burnout hero

Burnout: What is it and how can you prevent it?

12 Apr 2023 | |By Felicity Carter

Feeling the burn(out)? London-based wellness expert and mindset coach Lily Silverton shares her advice

When prolonged stress sets in, burnout is just around the corner. A state of exhaustion, both mentally and physically, it’s becoming a more common experience as modern life pushes and pulls us in various directions, and the unyielding demands of daily life take their toll.

Estimates suggest that anywhere from 22 to 88 per cent of UK adults have experienced burnout in the last two years, with the most common causing factor being work-induced stress. But, if you can feel burnout encroaching, what can you do about it? London-based mindset coach and podcaster, Lily Silverton, shares her advice on how to recognise burnout and coping strategies to manage its effects.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that is produced by extreme and prolonged stress. It often stems from job-related pressures, but anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk – from the office worker who hasn’t had a holiday in years to the exhausted stay-at-home mum balancing kids, housework, and ageing parents.

The modern world’s relentless exposure to content and noise – in large part from our smartphones – is also a huge factor in feeling burned out. For many, the boundary between work and personal life is thin (if non-existent) and very often our version of ‘rest’ involves further stimulation – i.e. scrolling through social media or listening to an engaging podcast.


It’s normal to have tough days, where you feel overwhelmed, overloaded, or generally unable to face the demands of life. However, if this drowning sensation is becoming the norm, you could be burned out. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a gradual process, and it’s important to pay attention to your general stress levels to spot the early signs and symptoms of burnout. These include:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having little enthusiasm for your work or home life
  • Feeling like a failure or plagued by self-doubt
  • Isolating yourself from others

To note, burnout and stress are different. Stress tends to involve feeling too much: too many pressures that demand a lot of you physically and mentally. Burnout, on the other hand, is about feeling not enough. This means feeling empty, exhausted, devoid of motivation, or beyond caring.

How can you prevent burnout?

The simple answer is to confront it. Whether you feel burnout coming on or you’re already way past breaking point, the most important thing to do is pause and make changes. If you try to keep going and push through the exhaustion, you’ll only cause yourself more harm.

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Manage burnout by finding strategies that take you away from work and the constant stimulation of modern life

How can burnout be managed? 

Dealing with burnout requires the ‘Three R’ approach:

  • Recognise: Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse: Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress
  • Resilience: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

What this means in practice is taking steps to recognise the factors that are triggering your burnout and equipping yourself with strategies to manage them. Luckily, there are many common causes to burnout, and you may well find that implementing the below suggestions helps to address your stress levels.

  • Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say ‘no’ to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying no allows you to say yes to yourself and the more important commitments and priorities in your life.
    • Monitor your screen time and take small regular breaks. Our screens affect our health, but if a full ‘digital detox’ isn’t workable for you right now, let me introduce you to the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet into the distance. It takes 20 seconds for your eyes to fully relax, which is a tiny time commitment for big health returns. For extra bonus points, stand up to do this – stretch your arms and legs, breathe deeply.
    • Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a very powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or the main factor causing your stress. Think of it as an opportunity to rest your mind and reset your soul.
    burnout screen time
    Take regular breaks away from screens
    • Re-evaluate your priorities. You can only do so much, and it may be that you’re trying to fit too much into your life and are prioritising too much. We have limited time, energy, and resources so it’s essential to think about what’s important to you and try to organise your life so that you’re doing more of that, and less of all the other stuff. It may be that you need to treat your wellbeing like work and schedule in time for relaxation, creativity, sleep, and time away from technology etc. 
    • Shift your mentality from input to output. Stop thinking in terms of how much time you spend working each day, and instead focus on producing and delivering good work. You may find this will leave you with more time in the day and allow you to feel less guilty about fitting in your other responsibilities.
    • Take a digital Sabbath. When possible, I love a ban on emails, Google and apps from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Try 24 hours over the weekend where you only use your phone to message and talk to your friends and family – resisting all urges to open an app or even Google something. With practice, it’s surprisingly easy and incredibly refreshing.
    • Find one relaxing, non-screen-based activity you love. Whether it’s reading a book or magazine, doing a puzzle, taking a hot bath while listening to a podcast, trying some meditation or one of a million other things that may work for you. If you’re always turning to the TV or a screen for your relaxation time in the evening, replace it with this activity one night per week. This is a particularly good one if you’re struggling with sleep (which is most people!).
    • Monitor your thoughts. What you say to yourself makes a big difference to how you see and understand the world. Constantly telling yourself you’re stressed makes you more stressed and exacerbates the problem by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t ignore your difficulties but also don’t let them become everything. Try to find some perspective on your life and remember to focus on the good whenever you can.
    • Reach out to those closest to you. Social contact is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and reduce stress, and a problem shared is (of course) a problem halved. Don’t assume that opening up will make you a burden – any true friend or loved one will be happy that you trust them enough to confide in them. Arrange regular meet-ups or, failing that, phone or video calls. Also, try to limit contact with negative or draining people; you don’t need to be taking on other people’s baggage right now.

    Want to learn more? Silverton will be hosting a Priorities Live event at The London Edition on 10 July 2023 exploring ‘how to live a busy life without losing the plot’. Tickets here.

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