How to Overcome Career Burnout

14 min readJul 25, 2023

Burnout has become a commonly used word in the corporate world. Sometimes it is used to express feeling tired or drained. However, burnout has bigger implications in people’s lives and careers than that.

In 2019, the World Health Organization classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon for the first time.

According to a global survey from McKinsey Health Institute, a quarter of employees report experiencing burnout symptoms, and women are more likely to suffer from burnout than men. Furthermore, the cost of living crisis, mass layoffs in some industries and fear of job loss are also contributing to the risks of burnout.

Considering that work-related stress and burnout are costing the UK economy £28bn a year due to poor mental health at work, it is a significant issue that must be addressed and prevented.

With burnout rates and stress levels continuing to rise, we asked professionals and leaders across industries about their experiences with burnout and what advice and meaningful steps employers can take to prevent and tackle career burnout.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov at Pexels

Burnout can look different for different people.

.Simon Stapleton, CEO of Truthsayers® Neurotech®, shared that the feelings of burnout long precede the acknowledgement of it, based on data that they have of over 10,000 people.

“Our data shows that over 78% of people will ignore their valid, nonconscious feelings about burnout until it is too late, and the denial is often for reasons correlated with conscientiousness, not wanting to appear vulnerable or weak, and not wanting to have to disclose it and ‘keep the finger in the dam’.”

The common symptoms of burnout are usually negative feelings, hyper-critical about ourselves, mental health problems, unhealthy behaviours, emotional fluctuations, overwhelming exhaustion, lack of commitment and focus, and low work performance, among many others. But burnout can affect people in different ways, as explained by professionals at all levels.

For Davina Gordon, the founder of Naissance Marketing, it is a feeling of overwhelm, feeling constantly anxious or low and finding it difficult to wind down/switch off.

I think when work becomes all-consuming, it’s a sign you need to pause and reassess, realise what is truly important, and readjust your
lifestyle accordingly.

It wasn’t pleasant, explained Jade Arnell, Founder of Rebellion Marketing, based on her experience of severe burnout that left her confined to my bed for three weeks.

I found myself seeking professional help through therapy and relying on antidepressants to cope. It was a terrifying ordeal, one that could have been avoided if I had noticed and responded to the warning signs earlier. My symptoms included heightened agitation, a reduced threshold for frustration, often triggered by seemingly minor issues such as misplaced files or missing ingredients for a meal. My emotional stability was compromised, leading to frequent outbursts over trivial matters, and I was perpetually drained, feeling fatigued shortly after waking up.

For Iona Holloway, keynote speaker and founder of Brave Thing, it manifested in depression, exhaustion, and a jaded view of people and the world.

Burnout occurs when you work really hard combined with a perceived lack of power over your situation. For high achievers, there’s never an endpoint. There’s just more! More work, more responsibility, more achievement. This combination of stress and powerlessness creates pressure and disconnection. When that experience of pressure is chronic, it enters the density of the body, and that’s when you start to become emotionally and physically symptomatic.

Similarly, for Rachel Emma Philpotts, Clinical Director, founder of re:Nutrition and author of The Burnout Bible, the depressive mood was the sign that got her to sit up and pay attention.

However, because the stress response involves the whole body, we may also notice immune, circulatory, metabolic, gut and reproductive dysregulation symptoms…[including] frequent infections, migraine, palpitations, weight gain, constipation/diarrhoea and menstrual disturbances. These are perhaps the less obvious signs and symptoms of burnout, but all could have stress at the root cause. I ignored many of these to my folly as I simply hadn’t made the connection.

Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz, Personal and Professional Development Consultant, pointed out that the most reoccurring symptoms he has seen, personally and from helping others, are a foggy and overwhelmed mind, insomnia or hypersomnia, bad behaviours, and mental health problems such as constant low mood, negative self-thoughts and catastrophising.

Losing ourselves in our stress, forgetting to eat or over-eating (emotional eating), drinking excessively or starting up smoking. We are attempting to stop feeling overwhelmed by emotions. However, this only provides a short release from the beginning to the end of a cigarette, and then we are back where we started again.

For Hristina Stefanova, Senior Marketing Manager at ITSL Group, her burnout was so severe that it became a full-blown psychosis. “The major reason for what happened was the fact that I was working for a huge corporation that didn’t align with my values and key working principles.”

Photo by Unseen Studio at Unsplash

Overcoming burnout means that you have to put yourself first and seek help if needed.

Holloway explained that you can’t talk your way out of burnout once you’ve become emotionally and physically symptomatic. Anxiety, sadness, physical illness, and feeling disconnected indicate your body is trapped and looping in fight or flight, freeze, or shut down.

Tools like breathwork are great for healing burnout because you can use different patterns to ground you when you’re stressed, anxious, or sad and, over time, reshape and heal your nervous system. This means you’ll feel physically and emotionally able to handle your life again.

Breathing work, mindfulness and changing our lifestyle habits are practices Mammarella D’Cruz recommended taking back control.

…you might feel like you are unable to because things are moving so fast, but it is better to make small changes sooner than later, or later might be too late. Try incorporating healthy eating, a post-work walk, or even listening to music.

Self-care positively impacts a person’s well-being, stated Frank Milner, Global President of Tutor Doctor, as our wellness is often the first thing to be neglected when it feels like we can’t fit everything in.

It doesn’t necessarily mean taking bubble baths or wearing face masks; it can simply be things as small as scheduling your time to ensure you take regular breaks and learning how to switch off at the end of a workday.

Philpotts added that she set out a Mood Boosting Method that consists of four steps: restore (getting sufficient sleep and practising active relaxation), nourish (providing the brain and the whole body with the nutrients it needs), engage (reengage in activities you may have disengaged from outside of work that bring you joy) and reframe (identifying any limiting beliefs and catching negative thought patterns).

“It is about developing a stress-resilient mindset, helping you to feel more in control…You wouldn’t take up running and expect to run a marathon on day one, so be kind to yourself at the beginning.”

Arnell stated that if you are already at a point of no return, seek professional help and listen to your mind and body.

Overcoming true burnout often needs medical intervention and lots of rest. Accepting that you need to stop and rest can often be the hardest part, but it is essential for recovery. Don’t take too much on. Listen to your mind and your body when it’s telling you to rest, and watch out for the signs. Taking proper breaks from work during the day and spending time outside helps prevent overwhelm.

Stapleton said that the first time he experienced burnout, he had a long grind to get through it. “Probably because I didn’t want to expose it. I found that for the second time, I sought help from a close friend first to regain some perspective.”

Mammarella D’Cruz agreed that speaking it out rather than lashing out helps because we become aware that our anxiety and burnout exist beyond fear and fantasy.

Trying to fix things alone can become more overwhelming and make u feel crazy. This is why we started MenSpeak, a non-judgemental and welcoming Men’s groups where we can discuss life’s triumphs and challenges.

Finally, Holloway advised that you must be courageous and have conversations with colleagues, managers, or yourself- if you’re the boss — to redefine what work looks like for you.

…you’ve got to get into a committed relationship with the disciplined pursuit of less. That means looking at the way you’re over-working, any pressure you’re putting on yourself that’s unnecessary due to internal narratives, and being brave enough to renegotiate your definition of enough.

Photo: LMF Network Archive

Well-being policies, support and education, are meaningful steps companies can take to mitigate employee burnout.

Many organisations understand that employees are valuable assets, and ensuring their well-being is a strategic business decision to avoid losing top talent.

“A lot of the companies I partner with recognise they can’t afford to lose their top talent and understand that the future of work is about treating employees as human beings, not robots! Also, it’s infinitely more expensive to replace a top performer than it is to retain them”, claimed Holloway.

That is why prevention is always better than cure, and understanding the causes of burnout — as an employer — is crucial, explained Pavel Bahu, Global HR Head at Trevolution Group. He mentioned three factors that can indicate an employee is on the brink of burnout, such as not taking their vacation days if they are being passed over for promotions and overall performance compared to the team average.

To mitigate the risk of burnout, ensure that employees take their entitled vacation days for adequate rest and rejuvenation. Next, keep employees engaged by involving them in cross-functional projects or providing them with opportunities for growth and promotion. If the performance indicators point towards burnout, you might think about gamifying the work process, managing the workload to avoid the employee feeling overwhelmed, and encouraging open communication among colleagues to boost morale.

However, Stapleton remarked that preventing burnout can be difficult for employers as it is a very personal thing, and many people won’t admit they are in the early stages of it. “Companies can educate and inform staff to spot the signs of burnout in their colleagues and to provide resources on how to help co-workers get support.”

Resources and policies to support employees include flexible working policies, encouraging self-care, open communication and a safe environment to discuss wellness and mental health.

Mammarella D’Cruz explained that companies:

…need to either internally or externally find a space where their employees can speak things out….[they need] to have the support to take care of their mental health without feeling they aren’t cut out for the job or face being ostracised…it is so important that workplaces encourage an open dialogue and discussion of mental health or point people towards support without employees needing to ask.

This is something that Arnell also agreed with, as she says that creating a workplace that values mental well-being creates a more productive and happy culture. “Having a flexible working policy is a simple yet helpful step to take in reducing burnout.”

Offer hybrid working, ensure teams switch off properly when they’re not working (no Slack or emails on their phones), offer a space where people feel comfortable to express when they’re feeling overwhelmed and make sure workloads are reasonable, and there is a support network in place. Start with open communication and assigning mentors to individuals, this can really help gain an understanding of your workplace culture and where certain teams may be under too much pressure.

Philpotts considered that companies could reduce the risk of burnout by creating an appropriate balance in work demands vs work resources and offering mindset coaching to their employees as part of their overall employee benefits / occupational health service.

Typical demands that we all recognize as stressful include long hours or irregular shift patterns, job uncertainty, abusive supervision and interpersonal conflict. These stressors can be eased or offset to a degree by appropriate renumeration and rewards and recognition schemes, alongside appropriate skill utilization, decision-making authority and support.

Finally, Gordon pointed out that companies should invest in their employees’ well-being with initiatives to encourage physical activity and interaction with their colleagues/other people.

As an employee, you spend so much time in an office, it’s important to foster a culture of support, encouragement, tolerance and kindness.

I think regular check-ins are important so an employee not only feels that their contribution matters but it’s an opportune time to find out if there is anything in their personal life that might be impacting their performance. Having been an employee for a long time before working for myself, it’s important to feel valued and secure.

Photo: LMF Network Archive

Self-awareness, learning your limits and enjoying life away from work are key to avoiding the burnout stage.

According to Arnell, planning your time out and making sure you map in time for yourself every day is important.

Do the things that clear your mind of worry and stress daily; for me, that’s getting outside and going to the gym regularly, but for others, it could be reading a book, meditating, or just going for a walk. You might want to work your lunch break to get that last bit of a project finished or stay late and send that one last email, but if you do, make sure you take some time back for yourself to recharge and rest your mind.

Mammarella D’Cruz asked us to remember that we work to live, not live to work.

“Have a life away from work, spending time with our partner or children and friends, anyone to remind you what life is about…Exploring our passions, creative expression, drawing, paint by numbers or spending time in nature. Do something that is meaningful for your being and nurtures your passions.”

Self-responsibility and self-awareness are the best ways to protect yourself from burnout, advised Philpotts, Gordon, Holloway and Stapleton. Understanding you are a human first is key, so you know what you can and can’t do and learn your stress levels.

“Arming yourself with this knowledge and self-awareness can help you to prevent burnout”, explained Philpotts. “First, you have to recogni[s]e that you are stressed and understand that stress is not just psychological but physical too. Your brain does not distinguish between deadlines, irate bosses and persistent pressure any more than it distinguishes between alcohol, takeaways and excessive exercise. It is all the same to the brain, and it will respond accordingly. Identifying your personal stress triggers is super important.”

“I’m always checking in to see if I feel like I’m flying too close to the sun and adapting accordingly. I prioritise doing work I deeply care about that aligns with my values. I use tools like breathwork and regular mini-walks to regulate my nervous system and process stress throughout the day. And I don’t work the weekends because I want to burn bright, not out”, added Holloway.

Milner remarked that learning your limits is a big help, as making ourselves available 24/7 can be easy, especially when starting a business.’s massively important to know what your limit looks like and to recognise the warning signs when you’re approaching it. Burnout looks different for everyone, but as long as you learn about yourself and what you need, then you always stay one step ahead. Self-care is not about hour-long breaks or a 10km run every morning before work. It’s about building healthy, sustainable habits which can fit into your daily routine and can be practised regularly.

As Stapleton also pointed out that it’s a matter of perspective.

“Stop being so inward-looking and self-critical. If you can identify and admit to yourself that you’re in a downward spiral, I believe that focusing on something external is then important, for example, a cause that is important to you..this really helps getting some balance and perspective on your own issues when compared with others.”

Prevention is better than cure, said Gordon.

“Self-care is vitally important. You can’t pour from an empty cup rings true.”

If you feel like you are constantly working and not getting anywhere, it’s a sign that something needs to change. After all, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The bottom line is that you need to look after yourself and make time for the things in your life that truly matter.

Finally, Stefanova shared her top tip: protect your peace.

…by joining a company that has the same values and work culture as you. Some people love working in large hierarchical companies and would actually burnout in small flat startups. Ask yourself what motivates you more — climbing a corporate ladder or being a self-sufficient small business player? The rest is just execution of what you truly believe in.

Photo: LMF Network Archive

Employers, and ourselves at a personal level, must prioritise managing stress and taking care of your mind, body and emotional wellness.

Another important part of managing burnout is developing self-awareness about your stress levels. So, here are some questions Rachel Philpotts, author of The Burnout Bible, gave us to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms if we are heading back to burnout:

  • Am I getting enough sleep and making enough time to actively relax?
  • Am I nourishing my body with the right foods to build resilience, or has the balance tipped in favour of mood disrupters?
  • Am I overdoing it on the exercise front, and do I need to calm this down?
  • Are old thought patterns creeping back in that I need to reframe?

So if you are struggling, we are sharing some extra self-care tips and advice from our experts to avoid getting to the burnout stage:

  • Schedule regular breaks and set times for work days. For example, try to spend 5–10 minutes away from your screen every hour or so. If you can get up and move in this time, a short walk to the fruit bowl or to get a cup of tea.
  • Set boundaries. Don’t make yourself available 24/7 and communicate your availability with colleagues, staff and clients.
  • Don’t work through your lunch breaks — if you can avoid it.
  • Listen to your body. Eat and drink well and exercise regularly. Get your body moving, even if it is just a walk.
  • Learn your limits. Understand what 100% capacity looks like and avoid going past it. Some days your 100% will be 10%, which is ok.

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Written by Alejandra (Alex) Chávez Menéndez.

Alex is the Communications Manager for LMF Network.

Outside of her time with LMFnetwork, she is a Public Affairs Consultant with 8+ years of experience, and the founder of Point A. Alex is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, small businesses, and changemakers tell their stories and share what they believe in. She has a master’s in Public Administration and Management from University College London (UCL).

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