Am I Burned Out, Exhausted, or Tired of Life?


Burnout. There are an endless number of definitions out there, but they all seem to mean the same thing: too drained of fuel and energy to keep on keeping on. So how do you know if you’re actually burned out at work, exhausted, or just tired of life?

What’s the Difference Between Being Burned Out, Exhausted, or Tired of Life?

Well, according to a publication featured on PubMed, a database maintained by the National Institutes of Health, being burned out isn’t a medical diagnosis. So the lines defining it from other emotional experiences are blurry.

But no matter how you define your experience, depression, exhaustion, and burnout all impact your quality of life! While the overlap between depression and burn out is widely agreed upon, various studies have been conducted through the years in order to address how they’re related.

Many experts believe one may cause the other, while others believe that the two are in fact the same psychological construct – especially due to all of their shared qualities including, but are not limited to, a loss of interest and impaired concentration. 

Though the studies still remain inconclusive, “many people who experience symptoms of job burnout don’t believe their jobs are the main cause,” according to the Mayo Clinic. So it’s possible burnout symptoms can be caused by depression and feeling tired of life, rather than just being ground down by your job.

Whatever the cause, the fact is that job burnout affects both your physical and mental health. Let’s dive in more to who burns out and how to know if you’re experiencing it.

So, How Prevalent Is Burn Out?

77% of participants in a study by Deloitte say they have experienced employee burnout at their current job. And more than half say it has happened more than once. 

Whatever, though, right? You hear about people burning out all the time. Surely, it couldn’t be happening to you, because…

  • You are too young and too early in your career to be burned out. Also,
  • You care deeply about the mission of your company and you know your role is crucial to its success. Or maybe….
  • You have always been incredibly motivated and driven, and…
  • You have finally landed your dream job, the one you’ve been working towards for so long.

Um…. could it be happening to you?

It could be happening to you. In fact, guess what? 

Of those surveyed by Deloitte,

  • 84% of millennials say they have experienced burnout at their current job as opposed to 77% of all respondents. And nearly 50% of millennials say they’ve left a job specifically because of burn out, compared to 42% of of all respondents.
    • Takeaway: If you’re a millennial, burnout is way more likely.
  • 87% reported being passionate about their current job, but 64% say that they are frequently stressed — and therefore not immune to burnout.

According to The Mayo Clinic, you are much more prone to burnout if you identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life. Your risk also goes up if try to be everything to everyone at work.

We know the drive to push, strive, and do all you can to succeed. We also know the feeling of pride that can come from pouring your body, heart, and soul into work.

But working extremely hard towards your dream job, and even landing it, may put you at higher risk for burnout at the end of the day, as we see in this article published by Forbes.

Still Think You’re Just Tired of Life? Consider These Classic Symptoms of Burnout

So, how do you know if what you’re experiencing is actually burnout? The Mayo Clinic lists the following indicators as signs of burnout. So, if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you likely are in fact burned out, or burning out, whether you want to admit it or not.

  • Have you become cynical at work?
  • Is it hard to get out of bed, into the office and engaged with work first thing in the morning?
  • Have you noticed you are more irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Have you found yourself with less energy for productivity and struggling to concentrate?
  • Have you felt less or a complete lack of satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Have you noticed that your job is less fulfilling than you thought it would be? Are you feeling let down by it?
  • Have you begun using drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel or think about work?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Have you experienced unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Ok, Maybe I Am Burnt Out. How Can I Be Sure? What Can I Do?

Maybe now you can admit to yourself that you might be burnt out after all. But now what?! This wasn’t supposed to happen to you!! 

Don’t worry. You are not alone. Psychology Today explains that few burnout victims see it coming until it’s too late. And good news, there is a silver lining: if you identify signs of burnout early enough, you can reverse the downward spiral.

Test Where You Fall On The Burnout Continuum?

So the question is … where do you fall on the burnout continuum? Are you actually burned out, or just exhausted or tired of life? 

Try some of these suggested tests to both give yourself a break, and to better understand the severity of your burnout:

Test 1: Treat yourself to a relaxing and stress-free weekend… 

Treat yourself to a relaxing and stress-free weekend (or any consecutive 2-day period where you can cut off from work and anything in your life causing stress entirely). That’s right: no emails, calls or even texts. Remember, your one job (no pun intended) is to avoid stress entirely for two and a half days.

  • Sleep in both days
  • Eat well. 
  • Keep yourself busy with relaxing activities you enjoy…read, write, go to yoga, cook, get your nails done or have lunch with friends. Enjoy and treat yourself!

After these two and a half days, if you wake up to return to work with dread, and are finding yourself unable to get out of bed – you probably aren’t just exhausted and in need of a little break. You, my friend, are burnt out. 

DON’T PANIC. Here’s another test to determine just how severe your burnout is:

Test 2: Take two weeks off

Don’t stress, take a deep breath. You’ve earned the vacation time that you likely haven’t been taking because work has been just too busy. Or at least that’s what you’ve been telling yourself. The rules are same as before – 2 days with stress reduced as much as humanly possible! 

  • Eliminate all stressors
  • Add stress reducers
  • Get in a routine
  • No unhealthy emotional or physical exhaustion
  • Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night
  • Eat at least 3 (ideally healthy) meals a day

If you still feel the same after two weeks, your burnout may be pretty extreme (or you may want to consult a doctor about an underlying issue). 

To recover from being so burned out, it’s time to reevaluate your current lifestyle. You need to reflect on what changes you could make to help yourself recover. Maybe you need to sit down with your manager and set boundaries to help you maintain a better work/life balance. Or maybe it’s just finally time to leave the job you’ve been killing yourself for.

Just remember, no matter how hard you work or how many hours you dedicate, no one can do a good job when running on empty. Not forever, and if you made it here, likely not for much longer.