work burnout and the effects on your mental health

Are you feeling like you might be suffering from work burnout? It’s common in many young people and there are ways to manage it.

Research from Future Forum reveals that almost half of 18- to 29-year-olds said they feel drained compared with 40% of their peers aged 30 and up. The good news? There are ways to identify signs of work burnout and protect your health and wellbeing.  

What is work burnout?

Work burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion. You can often have feelings that you aren’t accomplishing what you want or even feel like you’re losing some of those qualities that define you – such as your love for socialising, cooking, reading and more. It’s usually caused by prolonged or excessive work stress, and can also be experienced during school, especially in those final years.  

What are the signs and symptoms of work burnout? 

It can be hard to recognise the signs of work burnout, but you might be experiencing one or more of the below symptoms and they can come and go: 

  • withdrawal from friends 
  • decreased productivity 
  • lowered concentration 
  • a sense of feeling stuck at work 
  • regular procrastination  
  • worrying 
  • physiological symptoms (e.g., exhaustion, lack of sleep, high heart rate, constipation, weight gain/loss, panic attacks, headaches) 


Work burnout doesn’t just turn on like a switch. It can creep up on you and that’s why understanding it can be so helpful. Identifying the underlying causes of work burnout can help you begin to regain control and manage your mental health in the workplace

What are the causes of work burnout? 

Even if you’re not sure if you’re experiencing burnout, it can help to know what causes it. Some of the most common causes of burnout include:  

  • lack of control 
  • unclear job expectations 
  • receiving no recognition/reward 
  • unreasonable workloads 
  • work-life imbalance  


Sometimes stuff outside our work can lead to burnout at work. It can be hard to identify exactly what’s causing burnout – are work conditions unreasonable or is there something else going on? Every situation is different, but simply asking that question might start to help you identify the causes behind any work burnout you’re experiencing. 

How to deal with work burnout

Everything starts with a small step.  

  1. Put yourself first. Practice mindfulness techniques, maintain healthy eating habits, exercise regularly and healthy sleep practices. These can all work together to gradually improve the symptoms of your burnout. 

  2. Identify job stressors. Take a second to consider what’s making you feel this way. Is it the lack of support at work? Are you dealing with a difficult colleague? Identifying your trigger for work burnout can help you find the right solution.  

  3. Speak to someone. It helps to let it out sometimes. Reach out to a supportive colleague, friend or access headspace’s support network. Many companies also offer employee support services that can help. Colleagues might help you better identify if there are unreasonable demands being made on you at work, while friends might be able to help you understand if there are outside factors impacting your ability to focus.  

  4. Take regular breaks. Take the time to do the things that bring you joy and that take you away from your work temporarily. This could be as simple as a walk around the corner. 

  5. Keep your manager in the loop. Sometimes just letting your manager know how you’re feeling can make a big difference. They can help you identify if there are unreasonable stressors at work and help you form a plan for reducing your work burnout – from helping redefine your responsibilities to creating a work environment that best suits your way of working, such as hybrid work arrangements. 

  6. Are there things that could change at work? It might not be you that needs to change, but your workplace. Talking to your manager or supportive colleagues can be the first step to initiating changes at work that create a better environment for everyone and reduce stress for all. This might be initiating standup meetings or introducing project management tools to help increase transparency across your organisation so everyone’s capacity is clear. 


Remember that while work burnout is common, it’s not a permanent state. By recognising the signs of burnout and taking steps to prioritise your self-care, you can regain motivation and purpose at work while protecting your wellbeing.

Get support

If you want to chat to someone about your situation or need help with your options, contact the team at headspace work and study. We have trained specialists that can support you each step of the way. 

The headspace Content Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website. 

Last reviewed July 2023.

Mayo Clinic. (2021, June 5). Job burnout: How to spot it and take action.

Precker, Michael. American Heart Association News. (2022, Oct 12). How job burnout can hurt your health – and what to do about it.


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