ORLANDO, Fla. — Burnout. It's a word we've been hearing often these past couple of years, but what is it exactly?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

Symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feelings of energy depletion of exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

But burnout isn't necessarily just about work, it can also be about our personal lives. As the U.S. enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, every aspect of people's lives have become more stressful than ever — leading to more emotional, mental and physical demand. 

What You Need To Know

  • Experts say burnout is a real health issue that everyone should take seriously, as it concerns not just a person's mental health but their physical and emotional health as well

  • Burnout has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Health experts recommend speaking with a professional to talk it out and prioritizing self-care

Many people are likely feeling depleted in some way, so how can someone differentiate depression from burnout and just plain old fatigue?

"(Burnout) is simply a state of when you reach your limits mentally, emotionally and physically," said licensed counselor Cherlette McCullough. "It goes beyond that whole sense or that state. Clinically, when we talk about depression, and then, when we talk about burnout, burnout is not a diagnosis, but it can lead to a psychological diagnosis. So burnout and depression, there is some overlap there."

Along with being a counselor, McCullough is also CEO of Centerpiece Couples and Family Therapy in Winter Park, Fla.

If you're unsure exactly what you're going through, McCullough strongly recommends reaching out to a professional to talk it all out.

McCullough's main piece of advice (which I LOVE, by the way) is: Self-care is strength, it is not being selfish. ​

"(It) is really about me taking care of myself, so that I can be the best person for those that I love, those that I serve," McCullough said. "It moves away from that perspective of, 'It's just all about me, it's what I want to do.'

"It's vanity? No. It's really about your mental wellness, your emotional wellness, because that's what makes us who we are."

McCullough stressd the solution isn't about completely revamping your lifestyle overnight. It's about taking small, actionable steps to decrease your stress and remaining consistent.

Those steps include:

  • Setting strict "clock in" and "clock out" hours for work
  • Connect with loved ones, whether it's in-person, virtually or by phone
  • ​Occasionally disconnect from electronics 
  • Carve out even 10 minutes to focus on something which brings you joy

Burnout is real, and can impact one's mental, emotional, and physical health. It can lead to making mistakes, as well as impulsive and risky behavior.

Experts say reaching out to friends, family, managers and professional help can go a long way in understanding what you're going through, and how it's impacting your life. Support systems can also help you pinpoint the steps you can take to reclaim your life. 

Because you can, McCullough said.

"Self care is strength and is not a weakness," she said. "You want to take care of yourself. Think about your family, think about your employees, think about those people that are very important to you and you taking care of yourself is taking care of them and making that time a priority, making it a priority to take care of yourself emotionally and mentally."