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How to recognise and avoid burnout

Calvin England working in the Studio
  • Written byRawan Alshwaiki
  • Published date 19 July 2022
Calvin England working in the Studio
Calvin England working in the Studio

Burnout is a debilitating state that can be caused by multiple factors, such as high levels of stress. It can be a serious problem, affecting your performance and wellbeing, both at work and in your personal life. So how can you recognise burnout, and what can you do to avoid it?

When you’re living it, it can be hard to differentiate between stress and burnout. In simple terms, stress is often short-term and can disappear or lessen when the cause behind it goes away. That said, long-term stress can also affect you negatively. Burnout usually takes place over a longer period and may, for example, lead you to feel disconnected from your work.

There are various signs of burnout, including exhaustion, isolation, irritability, and frequent illness. As it’s a long-term effect, burnout can also lower your immune system making you more susceptible to colds, flu, and insomnia. It can sometimes contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety too.

People with burnout tend to feel overwhelmed. As a result, they can feel too tired or emotionally unavailable and stop socialising with family, friends and co-workers. More so, it can lead to heightened sensitivity and cause feelings of irritability to come out more often.
If you’re feeling under pressure, it’s important to watch out for signs of burnout so you can identify it and take steps to avoid it or get better.
There are many steps you can take to help with burnout, for example:


As is often the case, exercise is essential. It helps us physically and can provide mental support as well. Mini-workouts and short walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit. There is no need to spend hours in an expensive gym; 20 minutes of workout or running can help. Fresh air can also help to clear the mind.

Eat a balanced diet:

We all love to eat junk and comfort food. Eating a balanced diet does not mean getting rid of these. However, adding foods rich in omega-3s like flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fish may help give your mood a boost. A healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids can be a natural antidepressant.

Practice good sleep habits:

Our bodies need time to rest and reset, which is why healthy sleep habits are essential for our well-being. It’s particularly important to maintain good sleep habits if you’re feeling run-down or under pressure. Avoid caffeine before bedtime, establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, and ban smartphones from the bedroom.

Ask for help:

During stressful times, it’s important to reach out for help. If asking for help feels difficult, consider developing a self-care “check-in” with close friends and family members so that you can take care of each other during trying times. There is no shame in that.

It’s important to try and stay in tune with yourself. Recognising burnout early-on can help you set up steps to avoid it but, self-denial can occur. Being able to self-reflect can help you attend to your own needs, and realistically set personal goals and expectations for yourself. Try to set a weekly schedule or a list of priorities to get ahead before the week starts, so you don’t wait for the weekend from Monday morning.

Finally, if you feel as though your work is piling up, speak to your tutor or employer to explain the situation and see if they can support you. If you’re a UAL student, contact the Student Services team for further advice.