A Feeling of Drowning- ‘Burnout’ Syndrome


Everybody feels stressed – it’s a part of life. Whether it’s about deadlines, work, illness or more, stress can become incredibly overwhelming.

If you are not able to take a step back and gain back some of that strength, the circumstances of stress can be stronger than you expect.


Burnout or ‘professional burnout’, is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. This is commonly caused by overwhelming work overload and/or dissatisfaction.

In 2018, in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11), the World Health Organisation made an effort to reduce the stigma around ‘burnout’ syndrome by redefining its definition.

What was previously considered a stress syndrome, has been revised to be an occupational phenomenon.

The WHO updated the definition of burnout to be a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

Alas, this revision is set to enter into force in January 2022. This might seem far into the future, nonetheless, it is still relieving knowing that this debilitating disorder is FINALLY being recognised and spoken about, following years of neglect.

This comes at an appropriate time as the burnout statistics only seem to be increasing whilst the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Months after the beginning of the pandemic, the percentage of employees reporting burnout symptoms increased by almost 20%, to 69%, from early May to July.

Despite these concerning figures, 59% of employees also reported taking less time off with 42% not having a holiday in mind.

Now that we’ve understood the importance and prevalence of this syndrome lets talk about what are some causes for burnout, how to recognise it, prevent it and fight it…


You might now be able to guess that the main trigger for burnout is, indeed, work environment and working conditions.

But why is it that some employees are more likely to develop this syndrome than others?

This heavily revolves around personal characteristics, as well as level of charge, autonomy, work relationships, lack of experience/training, and more.

A stressful work environment can lead to chronic stress which will later cause exhaustion.

So, how would you know if you have burnout?


According to the ICD-11, common symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feelings of energy exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or feeling negative towards one’s career
  • Reduced professional productivity

Other common symptoms might include:Whitepaper: The Extent of Workplace Burnout in Modern America - TollFreeForwarding.com

  • Increased irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical pain, e.g., headaches, muscle aches, dizziness, etc.
  • Lack of energy, exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Inhibited communication
  • and many more!

If you have felt weirdly identified by this list, do consider consulting your GP for further guidance. Your well-being matters!

Now, how can we prevent burnout… This varies from person to person, but generally, these techniques have helped employees to prevent burnout:

  • Plan your days – Restructure your day until you find a schedule that fits you and your body’s clock.
  • Set reasonable goals – Be realistic, a common feeling that accompanies burnout is the feeling of hopelessness. Before you get to that stage, make sure you are able to visualise how you will achieve your goals in the timeline that you’ve set yourself.
  • Draw a line – it is essential to differentiate personal life and professional life and know when to stop.
  • Ask for help – If you feel like work is getting the best of you, tell someone. It could be a friend, a family member, or your boss, not only might this be relieving but it will help you recognise that there is a problem!
  • Eating habits matter – Take care of yourself! Food fuels your body, make sure you are giving your body what it needs.
  • Exercise – There are an endless number of studies now reporting the benefits of exercising, not only for your health but also for your mental health. Take that time to make your body feel good.Develop a Battery of Coping Skills | Called to Care | Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, MD


For more coping strategies:

Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases [Accessed April 18, 2021].

Featured Photo Source: Anna Tarazevich, from Pexels

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Edited by Cyrus Rohani-Shukla

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