Do you feel mentally and physically exhausted all the time, like you’re perpetually wasted? Are you at a point in your career where you think that caring about your work and personal life seems like a total drag on you? Do you feel like nothing you do makes a difference and every day turns out to be a bad stressful day?
If your answer to at least two of the questions above is yes, then you may well be experiencing burnout. Burnout is directly related to stress. Stress accumulates gradually and builds up into burnout. Studies show that stress and burnout stem from adverse work conditions, but they have different triggers, symptoms, consequences, and remedies. So, in this article, I will share with you the difference between stress and burnout.
Definitions and basic difference between stress and burnout
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to unprecedented or excessive demand on your time and energy. It is a feeling of emotional or physical tension and originates from any circumstance or location that makes you feel irritable, frustrated, and angry.
Stress typically occurs when you face more than you can normally handle at a time. You may be able to handle the pressure, perhaps because you’re racing against a deadline. However, having more on your plate than you can naturally cope with is a stress trigger.
Burnout, on the other hand, results from prolonged stress. When you get tired, lacking any will or motivation to continue your work, you’ve hit the burnout threshold.
Burnout occurs when you’re emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. Burnout essentially leaves you feeling drained emotionally, and physically overwhelmed, and unmotivated.
Note that stress can also progress for a long time, in which case it is called chronic stress. In this case, the stressor could be a long-standing problem, like lack of money or an unfulfilled goal.
In the worst-case scenario, burnout affects your productivity at work. It may — and most times do — spill over into other aspects of your life, such as family, personal, and social life. When you’re burned out, you feel hopeless, helpless, and resentful. It will get to a point where you feel like you have nothing left to give.
But when it’s stressful, you may still be able to produce positive results, meet a target, and finish a challenging task. But you will wind up feeling drained later. So unlike burnout, stress can create a positive outcome.
While you can generally recover from the stress by getting adequate rest, dealing with burnout requires immediate medical attention as it could lead to other illnesses. In the following paragraphs, we’ll further explain the difference between stress and burnout in terms of symptoms and behavioral signs.
Sign and Symptoms of Stress
Stress is natural to the body and can be beneficial to the body. When your body undergoes stress, it reacts by releasing hormones that make your brain more alert.
It also makes your muscles tense and increases your pulse. This physiological change drives the reaction that follows by helping you handle the situation causing the stress.
Below are the signs and symptoms that show if you’re going through stress:
- You have recurring headaches.
- You’re losing focus and lacking energy most times.
- Stiffness around the jaw or neck
- Tiredness; you know you’re stressed when your energy is drained by day’s end.
- Frequent body aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Perpetual or random lack of energy
- If you’re having trouble sleeping or you’re sleeping too much, it’s a sign of stress.
- Resorting to drinking or drugs to relax your nerves
- Consistent weight loss or gain
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Sign and Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout does not necessarily refer to days when getting out of bed requires a lot of determination. It is a silent creeper, waiting to take over if left unattended.
Burnout does not happen suddenly or overnight. This means that a process leads to the condition we know as burnout. Therefore, if you pay attention to your body and work on actively reducing stress, you will prevent a major breakdown. The following are the signs and symptoms of burnout.
- Feelings of tiredness and weakness most of the time
- Putting off tasks that ought to be done now
- Detached from friends and colleagues
- Feeling too tired to get out of bed
- Lack of motivation or drive towards work
- Poor relationship with friends and family
- A gradual change in appetite or sleeping habits
- Developing a negative outlook on work and relationships
- Lack of satisfaction and sense of personal accomplishments
- Second-guessing yourself, doubting your contributions
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, and resentful
- Use of drugs and alcohol to regain calm and composure
- Arriving late to work or skipping work altogether
- Transferring your aggression and frustrations to others around you
Behavioral difference between stress and burnout
Stress is typically known to be characterized by too much engagement. But when you experience burnout, you may disengage totally from work, family, and friends. Also, stress comes with heightened emotions, while burnout blunts out your emotions.
Stress keeps you active at a level much higher than usual, whereas your activity level is at its lowest ebb when you experience burnout. You feel hopeless and helpless, in addition to losing your drive and energy. As an aftermath of these symptoms, stress could lead to anxiety disorders, especially in cases where the ‘stressor’ or ’cause of stress’ makes the stress hormones remain long after it’s gone.
On the other hand, burnout may lead to depression, essentially taking out the juice in your life. The main damage of burnout is an emotional and psychological drain.
Wrapping up — dealing with stress and burnout
Early detection and management can help prevent burnout. While you may not quickly notice burnout setting in, you’ll know when your stress level is becoming high.
If you’re able to detect and manage the situation early enough, it is possible to lead a productive and enjoyable life. And if you’re by yourself, it is best to reach out to people close to you for help before it’s too late.
Tycoono Media Inc. and its affiliates do not provide medical or psychiatric advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on, for medical or psychiatric advice. You should consult your own medical physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or medical/mental health professional before engaging in any activities, due to content and material contained on this website and on behalf of Tycoono Media Inc.