Dealing with Burnout

“The biggest problem with burnout is that it disguises itself as hard work.“ – David Heinemeier Hansson

In today’s fast-paced world, burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue affecting individuals in various aspects of their lives. Singapore, often dubbed as a bustling hub of productivity, is no exception to the growing concerns surrounding burnout.

The term “burnout” was coined in the 1970s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe the physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by individuals working in helping professions.

Understanding Burnout in Singapore:

Recent studies indicate that burnout affects a significant portion of Singapore’s population, with a rising number of individuals experiencing its adverse effects. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Manpower in 2020, approximately 10.2% of Singaporean residents suffered from burnout symptoms, a noticeable increase from previous years.

Different generations may experience burnout differently. Millennials and Gen Z individuals often report higher levels of burnout due to factors like work-life balance expectations, high-pressure environments, and the impact of technology on work boundaries.

Recognising Burnout:

Burnout manifests differently in individuals, but some common signs and symptoms may include:

1. Physical Symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue and low energy levels
  • Frequent headaches or muscle tension
  • Disturbed sleep patterns and insomnia

2. Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Feelings of detachment, cynicism, or negativity towards work and life
  • Reduced concentration and impaired decision-making abilities
  • Increased irritability, mood swings, and a sense of being overwhelmed

3. Behavioural Symptoms:

  • Decreased productivity and effectiveness at work
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Neglected personal self-care routines

Evidence-Based Strategies to Manage Burnout:

1. Self-Care and Well-being:

  • Prioritise sleep: Establish a consistent sleep routine and aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to recharge your body and mind.
  • Engage in physical activity: Regular exercise, such as jogging, yoga, or swimming, can reduce stress, boost mood, and increase energy levels.
  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices can help calm the mind, reduce stress, and promote mental clarity.

2. Set Boundaries:

  • Establish clear work-life boundaries: Clearly define your working hours and create time for personal activities, hobbies, and relaxation.
  • Limit technology use: Set designated times to disconnect from digital devices, avoiding work-related emails and notifications during personal time.

3. Seek Support and Connection:

  • Social support: Maintain healthy relationships and seek support from friends, family, or support groups. Sharing your experiences and concerns can provide emotional relief and a fresh perspective.
  • Professional help: If burnout symptoms persist or worsen, consider seeking assistance from mental health professionals who specialise in stress management and burnout.

4. Time Management and Prioritization:

  • Learn to delegate tasks: Identify tasks that can be shared with colleagues or outsourced to alleviate your workload.
  • Prioritise and organise: Create to-do lists, break tasks into manageable segments, and focus on essential priorities to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Burnout is a pervasive issue, impacting individuals across various sectors and walks of life. By understanding the causes, recognizing the signs and symptoms, and implementing evidence-based strategies, one can effectively manage and prevent burnout. Prioritising self-care, setting boundaries, seeking support, and practicing effective time management are essential steps towards regaining balance and living a healthier, more fulfilling life.

It is important to note that recovery from burnout is a gradual process and varies from person to person. The timeline for recovery depends on various factors, including the severity of burnout, individual resilience, and the effectiveness of coping strategies implemented. While some individuals may experience improvements within a few weeks, others may require several months or even longer to fully recover.

During the recovery process, it is crucial to be patient with yourself and not expect immediate results. It’s important to focus on implementing sustainable changes and making self-care a priority in your daily life. Building resilience, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and maintaining a work-life balance are essential for long-term recovery and preventing burnout from recurring.

If you find that your symptoms persist or worsen despite your efforts, it may be beneficial to seek professional help from mental health practitioners who specialise in stress management and burnout. They can provide guidance, support, and tailored interventions to facilitate your recovery journey.

Remember, burnout is not a sign of weakness but an indicator of the need to reassess and prioritize your well-being. By taking proactive steps to manage burnout, you can restore balance, improve your overall quality of life, and cultivate a healthier and more sustainable approach to work and personal life.

To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us


Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Sanz-Vergel, A. I. (2017). Burnout and work engagement: The JD–R approach. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4, 389-411.

Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., … & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357-368.

Maslach, C., Leiter, M. P., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2017). Burnout: Past, present and future. In Professional Burnout: Recent Developments in Theory and Research (pp. 1-16). Routledge.

Ministry of Manpower. (2020). Job Stress and Burnout. Retrieved from