How to Recognize the Early Signs of Burnout

Those with burnout often report feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, extreme irritability, cynicism, and a sense of being unable to cope with the demands of everyday life. When left untreated, burnout can have severe implications for your overall mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

woman employee looking ahead worrying stressed at work

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state in which an individual experiences physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, often triggered by prolonged stress.

You may experience burnout for various reasons. However, the condition is often associated with work or caregiving responsibilities that cause an individual to experience stress over an extended period.

Burnout symptoms at a glance

Those with burnout often report feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, extreme irritability, cynicism, and a sense of being unable to cope with the demands of everyday life. 

You may also experience various physical symptoms as a result of burnout, including:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Jaw clenching
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Inflammation

Various studies have shown that burnout is one of the leading causes of increased absenteeism at work, reduced motivation and productivity among employees, and difficulties in relationships. 

When left untreated, burnout can have severe implications for your overall mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Therefore, recognizing the early signs of burnout is crucial and can allow you to get the help and treatment you need before your symptoms worsen or begin to take over your life.

This article explores the early signs of burnout and how to recognize them, including effective treatments that can help.

In the meantime, if you are concerned that you (or a loved one) may be experiencing symptoms of burnout, you must speak to a mental health specialist for further advice and support.

Early intervention can help you avoid the long-term effects of burnout, giving you a much better chance at lasting recovery.

How we can help

Maui Recovery provides personalized addiction and mental health treatment for a wide range of emotional issues, including:

Our passionate, friendly team has extensive knowledge and experience in diagnosing and treating various mental health issues, including chronic stress, one of the leading causes of burnout.

We understand how challenging it can be to seek professional support and help. However, you’ll see the benefits of making the initial leap once you take those first steps toward treatment and recovery.

Contact our specialist team at our Hawaii recovery center today to learn more about our mental health treatment programs and kick-start your journey toward wellness and healing.

How to recognize the early signs of burnout

Burnout can be a challenging condition to recognize, as some of the signs and symptoms can be similar to other mental health conditions.

For instance, common burnout symptoms, such as constantly feeling exhausted, emotionally empty, or unable to cope with the demands of daily life, are also symptoms often associated with depression.

So, to get an accurate diagnosis, you must consult with a mental health professional who can conduct a thorough evaluation and assessment based on your symptoms, history, and other factors.

Although difficult to identify, there are some early signs of burnout that can help you recognize the condition in yourself or someone you care about, allowing you to seek treatment sooner rather than later.

The early signs of burnout are grouped into physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms and include the following:

1. Exhaustion and fatigue

tried man sitting on the floor

One of the early signs of burnout is when you feel emotionally or physically drained even after getting adequate sleep or rest.

You may feel as though no matter how much you sleep or relax, it makes little or no difference to your exhaustion levels, and you may continue to feel tired despite taking breaks or time off from work.

Extreme fatigue as a result of burnout can also make an individual feel:

  • Defeated or helpless
  • Emotionally detached from themselves or the people around them
  • Forgetful
  • Extremely overwhelmed where even the simplest of tasks can feel impossible to complete
  • Extremely irritated or frustrated

Experts say that to manage the above symptoms of burnout, individuals may find it helpful to engage in certain self-care practices, such as:

  • Practicing gratitude – You may find it helpful to start writing in a journal, listing everything you are grateful for. This allows you to reflect on the most important areas of your life and can help you put things into perspective during more challenging moments.
  • Meditation– meditation encourages you to stay grounded in the present moment, helping to reduce symptoms of stress and burnout when practiced regularly.
  • Speaking to a professional – various behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you identify the root cause of your stress, teaching you practical coping skills to help you manage your symptoms when you feel overwhelmed or stressed.

2. Lack of enjoyment or satisfaction

Another early sign of burnout is when you experience a continuous lack of enjoyment, dissatisfaction, or disillusionment about your work despite previously enjoying it.

Losing interest in hobbies, activities, or work projects that were once fulfilling or enjoyable can be an early symptom of burnout.

You must speak to a therapist or counselor who can help you understand your symptoms, allowing you to explore why you feel the way you do and work towards building resilience.

As well as seeking professional treatment to help you manage symptoms of burnout, you may also find the following strategies and techniques helpful:

  • Taking regular breaks from work 
  • Cultivating a more balanced, healthy diet
  • Discussing your concerns with your supervisor or your company’s human resources department
  • Exploring less stressful job roles in your company
  • Exercising daily, which may include walking, aerobics, and strength training 
  • Practicing yoga, tai chi, or other mindfulness -based stress reduction techniques

To learn more about our mindfulness based stress reduction program or other treatments for stress, contact our friendly team today for additional support and information.

3. Detachment and cynicism

Pensive man standing by the window and looking through it. Copy space.

Another early sign of burnout is when a person develops a cynical or negative attitude toward their work, colleagues, and responsibilities.

Individuals may also feel emotionally detached or distant from work colleagues or projects, making them want to withdraw from company activities or other social events.

Burnout-related detachment often makes people feel utterly disconnected from others and their environment.

Individuals experiencing this type of burnout may withdraw emotionally (and even physically) from their responsibilities.

They may frequently call into work sick, avoid social get togethers, and refuse to answer work or personal calls or emails.

Individuals with work-related detachment may feel as though they no longer care about anyone or anything, which, according to researchers, is known as depersonalization, a typical symptom of burnout. (One Sign Of Burnout Is Feeling Detached From Everything You Care About, Thrive Global, Dr Whitney Gordon-Mead.)

According to life coach Dr Whitney Gordon-Mead, individuals may also experience other symptoms of burnout-related detachment, including:

  • Becoming easily angered and having less tolerance or patience toward others
  • Being indifferent to things that once bothered them, including chaos in their work environment, projects not being finished on time, or other work-related issues
  • Being nonchalant or having a carefree attitude about tasks or projects not going well or running smoothly

Mead explains that to cope with these unpleasant symptoms of burnout, individuals may find it helpful to check in with themselves regularly by cultivating self-reflection and awareness.

Reflecting on your achievements and successes can help fuel motivation and enhance your belief in your abilities, which is often lost when a person is experiencing burnout.

Other helpful strategies may include the following:

  • Practicing deep breathing before beginning a task or project
  • Journaling
  • Cultivating a robust support network of family, friends, and community

4. Physical symptoms

As mentioned briefly, burnout can cause various physical symptoms.

If you constantly get headaches or experience stomach issues, muscle tension, or changes in your sleep pattern, you may be experiencing early signs of burnout.

In addition, you may have other physical signs and symptoms, such as frequent colds and flu, and changes in your appetite, such as eating too much or not enough.

Although the above symptoms can be early warning signs of burnout, you should consult your doctor about them, as they could be a sign of another health issue that needs further exploration.

You can also speak to the Maui Recovery team to learn more about our mental health treatment programs.

5. Substance addiction or other unhealthy coping mechanisms 

identifying drug addictions maui recovery - Maui Recovery

Escapist behaviors, including overeating, smoking, drug abuse, or excessive drinking, are often a way for people to cope with the effects of chronic stress and burnout.

Masking negative feelings through substance use can make us feel good temporarily.

It can help us suppress or numb painful memories, feelings, and emotions we would much rather forget about.

However, once the effects of a substance begin to wear off, all those bad feelings start to creep back in, making us feel a lot worse than we did before.

Studies have shown that severe burnout is connected with drug abuse and alcoholism.

Individuals often seek relief through substances, relying on them to take away feelings of anxiety, depression, and shame or to deal with being overworked or having too much on their plate.

Researchers explain that to prevent the onset of burnout and its byproduct of substance use disorder; individuals must be equipped with helpful tools and healthy habits to help them manage their symptoms and avoid further complications arising from burnout. 

Treating burnout

Holistic treatment programs can help you manage your stress, allowing you to recognize any triggers and learn healthier ways of coping instead of resorting to drinking, drug-taking, or other unhelpful habits and behaviors.

Effective treatments for burnout usually include a combination of evidence-based therapies and approaches, such as:


Burnout can disrupt various areas of your life, but recovery is possible with proper treatment, care, and support.

This condition can have severe consequences for your mental, emotional, and physical health, so you must prioritize your well-being and seek help when necessary.

Maui Recovery can help

A multiracial group of therapy session at a medical office. Participants and the group therapist provide support to a sad man who confided to group

Maui Recovery provides personalized mental health and addiction treatment to clients in Hawaii and surrounding regions.

Our clinical team has helped clients and their families for decades overcome their struggles, allowing them to eventually find peace, wholeness, and contentment.

To learn more about our holistic treatment approach, contact our team at our luxury Hawaii recovery center today and let us be a part of your recovery from chronic stress and burnout.

We are here and ready to help.

Additional resources

  1. One Sign Of Burnout Is Feeling Detached From Everything You Care About, Thrive Global, Dr Whitney Gordon-Mead
  2. 7 Ways to Recover from Burnout, Psychology Today, Ellen Hendriksen, PhD., May 10, 2021
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