Battling burnout

When life and work pile on the pressure, it can lead to burnout. But there’s help out there to manage your stress levels and find your spark again.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that can weigh you down after experiencing long-term stress.

Aviva spokesperson Dr Doug Wright, who has over 30 years’ experience in healthcare, describes burnout as:

  • A psychological, physical and emotional state people can find themselves in when they’ve been dealing with poorly managed stress for a long time.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added burnout to their International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11) as an occupational phenomenon, resulting from "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” Footnote [1].


What causes burnout?

As we can see from the WHO definition, burnout is often tied to workplace stress. However, there's a long list of other things that can stack up and help contribute to a heavy load of stress.

From the joy (and terror) of becoming a new parent to the painful loss of a loved one, good and bad life events can contribute. Or maybe money worries keep your burning eyes open at night, or a relationship has cracked your heart, or illness has created a cloud of worry. There are many things that can cause stress to multiply.

And it affects everyone differently. The things that can cause you stress, or cause that stress to tip over into burnout, probably aren’t the same as the person next to you. When it comes down to it, we all react to stress differently. And the level of stress you can tolerate can change at different points in your life and might be higher or lower than someone else.


Signs of burnout and stress

A persistent feeling of mental and physical exhaustion that you can’t quite shake off is widely agreed to be one of the main red flags of burnout.

According to the NHS Footnote [2], these are some of the signs you may be stressed:

  • be irritable, angry or tearful
  • feel worried, anxious, hopeless or scared
  • struggle to make decisions, have racing thoughts or feel overwhelmed
  • stomach problems, stress headaches and the odd pains including muscle pain
  • skin reactions, like stress rashes and hives
  • feeling dizzy, sick or faint

Dealing with burnout

Just like stress affects everyone differently, what works best to beat burnout will also vary from person to person. The idea is to find the solutions that work for you.

The NHS has some suggestions about what might help Footnote [2], including:

  • Splitting big tasks into easier chunks
  • Celebrating small wins
  • Challenging unhelpful thoughts
  • Being more active
  • Planning ahead for any upcoming stressful days or events

Plus, talk to someone. That could be asking for help from your manager or colleagues, speaking to a friend or loved one over a cup of tea, or chatting to a professional.

Dr Doug has this advice when dealing with stress and burnout:

Take note of your moods – recognise changes to your mood and behaviour.

Do something to help switch off – do an activity that requires your attention, like cooking, exercising, reading, drawing or making something.

Take your own advice – think about what you would say to a friend who was in your position and act on your own advice.

Take time away – your mind and body can’t run on full power all the time, so being able to rest and recharge is one of the best ways to prevent burnout. This includes getting good quality sleep.

Use any wellbeing support that’s available – this could include perks offered by your employer, added benefits you get from things like insurance policies, free online resources from trusted resources like the NHS, or help and advice you can get from your doctor’s surgery. 


Wellbeing support with us

If you have health insurance with us, we offer a range of wellbeing options for you to use.

If you need to talk to a professional, you can get up to five video consultations, per member, per policy year with a private GP via the Aviva Digital GP app ^, which is provided by Square Health.  

In addition, our health insurance automatically includes up to £2,000 of cover for outpatient mental health treatment if you're referred by your GP.

With our Stress Counselling helpline, you can help lighten your worries by chatting privately to a trained counsellor. Meanwhile, we also provide a variety of mental health support articles ^ to browse.

Improving your health overall may help you tackle the symptoms of burnout.  With our health insurance, you'll have access to MyHealthCounts, which is an online health risk assessment and reward programme, gives you access to tools to gain a better understanding of your health, how to make lifestyle adjustments to help improve your health and you could be eligible up to 15% off your renewal premiums.

And if you need more help with that last one, Get Active ^ opens the door to offers at health fitness clubs nationwide, as well as discounts on products and services that could help you and your family live healthy, active lifestyles.


^ These services are non-contractual and can be changed or withdrawn at anytime.

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