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Differentiating Burnout from Depressed Mood

Differentiating Burnout from Depressed Mood

When you're exhausted, everything feels overwhelming. Your inbox beeps, and you just want to toss your phone away. Your apartment feels suffocating, but leaving it is equally unbearable. You struggle to find the right words, telling your friends you're exhausted, drained, or just finished.

But how can you tell if this extreme fatigue is burnout or clinical depression? Discover the distinction between them and find ways to ease symptoms of both.

What Is Depression?

Depression means feeling sad and hopeless. It also brings exhaustion, a focus on the negative, or thoughts about hurting oneself. Sometimes, after feeling extremely anxious, you might also experience depression. But depression is different because it's like a constant feeling of being down, even with high anxiety.

Depression involves feeling uninterested or displeased in doing things you used to enjoy. Your perspective and experience can also significantly change. There are various symptoms of depression. For instance, the things that used to make you happy might not have the same impact when you're depressed.

Depression can bring about physical signs such as ongoing tiredness and changes in appetite. It can be challenging, leading some people to withdraw and struggle to carry out daily tasks. It can affect crucial parts of life, like relationships, work, or school.

Common signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling hopelessness

  • Feeling empty

  • Lack of energy

  • Irritability

  • Suicidal thoughts

Risk Factors for Depression

Anyone can be at risk for depression, but some individuals are at a greater risk than others, including those with a family history of depression, unresolved grief, or adverse childhood experiences. Also, anyone with a history of adverse childhood experiences or trauma history is at risk.

What is Burnout?

Burnout happens when ongoing stress, demands, and pressure take a toll on you. Remember, burnout isn't only about work – it can happen in any part of life. It can harm you and your relationships, whether it's stress from your job or personal life. A recent study proves that parental burnout is a genuine issue, and we should pay attention to how it makes parents detach from their children.

Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger introduced the word "burnout" to explain what happens when people in care jobs, such as doctors and nurses, experience long-lasting stress. Now we know it can happen to anyone who feels emotionally tired from being stressed for a long time. We all experience stress now and then, especially people in demanding jobs or those facing a lot of pressure. But if this stress keeps going, it can lead to burnout.

Burnout can make you lose energy and be less productive. You might start feeling down and easily annoyed. After a while, if burnout keeps happening, you might feel like you have nothing left to give.

It's critical to notice when you're showing signs of burnout so that you don't end up with long-lasting physical and mental problems. And once you figure out why you're feeling this way, you can get help from a professional to start feeling better.

Symptoms of burnout

If you get burned out, you might feel tired and numb. Your body might also have physical signs of burnout, like headaches and stomach issues. People close to you, like family or friends, might see you acting differently, like being more easily annoyed or mad.

Common symptoms or signs of burnout include:

  • Not wanting to do things you once cared about

  • Declining work performance

  • Trouble sleeping (or sleeping too much)

  • Forgetfulness

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Anxiety

Common causes of burnout include:

  • Financial troubles

  • Perfectionism

  • Not taking breaks or holidays

  • Long work hours

  • No social support

  • Lack of control

  • Toxic environments

  • Job dissatisfaction

How to reclaim your well-being

Get Physical

Moving your body can make you feel less tense. If you spend time on a computer at work, then use your phone while traveling, and later watch TV, all of this keeps your brain busy.

To help your brain handle stress, take a break from screens. Also, find some time to sit quietly without any distractions, just thinking. Even a short time without your phone can make you feel much better.

Learn to say “no”

Don't agree to do extra things while you're getting better unless you really need to. Learn how to say no without confrontation.

Get someone else to do it

If you have tasks or projects you can give to others, think about letting them handle it. It can make things easier for you.

Take breaks

Take breaks between big tasks or projects to let your mind and body relax. This will help you avoid being stressed all the time and stay more focused and calm.

Don’t bring work home

When you're always using your devices, it's hard to ignore messages, emails, or calls. But it's really important to decide when to stop and not let them disturb you too much. This helps you have a better balance between technology and personal time.

Lastly, if you're not sure what to do to feel better after burnout, therapy can help and might be a good choice.


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