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5 Signs that You are Experiencing Burnout

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

In today's high stress work context, burnout is increasingly common, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. As expats, immigrants or internationals we often feel pressure to work to the point of burnout for various different reasons - because our jobs are not secure, we feel a need to overcompensate for not being a local, we have financial struggles, there are certain immigration policies that require us to work at all times, etc.

However it is well documented that burnout is dangerous, increasing our susceptibility to illnesses due to impaired immune function, increasing our risk to mental health illnesses like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and straining relationships at work and at home.

It doesn't do businesses any good either, since burnout often leads to decreased productivity, reduced job satisfaction, increased absenteeism and job turnover. It can also impact the quality of services provided, particularly in healthcare and education sectors (Schonfeld, I. S., & Bianchi, R., 2016).

Recognizing burnout is the first step towards healing and self-care. Here are 5 signs to watch out for, based on current psychological research:

  1. Chronic fatigue: Burnout can make you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. This is not the typical end-of-the-day tiredness; it's a deep, unrelenting exhaustion that doesn't go away with rest.

  2. Diminished performance: Are you finding it harder to concentrate, feeling more forgetful, or unable to complete tasks as efficiently as before? Struggling with productivity might be a sign of burnout.

  3. Detachment or cynicism: Burnout can cause you to emotionally distance yourself from your work, or feel more negative or cynical about your tasks or colleagues.

  4. Physical symptoms: Recurrent headaches, muscle pains, changes in appetite or sleep patterns are often associated with burnout.

  5. Feelings of ineffectiveness: Despite your best efforts, you may feel like you're not achieving enough, or that your work doesn't carry any significance.

Remember, it's okay to seek help if you're experiencing any of these signs. Reach out to a mental health professional who can guide you in taking the necessary steps towards healing and reclaiming your well-being.

Note: These are only a few first steps based on research, and I hope they have been meaningful to you. For more customised and detailed support, I would recommend personal therapy.

About the Author

Diya John is a counselor and psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychology and a Diploma in Counselling from Australia. She founded Therapy Garden to make evidence-based counseling more accessible to expatriates, immigrants and the international community. She is based in Japan, but works with clients in different parts of the world via online therapy. Read more about her areas of specialisation and services here.

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  • Salvagioni, D. A. J., Melanda, F. N., Mesas, A. E., González, A. D., Gabani, F. L., & de Andrade, S. M. (2017). Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PloS one, 12(10), e0185781.

  • Rotenstein, L. S., Torre, M., Ramos, M. A., Rosales, R. C., Guille, C., Sen, S., & Mata, D. A. (2018). Prevalence of burnout among physicians: a systematic review. JAMA, 320(11), 1131-1150.

  • Schonfeld, I. S., & Bianchi, R. (2016). Burnout and depression: two entities or one? Journal of clinical psychology, 72(1), 22-37.

  • Wurm, W., Vogel, K., Holl, A., Ebner, C., Bayer, D., Mörkl, S., ... & Hofmann, P. (2016). Depression-burnout overlap in physicians. PloS one, 11(3), e0149913.

  • Awa, W. L., Plaumann, M., & Walter, U. (2010). Burnout prevention: A review of intervention programs. Patient education and counseling, 78(2), 184-190.



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