Stress symptoms and burnout symptoms are often associated with each other, and that makes sense because they are closely related. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two, and we would like to explain this difference in this blog.
We all experience acute stress at times. This is our primal instinct and is necessary to act when needed. In ancient times, homo sapiens had this response to, for example, confront wild animals and then return to a state of relaxation.
But the situation today is different. What we increasingly see now is that acute stress slowly turns into a persistent, chronic stress. People are often too busy for extended periods and do not seek enough relaxation, leaving them with limited opportunities to recover. Because our stress response system is not designed for this, the stress becomes chronic. In this state, you constantly feel the need to be alert.
Physically, this difference is also noticeable: your muscles are tense, your breathing becomes shallower as extra oxygen is automatically pumped through your body. Our whole system is geared up for increased adrenaline release by the adrenal glands.
If you experience chronic stress for an extended period, your adrenaline levels will eventually run low. However, your system still wants to remain alert and in an active state, so your body starts producing the stress hormone cortisol instead. This keeps us in that active state even at night, and we keep pushing ourselves further. This has significant consequences for the rest of the body, including the digestive system, immune system, and reduced serotonin release (which can lead to depression).
When this cycle persists for weeks, months, or even years, it leads to physical exhaustion. This is what a burnout is. It starts with mental, acute stress, which is healthy. But when we carry this burden for too long, without moments to recover, it becomes chronic and it may transform into a burnout.
Need help with burnout symptoms?
About the author: Barbara Kok
I am privileged to have been guiding others toward a happier and more effortless life since 2007. We sometimes get stuck in negative feelings and limiting beliefs that feel almost like the truth. When this takes too solid a form in our daily lives, especially at work, where challenges can become too great, we become stuck. I look at the individual on a mental, emotional, and physical level. By looking at the whole person in their entire environment, we can address the root cause of the issues. Removing all hindrances at that deepest level creates unprecedented peace and freedom.