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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Giles

Stress or burnout?

Signs of work-related stress and burnout

There is no single definition for work- related stress, but it can be understood as an employee’s perception of an imbalance between their work demands and their ability to cope with those demands. The ability to cope with work demands can depend on various reasons either at work and/or your personal circumstances.

In most cases stress can be eased by reducing workload, taking extended time off or working fewer hours.

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time – chronic work-related stress.

How do you know when stress is chronic, and burnout has taken hold?

When we are stressed, we still keep going. We may be over-engaged, overactive although less energetic. Being under lot of stress can lead to anxiety which is feelings of fear, worry or unease. We may feel out of control, overwhelmed and isolated with our thoughts and feelings. We can be wondering why we suddenly feel anxious about normal things in our life. Why social functions, presentations, company functions suddenly create so much new anxiety?

Burnout, once it takes hold, can be described as helplessness and hopelessness. It is physical and emotional exhaustion where you may feel detached, isolated, cynical, negative about your work, yourself and anything in life.

Whilst under excessive stress feels like you are drowning in responsibilities, burnout feels like being all dried up.

Self-care is to notice what is happening in you, recognize signs of excessive stress before it changes to burnout. Is the way I am feeling getting worse? Am I able to recharge, relax during evenings and weekends?

Slow down, relax, have clear boundaries between work and private life, take a break to do something just for you.

Social contact, talking face to face with a good listener is one of the fastest, natural ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress.

Reconnect with family, friends and colleagues.

If you feel non-judgmental, confidential listener could be better, or would like advice on coping with anxiety, please contact me at or via website.

Stranks, J. (2005) Stress at work: management and prevention. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

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