To a certain degree, stress is a healthy and beneficial element of our lives, contributed to by our personal circumstances, financial situation, work, and emotions. However when these things are not managed in a healthy way, prolonged stress can lead to burnout, resulting in serious physical and mental health challenges.

Chronic stress and burnout may lead an individual to become detached and disinterested in daily activities. Characterised by consistent physical and emotional exhaustion, the intense fatigue can lead to continual feelings of resentment, cynicism and pessimism.

When the body perceives a threat, a release of hormones and chemicals alter our physical functioning and emotional regulation. When this response is constant, unmanaged, or persists in the absence of a dangerous threat, a person is said to be experiencing chronic stress. Burnout is an extreme case of chronic stress.

Both chronic stress and burnout significantly predispose people to a number of additional conditions, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal inflammation, depression, anxiety and substance misuse.

 

Symptoms of chronic stress and burnout

There are a variety of cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms of chronic stress. Some examples include:

  • Difficulty concentrating, poor judgement, memory related issues, increased anxiety;
  • General aches and pains, chest pain, loss of libido, physical exhaustion, dizziness and nausea;
  • Loss of appetite, over or under sleeping or insomnia, social withdrawal, increased use of alcohol or drugs;
  • Significant apathy, resentment, or disinterest in things that used to bring enjoyment or happiness.

With the correct therapy, lifestyle changes and psychological education, anyone experiencing burnout and chronic stress can recover. Living a healthy, happy and balanced lifestyle is essential for positive physical and mental health, and the challenges of life can be overcome with robustness and resilience.

When every day stressors are ignored or poorly managed, these stressors can become overwhelming, depleting your capacity to function normally.