Have You Burnt Out Without Realising?


Burnout is something that can affect any employee across many careers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that companies are increasingly expecting more of their staff. Regularly getting in early, staying in the office until late and working weekends can all have an impact.

Burnout can kill physical vitality, motivation, and any semblance of work-life balance. Left unaddressed it can turn into a serious medical condition that can set off other problems such as depression or a breakdown. We all have coping mechanisms – some more healthy than others - but it’s not always good to simply soldier on.

One way out of burnout is to reach out. Social acceptance has come a long way but a lot of people are still reluctant to be open about burnout, seeing it as a sign of weakness. The problem with that is that such forms of stress will thrive in silence. The courage to reach out is important to restore your health. Persistence is a noble trait, but not at the expense of your health. But how do you know that you are actually burnt out?

Here are some tell-tell signs that you could be suffering from it:


Feeling tired all the time isn’t healthy. This can manifest itself in barely being able to get up in the morning. If you feel so drained that the thought of going to work drains you, you could be suffering from burnout.


No one is going to be 100% engaged with their role all the time. But if your overriding attitude is cynicism, then you could be struggling, particularly if there seems no point to anything and no sense of accomplishment anymore. If it all seems meaningless, now could be the time to seek out support.

Work emotionally drains you

Certain careers are more attuned to burnout than others. For example, you could be emotionally overwhelmed working as a social worker. But equally you could find yourself heavily invested in any kind of job, which could be a big emotional drain.

Lack of positivity

This is one of the hallmarks of burnout. Feeling less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life can be symptomatic, even with elements you used to enjoy outside work.

Overwhelming negative thoughts

Connected to the lack of positivity is a more overwhelming sense of negativity. Burnout leads to unhealthy thinking. It can allow you to catastrophise situations and think in terms of worst-case scenarios. It can make you feel that you are not good or capable enough. You might be anxious or depressed. You may feel like you are living under a dark cloud. You can find yourself in a cycle of false beliefs.

Job performance is suffering

Has there been a clear deterioration in how well you are performing relative to previous years? Have you seen a fall in productivity? Are you losing the ability to concentrate? As burnout tends to happen over a long period of time, taking a step back might reveal whether this is a temporary slump or something more severe.

Interpersonal problems

Whether it’s at work or in a social setting, this could manifest itself in increased arguments and conflicts. Alternatively, you may also be inclined to be more withdrawn and less inclined to connect with others. The irony is that community engagement can have an important role in mitigating the risk of burnout.

You may also be interested:

Office Politics Survival Tips

Letting yourself go

If you find yourself overdoing it in drink, drugs or junk food, this could be your unhealthy coping mechanism. Weight gain or lack of sleep or exercise can also reflect how you respond to difficult situations in life.

General health

All the above factors can have serious implications for your physical and mental wellbeing. At its most extreme, an extended period of stress and burnout can result in major health problems like heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It makes sense to seek medical help if you have these issues to address.

-- Burnout can happen to employees in any career. It’s vital that you stay on top of it and take proactive steps to manage your lifestyle. With changes to how you work, think, and take care of yourself, you can address the issue and adapt to circumstances.


Editor's Pick:

Is Your Job Killing You? 6 Of The Most Stressful Industries In Hong Kong

How to stop worrying about work when you're out of the office

How to Manage Horrible Bosses

Do you even know how stressed you are at work?

Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

3 min read

Related tags

Suggested for you

Picture this typical but unfortunate holiday scenario in Hong Kong – replying to emails, dealing with calls from management and even joining the odd s...

Work-life balance is a buzzword amongst employers everywhere. But does it really work? Are we really doing it correctly? Perhaps it's work-life separa...

Do you often feel anxious, depressed or tired when you return to work on Monday? If you do, you may be experiencing the notorious Monday Blues. Take a...

That sounds like a dream doesn't it? "Unlimited paid leave". You could go on that trip to Japan for two weeks, come back, leave for Korea after a mont...

Large · Food Tech · Sheung Wan
Large · Information Technology · Quarry Bay
Large · Non-profit Organization · Hong Kong
Large · Law · Central