What Is Worry Burnout?
If You're Overwhelmed and Exhausted Right Now, It Could Be Worry Burnout
You've heard of burnout, you've heard of worrying, but did you know there's such a thing as worry burnout? Truly the best of both worlds, worry burnout occurs when you're exhausted and overwhelmed by worry, but at the same time, you can't stop worrying. "When you really break down the feeling of worry, it does cause us to experience stress, frustration, anxiety, and the feeling that we lack control," licensed professional counselor Shae Reid, MA, LPC, CST, CCTP, and executive director at Connections Wellness Group, explains. When you can't turn it off, the negativity of that emotion can cause burnout, leading to symptoms of exhaustion, fatigue, and anxiety.
Of course, it's no surprise that worry burnout is coming to the forefront right now. We're coming off of two years of pandemic life, which have also included racial violence, political upheaval, and now war — and that's just when we talk about the bigger picture. There are also all the personal concerns you deal with on a daily basis surrounding school, work, relationships, family, health — the list goes on. We've witnessed a worldwide mental health crisis over the past few years, and the rise of worry burnout feels like a good indication of that: we're being burned out by our own worries, anxieties, and fears.
Worry Burnout: Symptoms and Signs
Worry burnout is a feeling of burnout or exhaustion stemming from overwhelming feelings of worry. Symptom-wise, it can present in many ways, Reid tells POPSUGAR. The most noticeable symptoms are:
- Chronic fatigue. "When we experience chronic fatigue, it feels as though there is no motivation present," Reid says. "We become exhausted, and the body feels physically weak. As this continues, we begin to feel physically, emotionally, and psychologically drained and depleted."
- Anxiety. "Anxiety can present with such symptoms as worry, tension, nervousness, or fear," Reid explains. "The longer the worry burnout persists, the more intense these feelings become."
- Feelings of cynicism or detachment. Worry burnout can cause you to feel cynical or jaded. You might also feel inclined to isolate yourself from family or friends.
How Can I Manage Worry Burnout?
It's normal to be experiencing worry burnout right now, but that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it. "The important thing about worry burnout is to catch it in the early stage," Reid says. "By doing so and taking measures to reverse it, these more severe symptoms can be avoided." Here are a few things you can do right now to manage worry burnout.
- Practice self-care. We know, we know, stop us if you've heard this one before. There's a reason self-care is so highly recommended, though. "When we actively put effort into taking care of ourselves . . . we can adjust our mood, thoughts, feelings, and even our outlook on the day," Reid explains. Self-care strategies are unique to each person, she adds, but can range from simple daily activities — like sleep, meditation, exercise, or taking a bath — to "treat yourself" moments like getting a massage or taking a day off (or a vacation), if possible.
- Identify things you can control. Worry stems, in part, from feeling like you can't control something (or anything). We can counter that feeling by identifying things we can control. "Being able to identify things we actually have control over gives us that feeling of ease and a sense of security" that we do have some power in our lives, Reid says. Note that these don't have to be big things; it can be as simple as deciding what you want to eat, what YouTube video you want to watch, or when to go for a walk.
- Use coping mechanisms. Similar to self-care, coping mechanisms differ from person to person. Spend some time figuring out what activities help you cope with worry burnout, Reid advises. Some people use meditation or exercise, even if it's just a short walk. "Music is useful for clearing the mind," she adds, and even TV or movies can help by "taking our mind off the issue and allowing us to fall into another story."
- Try therapy. Talking to a therapist can be very helpful if you're dealing with worry burnout. You'll be able to express how you're feeling and get validation for those feelings, which "is extremely powerful," Reid says. "It makes us feel like we're not alone in what we're feeling." Remember, too, that therapy isn't just reserved for times when you're really struggling. "Therapy can be utilized when we are noticing that things are changing," Reid says, "and it's more difficult to deal with them than usual."