Anxiety and burnout are terms that individuals are likely familiar with, but what individuals may not be aware of is what these terms mean and how they are related.

Symptoms of Anxiety Include:

  • Restlessness
  • Feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Mental or physical fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance
Person with book on her face due to anxiety and burnout

Anxiety can also be described as excessive worry that often disturbs normal functioning. This is because–when a person feels extremely anxious–their body enters into a “Fight or Flight”
response. This response is when the sympathetic nervous system is activated and the brain tells the body that they are being threatened and that the body must fight or flee to protect itself.

While this automatic system of self-preservation can be life-saving, it is not always accurate in differentiating between real vs. perceived threats. For example, if an individual is speaking publicly they may equate judgement to an actual threat towards one’s well-being. As you know, judgement cannot actually harm a person physically, but it may harm them emotionally. Regardless, our brains generalize all threats as a means to be better safe than sorry.

Symptoms of Burnout Include:

  • Mental and/or physical fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty engaging intellectually or emotionally
  • Decrease in physical health (e.g., cold, flu, headaches, joint pain)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Symptoms of depression, sadness, emptiness, or helplessness
  • Decreased sense of purpose
  • Irritability
  • Decreased motivation

Burnout typically occurs when the symptoms of anxiety go unchecked. These symptoms are similar to anxiety, but instead of being on high alert (“Fight or Flight”) like you would with anxiety, one instead feels more depleted and exhausted. Our bodies and minds cannot sustainably live in prolonged states of anxiety, which is why it is so important to check in with anxiety and implement certain self-care activities to prevent burnout from occurring.

Different Self-Care Acts Include:

  • Relaxation: Meditation, breathing exercises, grounding exercises, spending time in nature, listening to calming music
  • Health: Going on a walk, getting enough sleep, scheduling regular checkups with doctors, planning healthy meals for the week
  • Expression: Journaling, creating artwork, singing, dancing, trying a new hobby, styling an outfit or one’s hair
  • Rejuvenation: Showering, clearing out old belongings, reorganizing one’s bedroom or living spaces, organizing, spending some time outdoors
  • Connection: Getting coffee with friends, calling family members or friends, joining a book club, planning events with a loved one, joining a new class, volunteering
  • Comfort: Baking/cooking, lounging with your favorite blanket, burning your favorite scented candle, making a coffee or tea

Self-care is individualized, which is why it is important for people to know what makes them feel relaxed, healthy, expressive, etc.. This also means that self-care may look different from person to person. For example, one person may find organizing to be rejuvenating, but another person may find organizing to be relaxing. Because of this, it may be helpful to create a list in each of these categories of all the activities that make you feel these ways. That way you can become even more aware of what works for you, making it easier to know what to implement when feeling stressed or anxious.

Areas to Implement Self-Care Include:

  • Work/School
  • Health/Wellbeing
  • Relationships
  • Recreation
  • Finances
  • Spirituality

It is also important to be aware of where you are, or are not, implementing self-care. If we neglect self-care in one area of our life, we are more likely to experience burnout in that area and even in general.

Anxiety is likely to occur for all individuals, but it is up to the individual about how they handle that anxiety. If it goes unchecked, burnout is likely to occur. To avoid burnout, individuals must understand their patterns of anxiety and take on the responsibility of caring for themselves in the ways that work best for them.

One thought on “Combatting Anxiety and Burnout: The Importance of Self-Care

  1. All good advice and well presented. Proud of you promoting good mental health and helping others. You are a treasure

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