either by talking to friends or family, your GP, or a mental health professional

Reach out for support

As the largest private provider of mental health care in Australia, we are dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of those we treat, with whatever pathway they need.

We offer a range of services designed to support people experiencing mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and a range of other conditions.

We encourage you to reach out to our expert team who can assist you in finding the right avenue you need to get your mental health back on track.