Mental Health

Beating Burnout

Work can leave you feeling exhausted, distanced and cynical, but you can take steps to overcome and prevent this syndrome.

It’s official: Burnout can negatively affect your health. Now recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout syndrome develops over time and is caused by workplace stress that isn’t successfully managed. Burnout can lead to a negative outlook on your job and hurt your productivity.

According to WHO, burnout can also affect your health and contribute to your need for health care services.

“It may not be the primary reason why people come to see me, but I’ve seen patients who seem to be experiencing burnout,” said Bernard Davidson, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Feeling less joy in your work, feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, or feeling hopelessness about your job are all signs of burnout.”

Care in the Workplace

Unrealistic expectations can contribute to workplace stress and burnout, no matter who is making the demands. Open communication can help bypass these stressors.

“Avoid overloading your schedule with commitments and be realistic about what you can feasibly accomplish,” Davidson said. “Speak with your supervisors to determine what’s expected of you. Oftentimes, your own expectations can be more restrictive than your boss’s expectations.”

If your relationship with supervisors is strained, consider speaking to the human resources department or engaging with an employee assistance program.

Building time into your day for breaks, interacting with coworkers and finding meaning in your work are other good ways to keep stress from piling up in the workplace. If these actions don’t help, or if you find that burnout is affecting your personal relationships outside of the workplace, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Signs of Depression

Clinical depression is a mental disorder related to burnout that should be treated with counseling, medication or both.

“There’s an overlap and separateness between burnout and depression,” said Bernard Davidson, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Burnout must be addressed with behavioral change, but both depression and burnout may benefit from professional help.”

Seek out help from a behavioral health professional if you experience one or more of these symptoms:

• Changes in sleep

• Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt or pessimism

• Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy

• Persistently feeling sad, anxious or empty

For more information about behavioral health or to schedule an appointment with someone who can help, call 706-721-6597, or visit However, if you or someone you love is suffering a mental health emergency and may be a threat to themselves or others, please call 911 immediately.
To find a primary care physician or schedule an appointment at Augusta University Health, visit, or call 706-721-2273 (CARE).

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.