The Forge

The annual cost of burnout to the global economy is estimated to be £255 billion*. That’s a staggering number, but what does that actually mean when you break it down to the individual level. What is the true cost of burnout to YOU?


If it is not addressed, long term burnout can have a profound and lasting impact on your mental health. This can range from feeling disinterested and demotivated by your work at one end of the scale to severe depression and suicidal thoughts at the other. Once you enter the negative cycle of burnout, this can have significant impact on the quality of your sleep which we increasingly know is key to maintaining good mental health. Poor sleep means that your brain is not refreshing properly which can lead to a dangerous chemical imbalance which exacerbates symptoms of burnout and so the cycle continues. Poor quality sleep over a long period of time has also been associated with dementia.


Burnout can also have a very physical effect upon your body. When you are burned out your motivation and impetus to engage in sports and activities that you previously enjoyed may dwindle, leaving you feeling lethargic, sluggish and guilty. You may find yourself more reliant on crutches such as alcohol, junk food or tobacco, which may make life seem more bearable in the short term, but actually only make things worse in the long term. You may gain weight, your skin and hair may appear dull and you may even experience more severe symptoms of stress such as heartburn, eczema, heart palpitations and migraines. Exercise is now proven to support good mental health as it triggers serotonin and endorphin, chemicals which stimulate our brain and help us feel happier. When these brain chemicals are in short supply, this can worsen burnout symptoms and perpetuate the negative spiral of inactivity. You may feel that we are too tired to exercise, but conversely, even gentle exercise actually gives you more energy and can help you break the burnout cycle.


Burnout can have detrimental effects on your relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Although we primarily consider burnout within the context of the working environment, it would be impossible to isolate the impacts to the individual only when they are at work. Everyone, to differing degrees, takes their work home with them and for burnout sufferers the ripple effects on their nearest and dearest can be far reaching. Sapped of energy and feeling completely exhausted means that you do not give the best of yourself in the evenings and at the weekend and also makes socialising feel more like a chore than a source of relaxation. You may find yourself coming up with excuses to avoid social occasions and becoming more and more withdrawn which exacerbates the negative cycle. Social interaction has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health, wellbeing and longevity.


Burnout can really have a negative impact on your sense of purpose and what you want to get out of life. You may have started your job full of energy and ambition about where you wanted your career to go. But now you are just struggling to get through every day, let alone think about the next promotion or upskilling yourself to get to the next stage of your career. You may also find yourself questioning whether you are even in the right career at all. On top of all the other myriad pressures on your life, lacking a sense of purpose and not really believing that all the effort you are expending is worthwhile can be incredibly draining.


And to bring it all back to crude numbers, having to take extended time off work, often unpaid, paying for therapy or medical support, forking out for holidays which don’t make your feel any better. This all adds up. It may feel like a massive outlay but investing in yourself in the short term will pay dividends in the long term. Focusing on your self-care, through regular and repeatable activities that allow you to focus on building new healthier behaviours, rather than one-off splurges for a day at a health spa, which won’t ultimately make any difference, is key.

Burnout is becoming more and more pervasive, especially in the wake of the global pandemic, and the rising cost of living. It’s impact on individuals can be devastating if not addressed. Tackling burnout is not easy but taking steps to change our individual behaviours are a way in which we can better equip ourselves to thrive in the face of increasing global challenges.

If you’d like to find out more, you can take a short test to determine your burnout score and what actions you can take, if required.

You might also be interested in our Free Yourself From Burnout Programme, a five-day, outdoor immersive experience in which you get to address the triggers of burnout and learn new behaviours to break the cycle once and for all. For more information click here.

*World Economic Forum, Oct 2019:

Posted: 11.05.22 | Health and wellbeing

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