In this two-part blog series, Dr. Sara Thompson, Program Director of the B.S. in Human Services and M.S. in Military and Emergency Responder Psychology programs at CSU Global, discusses the importance of daily self-care practices to avoid burnout at school, work, or in extracurricular activities. Read the second part here



What exactly is burnout? Burnout is emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion that results in energy depletion or exhaustion, that can manifest by distancing oneself from a job, school/classmates, or activity that once brought pleasure. 

We all experience stress. In fact, a healthy amount of stress keeps most people on their toes. Maybe you have a major work or school project due soon. You might feel stressed or overwhelmed a bit, but by breaking the project down into manageable steps, your stress level is likely to not increase and you will get into a groove, delivering a phenomenal project. 

When stress is increased and recurring, chronic stress develops. Chronic stress affects the body in the following ways:

  • Muscular: The muscles in the body remain in a state of being on guard, causing muscle tension.
  • Respiratory System: Rapid breathing or shortness of breath might occur.
  • Cardiovascular: A person experiencing chronic stress may develop high cholesterol, hypertension, or experience heart issues.
  • Endocrine System: An increase of the cortisol hormone can lead to fatigue, immune disorders, and depression.
  • Gastrointestinal: Ulcers may develop.
  • Reproduction: When the reproductive system is affected by chronic stress, there may be a reduction in sexual desire.

As you can see and most likely already know, stress affects the entire body. When we do not address stress, burnout and serious medical issues may occur. 

Some of the warning signs of burnout include:

  • Chronic Exhaustion: Do you find yourself lacking energy and feeling tired often? Do you go to bed early but still wake up tired? Are you moving more slowly in the mornings and finding you need extra time to get ready and get out the door?
  • Isolation: Do you find yourself socially isolating? Are you spending more time alone? Are you making excuses to avoid spending time with friends? Are you searching for ways to avoid attending a meeting?
  • Loss of Productivity: Despite long work or school hours, the symptoms of burnout may prevent you from being able to produce the way you used to, which results in incomplete projects and a stack of work that just keeps piling up.
  • Avoidance: Do you find yourself avoiding work meetings, school obligations, and activities that you once enjoyed? Are you finding that when your alarm clock goes off you keep hitting snooze?
  • Cynicism: Burnout makes you feel like nothing is going right, and this can lead to negative self-talk as well as believing that the glass is always half empty or even depleted. 
  • Illness: Burnout causes excessive stress hormones to be released in your body which affects your immune system. 
  • Diminished Self-Care: Do your family or friends notice that you are not walking, swimming, reading, attending church, or walking your dogs like you used to?

I would love to hear from you about your self-care journey. Please connect with me via email at sara.thompson1 [at]