Is it Just Stress, or is it Burn Out?


You wonder, “Is there a difference between the two?” When you are under stress, you can have temporary feelings of fatigue, anxiousness, moodiness and restlessness. These feelings can subside if the situation causing you stress is removed. But if these feelings hang around day after day without an end in sight, you may be suffering from burn-out.

Often we associate burn out with our jobs. Too many hours, too many days in a row with intense deadlines. The feeling that someone is always looking over your shoulder. The fear of a difficult boss, or the challenge of an annoying colleague.

Working for a company that has been going through turmoil. Maybe watching friends getting laid off and wondering if you’re next. Not getting any vacation time in a long time. Feeling powerless and frustrated. All of these things can lead to the stress lingering for more than just a few days, and ending up in burn out.

It’s important to get a handle on it as soon as you notice it. Stress and burn out that goes unchecked can have impact on your health and overall well-being.

What are some of the signs and symptoms?

 Feeling tired and drained a lot of the time

 Poor appetite, or the opposite, the desire to overeat to keep up your energy

 Having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep

 Feeling undervalued or unmotivated at work

 Headaches, back pain, or neck pain

 Sense of failure and self-doubt

 Negative outlook on job and life in general

 Lack of feelings of accomplishment

What can you do about it?

 Start your day off doing something that inspires you. You might meditate first thing in the morning. Some people find doing so to soothing music refreshes them. Or get up and go for a walk, or a run, or work out to an exercise CD to get oxygen to your brain and know you’ve done something really good for yourself to start your day.

 You might take up writing in a journal or reading inspirational literature, or both.

You can do this first thing in the morning, or last thing at night before you go to bed. Both help to put your mind at ease and in a more positive place. Writing gratitude before you go to bed can be so supportive.

 Be more conscientious about what you eat. What we put in our bodies can influence how we feel for the whole day. You might want to lower or eliminate the amount of sugar you take in. Same thing for simple carbohydrates like white flour and white rice. Go for whole grains, veggies and fruits. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. It’s always good to stay well hydrated.

 Start a creative project. Something that you haven’t done in a long time. Maybe an art project, a knitting project, or a wood working project. Something you can feel great about when you’re done. Exercising our creative juices is always good for those happy hormones.

 Make sure you get plenty of rest. Eight hours of sleep a night is very important for everyone. Do your best to not stay up til the wee hours watching TV or spending time on the internet. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but they can rob you of precious needed sleep time. And take naps if you’re called to. Your body is telling you something. Listen.

 Mostly, tune into your body and listen to its needs. Indulge in self-nurturing activities like baths or massages. Whatever will reduce the stress for you.

All of these things are important to do for yourself, and, if it seems appropriate, get the help of a professional who can help you get to the bottom of your burn-out, and help you on your way to finding better answers on your life’s journey.


About Nancie Kohlenberger LMFT

Nancie Kohlenberger is both a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California, and a Marriage Consultant nationally and internationally. She has been in private practice for 17 years, and in recent years has specialized in supporting couples whose relationships are challenged when one or both has ADHD. Nancie was on faculty at the University of Santa Monica where she taught Master’s level courses in Counseling Psychology and in addition, supported Master’s level students in Spiritual Psychology. Prior to this, she too completed both Master’s level degrees at the University of Santa Monica. She also holds a Master’s degree in Education from Kent State University in Ohio. Nancie co-authored the book, The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD with Melissa Orlov. She has spoken for CHADD (Children and Adults with ADD), and been interviewed by a number of radio programs, and TotallyADD out of Canada. She has written articles for a variety of publications including the PsychCentral website. Nancie’s website is