Even if you’ve never experienced it, you’ll no doubt have heard of the concept of “burnout”. While not a medically diagnosed condition, WebMD describes burnout as “a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. In many cases, burnout is related to one’s job.” Then, there’s “worry burnout”.
Described as a state of emotional exhaustion where someone feels completely worn out and overwhelmed by worry, worry burnout is often the result of prolonged and excessive emotional, physical and mental stress. Exposure to stressful situations – hello global pandemic, cost of living crisis and war in Ukraine – and worrying about things beyond you control can lead to worry burnout. It’s particularly common in those who suffer from anxiety disorders too.
So, how can you tell if your worrying is approaching burnout level? According to Martin Preston, addiction specialist at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, there are five red flags to look out for:
- Increased anxiety
When worrying about everyday situations becomes excessive, it can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety and can even make you physically ill. We all feel anxious sometimes, but worry burnout is when excessive worries don’t go away in the absence of the stressor.
- Feeling unmotivated
Whether the source of worrying is a personal issue or a global matter, people may often feel more socially withdrawn and find themselves disconnected from family and friends. This could be recognised as not getting involved with social events or ignoring contact with others.
- Avoiding the news
Those on the verge of worry burnout may find themselves avoiding the news. It’s not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed with negative news that they can’t listen to, read or watch news programmes anymore. On the other hand, people may become obsessed with the news cycle, meaning it starts to play a big part in their daily lives.
- Feeling exhausted
People on the verge of burnout due to stress can begin to experience and display emotional and physical signs of exhaustion. They will often feel a lack of physical energy, but they also develop the feeling of being emotionally-drained and depleted.
A common sign of exhaustion is the lack of motivation to get out of bed in the morning, or day-to-day life becoming more challenging than normal.
- Feeling sensitive and irritable
Aggressive behaviour is also a common indicator of worry burnout. Irritable individuals may experience a level of sensitivity and aggression towards their family, friends and colleagues.
While everybody experiences some negative emotions within their day-to-day lives, it’s vital to recognise when these feelings are becoming unusual. People will often find themselves thinking more negatively, as they absorb darker emotions.
If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s essential that you seek help, whether that’s via your GP or talking to a therapist. “Everyone gets worried from time to time, but left untreated it can have effects on both your physical and mental well-being. While there’s no way to get rid of worrying completely, there are methods to help you get your stress and worry under control”, says Martin. Here, he shares four tips to help you overcome worry burnout.
- Practice meditation
When worried and stressed, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure and balance your mind and body.
Meditation has many health benefits and is a highly effective way to relieve stress, soften anxiety and improve your mental well-being. Taking time to relax the mind with meditation gives you the space to separate your energy, attention and emotions.
- Write down your worries
Writing can help to boost positive emotions and reduce worries and anxiety, according to research from the British Journal of Health Psychology. Spending a total of 20 minutes per day writing about positive experiences can improve your physical and psychological health.
The aim is to find the positive in worrying situations, to reduce stress, tension and built-up anger. Start by thinking of the thing that makes you feel worried and begin writing about the positives you can take from the experience.
- Stay active
Physical activity can help lessen worrying and can have a massive influence on your physical and mental wellbeing. Exercising regularly, even if that’s just 10 minutes a day, can help individuals suffering from worry burnout.
When exercising, breathing deeper triggers the body’s relaxation response. A cardiovascular activity, like walking outside for 20-30 minutes several times per week, can improve sleep, increase energy and increase stress-busting endorphins. Other forms of physical activity that can help cope with worry burnout are gardening, circuit training, pilates, yoga and tennis.
- Share your worries
Reaching out to family and friends for help and support is crucial when coping with worry burnout. Socialisation increases a hormone within our bodies that can decrease levels of anxiety and make us feel more confident in our ability to deal with stress.
Limited social support has been linked to increased levels of depression and loneliness, and has been proven to alter brain function and increase the risk of alcohol use, drug abuse, depression and suicide. Social interactions with family and friends play a crucial role in how you function on a daily basis.