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Burnout is a mental or physical state experienced after prolonged stress. Burnout is an exhaustion that can be brought on by a variety of situations. Instead of viewing tasks or daily activities as enjoyable, someone experiencing burnout will feel emotionally drained and overwhelmed — typically leading to avoidant behaviors that will worsen the feelings of being overwhelmed or disengaged.

Stress and burnout are not the same. Stress is typically experienced as an overegagement or feelings of not having enough time, resources or support to keep up with your responsibilities. Stress can usually be pointed out as a single issue, such as being stressed out about homework or job deadlines.

Burnout is past the peak of stress, to the point where every day feels disengaged. People with burnout lose motivation and see all activities as pointless. Procrastination worsens these feelings, as responsibilities begin to stack up, making the burnout even harder to overcome. Burnout without any measures to overcome it can lead to developing depression or worsening anxiety.

Academic stress, family relationship challenges, job workload and external stressors such as a pandemic can all lead to burnout. Each situation is different, and it’s important to recognize that burnout, while common, is caused and experienced differently for everyone.

Whether you are seeing yourself approach the breaking point or you already are burnt out, attempting to push through it is not the correct response. Burnout is a sign of needing change. Your responsibilities, workload and priorities need to be reevaluated in order to bring change and reignite your motivation to approach each day.

Seeing a counselor or therapist during burnout is a great step to make a change as therapy is a sign of mental health prioritization. Beyond therapy, overcoming burnout begins with small changes to your daily lifestyle. Small efforts that make tomorrow a little easier are great stepping stones to working through burnout.

Know that you are not alone, and you most likely know someone who has experienced burnout too.