Burnout: Why it happens, signs and symptoms, and what you can do to recover

Burnout: Why it happens, signs and symptoms, and what you can do to recover

13 Nov 2021

Too much pressure and stress over a period of time can make us vulnerable to burning out. While it shouldn’t be a normal part of life it’s becoming more and more common in the world we’re living in. What’s important is to understand the impact it may have on our mental health and physical health, and take the right steps to address it.

Currently, the condition is not considered as a standalone clinical diagnosis—however, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its eleventh edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), recognised it as an “occupational syndrome” (1).

Feeling exhausted? It’s crucial to watch out for the red flags that might signal you’re experiencing burnout. Having a lot to weigh, ponder, and deal with in both our personal and professional lives daily can take a toll on our bodies. Recovering from burnout takes time and consistency, but on the positive side, there are lots of options to successfully manage stress relief.

What exactly is burnout?

Excessive and prolonged stress leads to emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. When you experience this overwhelming feeling of being drained and losing interest over different aspects of your life, it’s called burnout (1). Eventually, this lack of spirit  and energy will begin affecting your mind and body, making you more susceptible to a number of illnesses like colds and flu.

Why do burnouts happen?

Several factors contribute to a burnout, which can encompass problems in your work, lifestyle, and even your personality.

The feeling of losing control over your career, the lack of recognition, overly demanding and piled up workload, and/or a high-pressure environment are some of the work-related causes of a burnout.

Meanwhile, having the “work is life” mentality, without setting aside time for downtime and relaxation, can prevent you from recovering from burnout. Other lifestyle factors include lack of close relationships, support from family and peers, as well as nutrition and much-needed sleep.

Studies have also shown that people with perfectionist tendencies tend to develop burnout more. Usually, those with a Type A personality (competitive and work-obsessed) are highly affected by this condition, as well as people with pessimistic views of themselves and the world, those with control issues, and those who are high-achievers.

Signs of burnout

In a study conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) (1), it was found that these nine factors are prevalent in people experiencing burnout:

  • Stress
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Low mood
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of motivation or passion
  • Lack of concentration, memory loss or brain fog
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea and low libido
  • Emotional fragility

Stress relief and recovering from burnout

Now that you have a grasp on what burnout is, it’s time to take active measures to overcome burnout—especially if you suspect yourself or a loved one is suffering from its effects.

Here are some tips you can put into practice today to help overcome burnout:

Make time to build meaningful relationships

Leaning on someone’s shoulder and taking the load off your chest is an effective way of releasing that excess baggage. It’s not shameful to ask people around you for support; sometimes, you just need to take the initiative to approach someone and start opening up. This support system can be in the form of your family or close friends, or building a new relationship with co-workers and others who you want to make a connection with (2).

Joining an online community is also a great option to meet like-minded peers. Finally, cutting off ties with negative people may help maintain your focus.

Shift to an optimistic mindset

How to Effectively Deal With Burnout

Whether it’s at work or in personal life, looking at the brighter side of things contributes to stress relief and can help prevent burnout. Instead of submerging yourself in ‘what ifs’ and ‘I can'ts’, eyeing practical solutions and changing your attitude can offer a regained sense of purpose and control. Give yourself time to recover by finding joy in daily life on other things instead of dwelling on the bad things may significantly improve your mood.

Set your priorities straight

Recovering from burnout requires you to sit down and reflect on things that matter to you the most. It helps to write down and try to live out your priorities. Setting boundaries, logging off from the toxicity of social media, working on your personal projects or engaging in a hobby, and practicing self-care are some options to include in the list. Looking inwards—instead of what’s just spread out in front of you—is key to rediscovering that equilibrium you crave. After all, stressors shouldn’t be on top of your priority list—the most important things in your life are.

Include exercise in your daily habits

Studies have shown that constant movement has positive effects in alleviating stress2. Whether you choose a meditative workout like yoga or a simple cardio routine of brisk walking or a morning jog, finding an exercise that will get your body sweating and your heart pumping increases your energy and boosts your mood.

Maintain a healthy diet

How to Effectively Deal With Burnout

Eating well supports not only weight management, but also your mental and emotional condition.

Consider lessening your sugar and refined carbs intake, and instead have a healthy serving of omega-3 fatty acids. It also helps to avoid nicotine, and drink alcohol in moderation (2).

Recovering from burnout is aided by the nutrients from a well-balanced plate. Taking vitamin supplements alongside a healthy diet can help you achieve your daily nutrient targets. Here are some supplements to consider to help with burnout:


Clinical trials support the use of ashwagandha to relieve stress and sleeplessness. This supplement facilitates your body to cope with stress, with its key biochemical components—the withanolides—that exert therapeutic effects in the body (3). Ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress by moderating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (4). It also helps relieve symptoms of mild anxiety and improves sleep quality.


A healthy dose of magnesium supports energy production, cardiovascular function, and nervous system health. Reduced levels of magnesium are also associated with higher levels of stress (5).

B complex

The B group vitamins help release energy from nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and protein. These also assist with brain function, stress support, and immune system function, making it ideal in nourishing the nervous system and acting as an antioxidant.

Some B vitamins are also useful in improving the body's stress response (6).

Calcium plus

Calcium isn’t just for the bones—having this supplement is also required to aid in muscle contraction, energy production, immune function, and more. Calcium also helps neutralise the pH balance of cortisol (7). Cortisol is released by the body during periods of stress.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is key in metabolising fats and amino acids, as well as the formation of myelin, which creates a protective sheath around your nerve cells.

A lack of vitamin B12 can result in fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and weakness (8), which may exacerbate burnout.

Ginkgo and Brahmi

Traditionally used in Chinese medicine to help improve memory function, ginkgo is your key to help focus and prevent memory loss. Brahmi, on the other hand, enhances the quality of memory and brain function.

Ginkgo has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, while brahmi supports adaptogenic effects when one is under stress (9).

In addition to a well-balanced plate, taking custom multivitamin packs may also support you in recovering from burnout. Try a supplement subscription with Vitable, and make use of our nationwide vitamin delivery services which brings your custom packs right to your doorstep.

Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:

Ashwagandha | Magnesium | B complex | Calcium plus | Vitamin B12 | Ginkgo Brahmi

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.


  1. UNSW’s School of Psychiatry & Black Dog Institute. “Burnout diagnosis one step closer with new clinical checklist and predictor of which personalities are most at risk.” Black Dog Institute: blackdoginstitute.org.au. Published on https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/news/burnout-diagnosis-one-step-closer-with-new-clinical-checklist-and-predictor-of-which-personalities-are-most-at-risk/. Accessed on October 2, 2021.
  2. Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., & Lawrence Robinson. “Burnout Prevention and Treatment.” HelpGuide: helpguide.org. Published on https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm#. Accessed on October 2, 2021.
  3. Farooqui, A., "Chapter 9 - Strategies for the potential treatment of neurological disorders with Chinese and Indian medicinal plants". ScienceDirect: Molecular Aspects of Neurodegeneration, Neuroprotection, and Regeneration in Neurological Disorders. Published 2021 on https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128217115000097. Accessed October 4, 2021.
  4. Vitable. “Ashwagandha Plus”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/ashwagandha-plus. Accessed October 4, 2021.
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390811003054?via%3Dihub
  6. Vitable. “B Complex”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/b-complex. Accessed October 4, 2021.
  7. Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan. “Stress and Osteoporosis”. Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan. Published November 2017 on https://www.oamichigan.com/stress-and-osteoporosis/. Accessed October 4, 2021.
  8. Harvard Health Publishing Staff. "Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful". Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Published August 2020 on https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780. Accessed October 4, 2021.
  9. Vitable. “Ginkgo & Brahmi”. Vitable. Published (n.d.) on https://research.vitable.com.au/ginkgo-brahmi. Accessed October 4, 2021.