Burnout—a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress—is not simply a result of working long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out, at work or at home, or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.
Equally pressing is working toward a goal that doesn't resonate, or when a person lacks support. If a person doesn’t tailor responsibilities to match a true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, they could face burnout—as well as the mountain of mental and physical health problems that often come along with it, including headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as increased potential for alcohol, drug, or food misuse.
There is a difference between burnout and plain stress, but sometimes, it can be hard to know what one is dealing with. It may require taking a step back to look at the overall picture of one’s work life. If the feeling is short-lived or tied to a specific project, it's more likely to be stress. If one never feels ready to face one's job or co-workers, or if it feels like achievement has become impossible, it's likely that burnout is looming.