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Recognizing Emotional Burnout

Updated: Jan 5

We’ve all said it or heard it said before, “I feel burnt out.” Usually, it’s said after a long day, but feeling burnout goes beyond just having a hard day. Instead, it’s “a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands (helpguide.org).”


Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, in difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on a person, impacting every area of their life.

Our mission at Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries is to help individuals recognize stressors in their lives and help them identify healthy ways to meet their needs and manage their feelings. To that end, we want to explain emotional burnout to help you recognize the signs in yourself or someone you love.

What Causes Emotional Burnout?

Some daily stress is normal; we run late for an appointment, or we have to prepare for a last-minute meeting. But over time, constant or chronic stress can take a toll on the body. We all handle stress differently, so what triggers emotional exhaustion can differ from person to person. However, some common triggers can include:

  • High-pressure work environments (nurses, doctors, police officers, etc.)

  • Significant life changes, such as having a baby or losing a family member

  • Financial stress or anxiety

  • Managing a chronic illness or health condition

One widespread example of emotional burnout was found in nurses during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen studies, including 18,935 nurses, found that nurses experienced high levels of burnout during the COVID‐19 pandemic due to several factors, including younger age, decreased social support, increased perceived threat of COVID‐19, longer working time in quarantine areas, and working in a high‐risk environment.

What Are Signs of Emotional Burnout?

As with many health conditions, every person can experience emotional burnout differently, but some common signs can include:

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Irritability

  • Physical fatigue

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Apathy

  • Change in appetite

  • Irrational anger

It’s important to note that the symptoms of burnout and depression can overlap; however, the two have key differences.


For example, although burnout can be taxing, symptoms are typically temporary and disappear when a person steps back from their situation and focuses their energy on recharging. In addition, emotional burnout tends to have a specific cause, but depression doesn’t always have a specific cause. Click here to learn more about depression.

Combatting Emotional Burnout


One of the most impactful ways to manage burnout is to address the stressor. For example, if your work is the cause of your emotional exhaustion, consider taking a vacation, sabbatical, or reevaluating your place of employment. If you’re grieving and struggling to move forward following the death of a family member or loved one, it might be beneficial to seek professional help to address and acknowledge your feelings.


“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Matthew 11:28-30

At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, our goal is to meet you where you are and guide you through the challenges by offering a confidential, objective, and non-judgmental environment as a safe place for progress.


If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional burnout, we invite you to contact us and let us help you move forward and become the person God created you to be.


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