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Burnout: what it is and how to get help?

April 12, 2024
Burnout: what it is and how to get help?
April 12, 2024

Burnout is a growing problem in the UK right now with latest research showing that – together with workplace stress – it costs the UK economy £28 billion every year and results in 23.3m sick days a year.

AXA released this data last year (2023) as part of its annual Mind Health Study that also revealed almost half (47%) of the country to be ‘currently struggling or languishing’ and on their way to burning out – if not already there by now.

More recently Mental Health UK published The Burnout Report 2024, which found 1 in 5 workers (20%) in the UK needed time off work in the past year due to poor mental health caused by pressure or stress.

It’s something that ZoomDoc GP Dr Vidushi Gor is not surprised by.

‘Here at ZoomDoc we issue a private Medical Letters service providing official sick notes for employees and employers. We’ve seen an increase of 125% over the last six months in sick note requests as well as a noticeable rise in workplace stress and burnout,’ she says.

Being aware of burnout so you can get help and support before it takes hold is key.

‘Recognising the signs of stress and exhaustion before they develop into burnout could mean less time off work and less cost to the economy – and help is available,’ says Dr Vidushi.

Here’s what to know about burnout, including where you can find support if it’s affecting you or someone you know.

What exactly is burnout?


Experiencing long-term stress or severe stress can lead to feeling physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called “burnout”.


We often talk about stress and burnout together as if they’re the same thing. Although linked they are two different things.

Stress is a common reaction that everybody has when our body feels threatened or under pressure. This reaction triggers the production of adrenaline, a hormone that helps us cope with a difficult situation.

However, ongoing stress or continuous stress without any relief can take its toll both physically and mentally leading to illness, mental health conditions and exhaustion. 

Once this exhaustion affects someone so deeply it affects their work, studies or day-to-day life, it is known as ‘burnout’.

Not officially a medical condition, Mental Health UK describes it as:

‘a syndrome, meaning a collection of symptoms or signs associated with a specific health-related cause. Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress, for example, working a stressful job.’

Burnout: signs and symptoms


Experiencing chronic exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from your job or personal life, a sense of ineffectiveness, a decline in performance, or physical symptoms, you might be moving toward burnout.

In its Burnout Report, Mental Health UK lists common burnout symptoms as:

  • feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • feeling detached/alone in the world
  • having a cynical/negative outlook
  • self-doubt
  • procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • feeling overwhelmed.

What’s causing burnout in the UK?


Everyone (regardless of experience and training) is at risk of succumbing to burnout if exposed to factors such as constant physical exhaustion, insomnia and emotional overload.


In its report, Mental Health UK found the causes of burnout were not just work-related but a combination of factors. It says that ‘the pressures of work, combined with the additional pressures brought about by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are having a big impact on our wellbeing.’

Some of the key factors contributing to burnout include:

  • money worries
  • working arrangements
  • high workload
  • isolation
  • physical health
  • sleep
  • relationships
  • caring for others


Burnout: getting help, support and treatment


If you feel stressed by a certain problem at work; Ask your manager for help; Be realistic; Manage your time and Reward yourself for Achievements.


Talk to your GP – ‘firstly we can make sure your symptoms actually are burnout, as opposed to anxiety, depression or fatigue caused by an illness. Then we can recommend a treatment plan accordingly and help get you back to work, or recommend a fixed time off work, if this is what’s required,’ says Dr Vidushi.

ZoomDoc can put you in touch with a GP at a time that suits you. Simply download our app here. Appointments start from £35.

Read more about sick leave support here.

Mental Health UK recommends the following in order to alleviate stress and prevent burnout (again):

  • Find a supportive network of family or friends outside of work
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get professional support for mental health
  • Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. Take short breaks for meditation or deep breathing exercises
  • Set boundaries to promote a healthy work-life balance.

UK charity, Mind recommends finding out about services in your workplace, such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) which offer free advice and counselling. Or support systems such as mentoring or buddy systems. 

If your manager at work is not supportive it recommends contacting your human resources department or trade union representative, if you have one and don’t be afraid to turn to colleagues for support, too.

For professional help and support aside from your GP, contact:

  • Mental Health UK via mentalhealth-uk.org or info@mentalhealth-uk.org
  • Samaritans via samaritans.org or contact jo@samaritans.org 
  • Shout via giveusashout.org or contact info@giveusashout.org, alternatively text SHOUT to 85258.


Want to know more?

Our team of Doctors are available via the ZoomDoc App for any medical questions or queries.