Are you burnt out or are you depressed?
In this article, I’m going to take you through the subtle differences between burnout and depression so you can determine and distinguish what’s going on for you, and begin to take action to move away from whatever’s going on toward a truly empowered you.
First of all, burnout tends to be associated with our work life or, at the very least, the work we’re doing.
It might not be a career. It might be that you’re working really hard to take care of a sick parent or a sick child. Perhaps you’re working hard in your volunteer work. We can even get burnt out doing things we enjoy.
The idea around burnout is that the stress becomes so high, we’re always feeling stressed.
Stress in itself is not bad. Stress can motivate us. Stress can push us forward. Stress can expand us. However, our bodies aren’t meant to handle constant stress, or to be under pressure all the time.
Intense stress and overwhelm cause us to feel anxious, and even start to feel more cynical and negative about things. We start criticizing things. We start to feel we can’t manage and handle things. We’re so overwhelmed and might even begin to feel a bit numb and uninspired.
The reason we were working so hard meant something to us at one point, but then we start putting so much of ourselves into it that we lose sight of what’s real or important. We start getting down on ourselves. We start thinking we’re a failure. We start thinking negatively, and nothing feels very good.
Most of us can relate to a certain level of burnout at some point in our life. Even when you were in high school, perhaps you felt burnt out studying for exams because you’re studying, and studying and feeling like, “If I have to look at one more fact or figure, I’ll pass out. I’m just exhausted. What’s this all for? Why do this? What’s the point?”
We start going to the space of burnout in our overwhelm.
What Is Depression?
First of all, If you feel you’re severely depressed, please reach out for help. Please reach out to ask for support. There are support lines and resources. Make sure you take advantage of those and recognize that true depression can become serious if it’s not addressed.
Depression is defined as having low spirits. But it’s so much more than that.
Depression begins to be a sense of despondency or dejection in which we’ve lost interest in life. Some people think depression is just sadness. Sadness is a normal human emotion. Sadness is a response to loss when we’ve lost something or even when we’re thinking of the loss of something we never had. We might feel sad, but when we start to feel despondent and we’ve lost interest in life itself, that’s when it starts to look like depression.
Depression can also have a sense of worthlessness to it. It is a low mood in which we struggle to concentrate. We’re not able to focus. The word depression is literally to be pressed down.
We may feel pressed down, but may not even realize we feel pressed down. We just feel so numb, disinterested or apathetic. We don’t want to be here or to deal with any of it. We don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
When these feelings begin to move toward thoughts of harming yourself, or harming others out of a sense of depression, this is where it becomes dangerous.
Depression is real and should be taken seriously. At the same time, know that it is often a stage of grief, a moment in time, and there are tools to support you through it.
The Distinction Between Burnout and Depression
Burnout can become depression if we don’t address it.
Burnout starts to cause us to get a little numb. We start to feel we’re under pressure. We’re feeling pressed down by the overwhelm, the stress, the inability to manage and deal with our stress.
If the sense of burnout goes on for too long, we start to want to check out. We want to throw in the towel and say, “Life’s not worth it anymore” and that’s the danger of depression. This is why I say if you begin to feel that you’re truly feeling depressed, you have to reach out and get help. This is so important.
It’s so courageous and powerful for you to reach out and ask for the help you need.
Recognize Burnout and Manage it Before it Turns into Depression
When you’re feeling burnt out, we can recognize symptoms before getting to the depression stage.
These symptoms might be difficulty managing stress, or the overwhelm we feel. Maybe we haven’t set enough boundaries. Maybe we didn’t anticipate how much it was going to take out of us. The key is to recognize the symptoms and pause.
I love my work, and I get very motivated and enthusiastic about it. Sometimes I work too much. I push myself too hard and I have to step back. That’s when I start noticing cynicism. When I start noticing everyone around me irritates me, or everything around me feels like just too much to bear, that’s when I know I’ve got to do something about it. That’s the time to notice those triggers.
Go for a walk in Nature. Take a long, epsom salt bath.
Do something for yourself that nurtures you.
Take a break and shut down for a bit. Life will go on. Your business will go on. Your work will go on if you take a vacation and stop doing so much.
It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is self-full.
If you are not filled up, you will get burnt out. You could think of burnout as being similar to a vehicle out of gas. If it runs out of gas, it’s not going anywhere. It’s completely stagnant.
All of us as human beings want to grow. We want to develop. We want to realize our potential. That’s why we’re here. Hence, we need to mitigate burnout.
We need to step aside and recognize the difference between burnout and depression before burnout becomes depression. We must get the help we need as we need it.
Sometimes it means opening up to a mentor, or having a coach to guide you and give you tips.
Sometimes when you’re burned out, you’re so caught in the weeds you don’t even know what it is you need. You don’t even realize the car has stopped because there’s no fuel in it. You just wonder, “Why am I stuck? I can’t move forward. What’s going on?” This is when we need to reach out, ask for help, and get a different perspective.
If you’re someone who’d like some support and help, please click here to schedule a free discovery conversation. I’d love to talk with you, understand your circumstances and see if there’s a possibility I can be of support to you.
In the meantime, I hope recognizing the difference between burnout and depression is helpful.
Chances are if you’re reading this article and you’re curious, you’re probably more on the burnout side of things. Someone who’s truly depressed is probably not even going to read an article because they’re so checked out. They just don’t want to see or hear anything. You might be on the verge of that. If you are, please seek help. Make sure you don’t let that go and don’t ignore that. That’s a big red flag for your Soul and for your being.
You deserve more, and you can move through it. You can absolutely move beyond the space you’re in toward a space that feels truly nurturing and empowering.
Burnout or depression, have you been there? Have you experienced these? Most of us have, and I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.
Share this article with anyone else you think it may help, because we need to look out for each other.
For a video version of, Am I Burnt Out or Depressed, watch here: