Signs of burnout and how to cope

September 13, 2021
Mental health
5 min read
Candace Good, MD


Candace Good, MD, psychiatrist, Mount Nittany Health


You might have read articles about burnout in the context of high achievers, who work exceptionally long hours, put pressure on themselves to excel, and don’t take enough time for rest and relaxation. It’s true that burnout is something high achievers should keep an eye out for, but it’s also possible to experience burnout as a result of the pandemic we’re all living through.

Working from home, dealing with changes in school schedules, managing childcare, and just keeping a household running are all sources of stress. For some, attending endless Zoom meetings is enough to increase stress levels. When face-to-face, we process signals like facial expression, gesture, posture, tone, distance between speakers, and rhythm of the other’s voice. This happens naturally in person, but video meetings demand extra emotional effort and energy.

The relationships we forge in communal workspaces are also significant. Many of us have most of our social interactions at work, and we turn to colleagues for moral support. When working from home, these casual interactions don’t happen organically, and the loss of those in-person connections can be stressful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put extra stress on all of us, and it’s important that we recognize the signs of stress so we can care for ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here are some signs and symptoms of burnout. As you read through these, ask yourself if you’re experiencing some of them—at work, at home, in your friendships and social connections. The earlier you recognize the signs, the better able you will be to avoid burnout.

  • Fatigue – having a lack of energy and feeling tired
  • Insomnia – trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Forgetfulness – inability to concentrate and lack of focus
  • Increased illness – a weakened immune system makes you vulnerable to illness
  • Loss of appetite – skipping meals that may lead to unhealthy weight loss
  • Anxiety – tension, worry, and edginess
  • Depression – feeling sad, hopeless, guilty, or worthless
  • Anger – irritability that can lead to arguments and outbursts
  • Loss of enjoyment – not wanting to do activities with family and friends
  • Detachment – a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, take time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it. Sometimes, you can alleviate stressful situations on your own. But if you feel overwhelmed and can’t manage your emotions and stresses on your own, seek the help of a professional. Don't stay “frozen” or feeling like you're holding your breath waiting for your feelings to be over.

In the midst of all the stress of the pandemic, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Make sure to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and limit your social media intake. These things can boost your energy levels and help you care for yourself and loved ones. 

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times. 

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