3 Types of Burnout and How to Combat Them

Dhwani Shah
July 16, 2024
4 min read

These days, it's not uncommon to find yourself or the people around you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and unmotivated. Whether it's the ramifications of a cumbersome workload or a staggering amount of personal responsibilities - burnout has become a common phenomenon in today's fast-paced world. 

Burnout is a collection of different physical, emotional, and mental reactions in response to unmanaged chronic workplace stress. In our heads, burnout might commonly look like someone burying their face in their hands and pulling their hair in despair. However, it can manifest itself in different forms. 

Whether you're a student struggling to keep up with coursework or a teacher juggling multiple responsibilities, it's imperative to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout as early as possible because of the numerous significant health risks that stem from chronic stress - depression, anxiety, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, to name a few. Burnout also affects the brain, causing memory impairment and decrease in concentration levels and altering the areas of the brain related to emotions and metabolism. 

Feeling burnt out has become a common phenomenon in today's fast-paced world.

Here are the three different types of burnout and ways to overcome them:

1. Overload burnout

As the name suggests, overload burnout occurs when you are, quite literally, 'overloading' your brain and body with work and responsibilities. It implies working desperately and hysterically to achieve success, putting your health, well-being and personal life on the sidelines. 

This is the most common type of burnout that most people experience. Overload burnout is a real struggle that many students face, especially during busy times like exam season or when trying to balance multiple responsibilities simultaneously. It can leave learners feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and just plain burnt out. The pandemic also saw teachers and other professionals struggling to balance working from home and looking after their families while also dealing with the mental and emotional strain from the uncertainty and hardship. 

Venting and complaining is the most common way people deal with overload burnout. To combat this type of burnout, they often go into a frenzy, trying to do more to solve their problems, creating a vicious cycle of more work and responsibilities and, thus, more stress.

People experiencing overload burnout work at an unsustainable pace, often to the detriment of their health and well-being.

Ways to combat overload burnout

  1. Prioritize self-care. Make time for breaks and activities that help you relax and recharge, such as exercise, meditation, spending time in nature or taking up a hobby to pursue in your free time.
  2. Gradually try to dissociate your self-worth and identity from your work. Your worth is not measured by your productivity.
  3. Realize that rest is incredibly important. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is rest. 
  4. If you feel overburdened and overwhelmed, talk to your superiors to take something off your plate so you can be more efficient and also happy.

2. Under-challenged burnout

This may sound odd, but not doing enough can also lead to burnout. At the other end of the spectrum comes the type of burnout that people experience when they feel unappreciated, bored or unmotivated in their work. Under-challenged burnout often occurs when they are not stimulated or challenged enough, or not offered opportunities for growth and learning, resulting in monotony and dissatisfaction. Another cause of this type of burnout is disengagement and disconnection from colleagues and superiors, leading to a lack of motivation, loss of passion, avoidance of responsibility and cynicism – a situation many of us dealt with while working from home during the pandemic.

For students, under-challenged burnout can occur when they feel like they are not being pushed to their full potential or are not given enough opportunities to challenge themselves. Everyone's learning style and pace are different, and not being proffered the more challenging and exciting tasks can lead to feelings of boredom, disinterest, and ultimately burnout. 

Not being challenged or stimulated by your job can lead to under-challenged burnout, manifesting in dissatisfaction and boredom.

Ways to combat under-challenged burnout

  1.  If you feel under-challenged, don't be afraid to speak up and ask for more challenging work or activities to help you reach your full potential.
  2. To defeat the demotivation, find something to feel passionate about. Devote time to anything that piques your curiosity or seek out extracurricular activities or hobbies that challenge you in different ways. The passion this ignites will slowly and eventually spill over into your work.
  3. Try job crafting to customize your job to make it more meaningful and enjoyable. 
Returning to an old hobby can re-ignite your lost passion and positivity.

3. Neglect burnout

Neglect burnout is a result of feeling helpless and uncertain when faced with challenges. This type of burnout arises from a need for more guidance, support and structure at the workplace. The lack of clarity and communication prevents you from being able to satisfy the requirements and fulfill the expectations of the work; as a consequence, you begin to feel incompetent and frustrated, quite like the imposter syndrome. Over time, this makes you feel unmotivated and apathetic about your work.

Many students experience neglect burnout when they feel overwhelmed and can't keep up with their studies. This can also be due to a lack of clear instructions from the teachers. They then tend to neglect responsibilities and put off assignments until the last minute, which can lead to stress and anxiety. 

Learned helplessness is a significant characteristic of those dealing with neglect burnout - they become passive and stop finding, or even trying to find, solutions to the challenges they are facing.

Ways to combat neglect burnout

  1. Set realistic goals for yourself. It's important to remember that you can't do everything at once, so prioritize your tasks and focus on what's most important.
  2. Instead of focusing on what you can do, try to think of things you can't do – things you can avoid doing by outsourcing or delegating. Think of tasks you resent doing or generally dodge, and set healthy boundaries when taking such tasks up.
  3. Feel free to ask for help when you need it. Whether it's reaching out to a coworker or a superior when you are unsure and confused, or talking to a friend or family member, having support can make all the difference. 
  4. Take breaks throughout the day to focus on something that brings you joy. Whether it's going for a walk, reading a book, or watching a funny video, taking a few minutes to do something you enjoy can help you recharge and feel refreshed.
Maintaining a balance between your personal and professional life is essential in combating burnout.

Burnout can come in diverse forms, and different people experience it differently. It is possible to be experiencing more than one type of burnout at the same time. However, identifying the kind of burnout you may be facing can better equip you to combat it. You may also seek help from a psychologist to help you identify and cope with burnout and its struggles.

"You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you."

Dealing with burnout can be tough. Whether you're experiencing emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion, it's important to recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to prevent it from becoming overwhelming so you can continue to thrive in your personal and professional life. So, take a deep breath, prioritize your well-being, and keep moving forward!

Mental Health
Dhwani Shah

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