Five steps to beating burnout

Exhaustion is a common symptom of burnout.

Exhaustion is a common symptom of burnout. Photo: Getty

Feeling exhausted, increasingly cynical and less effective at work? You’re not alone. These are the symptoms of burnout as classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Burnout is affecting half of Australia’s workforce.

A global survey has found 50 per cent of Australian workers felt burned out at work in November last year – up from 42 per cent in May.

The Future Forum Pulse report found Australia has the highest level of burnout above the UK and France (both 48 per cent), US (41 per cent), Germany (37 per cent) and Japan (27 per cent).

Burnout is described by the WHO as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

Preventing burnout before it takes hold requires self-care and monitoring, experts say.

When former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern resigned in January this year she said: “I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.”

Beating burnout means catching it before the demands of a job become too much.

Here, we look at five steps at identifying and avoiding burnout.


Half of Australia’s workforce feels burned out. Photo: Getty

Constantly feeling overwhelmed

If you feel like you’re drowning in tasks or the workload seems insurmountable, your physical and mental health is likely to suffer. Your energy levels will suffer and chances are, you’re not getting good quality sleep.

Burnout can leave you more vulnerable to passing viruses and so you’re more likely to take sick days than you usually would.

Dropping  ‘me time’ activities

If work is overtaking your personal time on a regular basis, it’s a sign you need to slow down and put up boundaries.

Mindfulness and high performance expert Melo Calarco said skipping the activities that usually make you feel happy and balanced is an early sign of burnout.

“Most of the time when people get stressed, busy and overwhelmed, the first thing they let go of are the things they need the most, like their self-care practices,” he said.

“’I won’t go to the gym tonight, I’m too busy’, or ‘I’ll skip lunch and I’ll just keep working through’, so [a person is losing] the basic self-care of eating well, sleeping well, exercising and meditating or getting some downtime, doing your hobbies and interests.”

Acknowledge burnout

Burnout is increasingly common, says Melo Calarco, a mindfulness expert.

An important step in turning things around is to recognise what’s happening. Catch yourself when you’re either in hyper-work mode or feeling exhausted and face facts before it becomes worse, Calarco said.

“I interviewed around 200 people that had experienced burnout and 90 per cent of them didn’t realise they were burning out until it was too late,” he said.

“Then they had some sort of crisis situation or a panic attack or some sort of physiological response. So the very first step is self-awareness, being aware.”

Prioritise self-care

Be firm and create time for your self-care needs. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating and drinking well are the basics.

Next step is nurturing your hobbies and passions, and making non-negotiable time for them. These not only help get your creative juices flowing, but distract you from work.

Follow all of this up by booking a holiday. It may just be a holiday at home, but it means time away from the workplace and time to yourself.


Take time to deal with all the emotions, the noise in your head and the sense of urgency by learning how to self-regulate, Calarco said.

“It means having some tools and techniques that you can regulate your stress, regulate your wellbeing on a daily basis,” he said.

“It might be meditation or just having a break or going for a walk or doing your hobbies and interests, doing something that takes you out of that work mode.”

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