5 Signs You’re Overwhelmed, Not Lazy

From the outside, laziness and burnout may look the same. However, both are fundamentally different. Laziness is an unwillingness to work, whereas burnout is a result of feeling overwhelmed. It is not that you do not want to work, but that you are drowning in too much work that you are stuck. 

Burnout can cause many changes to your brain functioning and mental health. Burned-out professionals reported feeling less attentive and more forgetful. But, feeling overwhelmed can cause many more symptoms that are easy to overlook. 

  • Every misstep feels like the end of the world. 

Have you gone through a day and felt triggered by everything? For example, you get to work, and the elevator closes in your face. Or, you bump into someone, and they don’t apologize. Every little moment feels like a crisis, and you feel like you are on the verge of tears. Yeah, that is burnout. Your brain is mentally and emotionally depleted that it is incapable of distinguishing between a minor crisis and a big one.

I am sure that anyone who has been through enormous pressure can relate to the example above. We usually shrug mental and emotional exhaustion off as a bad day, but it’s more than that. Your brain is letting you know that it needs to step back a bit. To breathe. So, take a step back. 

  • Tension headaches

Ah, yes. Who doesn’t love a good tension headache every once in a while? Tension headaches fall between mild to severe, and they feel like a tight band is wrapping around your head. They usually settle on the neck, shoulders, and top/back region of your scalp. Depending on the level of stress, they can last 30 minutes to a week (lovely).  

What most people do, is take pain relievers. However, tension headaches are caused by stress. Hence, the best way to relieve or avoid a tension headache is to reduce your stress. Yoga, massages, breathing exercises, and hot baths are all great ways to relieve stress. You can also try a new hobby if it doesn’t stress you out. 

Tension headaches are the physical manifestation of how you are feeling, so listen to your body. 

  • Chronic low energy or exhaustion

We all experience fatigue or exhaustion in different ways. But, burnout-related exhaustion is a special kind of exhaustion. It is chronic exhaustion that feels impossible to recover from because you constantly feel overwhelmed and maxed out. So, recharge. Take a break. 

  • Frustration

Frustration is a common sign of feeling overwhelmed. Typically, you may take out your frustrations on others or yourself. More often than not, you are more frustrated by the situation you are in than the person you end up taking your frustrations out on.  

When you are overwhelmed, you are irritable and more likely to go off on someone who doesn’t deserve that. So, take some time to practice self-care. It may seem like a waste of time. But, over time, you will realize how vital it is.

  • Self-isolating

Another sign that you feel overwhelmed is that you check out. The opposite of burnout is engagement. When you are overwhelmed, the last thing you will want to do is engage, whether socially or with your work. 

It’s reasonable to not want to engage with others after a long exhausting day. A great way to tell if this is a symptom of being overwhelmed is to see if you check your social media frequently while you isolate yourself. This is an effective tell because humans tend to reach out to others in times of trouble. However, you don’t have the energy to reach out to others even if you want to. Social media makes you feel connected without investing emotional or mental energy in that connection. 

Instead of browsing through social media, focus on your emotional needs and establish a connection with yourself. 

We have all felt overwhelmed at some point. It can be a vicious cycle with lasting effects if you do not notice it. So, please take a break when you need to. Rely on others when you can and take care of yourself. 


Davis, P. (2015, March 27). 9 warning signs of burnout . Psychology Today. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pressure-proof/201503/9-warning-signs-burnout 

Roberts , V. (2020, November 11). You’re not lazy, you’re just overwhelmed: 5 signs that it’s time to help yourself. Breakfast With Audrey. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.breakfastwithaudrey.com.au/5-signs-its-time-to-help-yourself/ 

Skute, B. (2021, January 15). How to tell when you are overwhelmed by life – 17 signs. COPE. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.copepsychiatry.com/press/how-to-tell-when-you-are-overwhelmed-by-life-17-signs/ 

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