what is burnout and who does it affect?

Burnout is one of those terms that’s thrown about a lot, particularly in the increasingly overworked, online 24/7 space. But what does it actually mean? And how could it affect you?

Burnout happens when we feel overwhelmed and overworked.  

Everyone has a different point at which they feel burned out. That doesn’t make anyone right or wrong; we all have different amounts of stress which we can cope with. 

Stress is often an early warning sign. If the cause(s) of stress aren’t dealt with, it can lead to burnout. This can take longer to recover from and have more long-term consequences. 

When we hit burnout, it becomes almost impossible to function. Small tasks like going for a shower feel like climbing a mountain. And after completing the task, it can leave us drained all over again. 

It could also cause brain fog, or executive function issues. This is where we struggle to think properly, or understand basic instructions. These problems can cause further stress, making us feel worse, and cause issues at work or at home when we don’t understand something. 

why does burnout happen? 

Our always-on culture, where we’re bombarded with stimuli 24/7, is causing more and more of us to feel burned out.  

We often take just a moment here or there to check and reply to work emails. Those replies add up to us feeling unable to switch off from work and take time for ourselves, which makes it harder to relax.   

We go through life with more going on in our heads, thinking about this or that, so we start to think more and more about the commitments that we have at work, at home, or in our social lives. 

Juggling working from home, while raising kids or caring for other family members, can blur the lines between work and home. You put that with an always-on culture and it becomes increasingly hard to switch off. This increases anxiety or work pressures, especially if you’re dealing with an uncertain job, so feel you have to do more to stand out and keep your main source of income. 

“I don't think I'm overstating things when I say that the caba courses I attended had a profound effect on me. Not only did they change my attitude to my work, they genuinely made me feel better about my life too.”


caba client

High workload, a lack of support, or the wrong resources to complete a job can also trigger burnout. 

Burnout can be triggered by one thing, or a combination. The exact cause looks different for everyone and is unique to their circumstances.  

What one person finds stressful another person may find a manageable level of stress.  

There’s no right or wrong level of stress to be able to handle. What matters is that when you start to feel stressed or burned out, you take steps to help yourself in the short and long term. 

who does burnout affect? 

Those who are the most conscientious or sensitive are more likely to develop burnout.  

People-pleasing tendencies can mean someone is more prone to burnout because it’s hard to say no. This fear of saying no can lead to overcommitting on what needs to be done. 

Perfectionist traits can also lead to burnout as we strive to achieve impossible standards which we impose on ourselves. Loud inner critics and constant negative self-talk can pave the way towards burnout. 

Those of us who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are also more likely or suffer from burnout because our brains struggle to cope with day-to-day life in a neurotypical way.  

Constantly adapting our ways of thinking, and masking emotions, can add additional stressors which lead to burnout. 

preventing or treating burnout 

ask for help 

It can be hard to admit when we’re struggling, but some things we just can’t do alone. If work is burning you out, talk to your colleagues and/or manager to see if there’s something they can do to relieve some of the pressure.  

Remember: asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. 

get enough sleep 

Lack of sleep is a big part of burnout. It can make it harder for us to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up in the mornings.  

Getting adequate sleep will help mitigate some of the damage as this is when our minds and bodies repair themselves and deal with issues.  

To work out if you’re getting enough sleep, turn off your alarm and see what time you wake up naturally. This will tell you how much sleep your body needs per night.  

You can then look at adjusting your sleeping pattern to make it easier to wake up in the mornings. 

If you’re struggling to get to sleep, check out our partner, SleepStation, or try a guided meditation. 

eat a healthy diet 

A balanced diet can make a surprising difference to our mental and physical health. It’s all too easy to reach for a ready meal when we’re mentally drained, but eating more fruits and vegetables will improve your mental and physical health.  

Try to start the day off with a couple of portions of fruit or vegetables. Starting the day off healthily will encourage you to carry on in a similar way.  

You can also cook meals in bulk and freeze them so that you have homemade ready meals for those days you’re short on time or energy. 

get in some exercise 

Even a gentle walk in nature can help get out some of the pent-up anxiety and tension in our bodies.  

Slow movements such as yoga and tai chi can also relax tight muscles and hyperactive minds.  

take some time to switch off 

Do something you enjoy and which takes your mind off work. This could be cooking, playing with a pet, reading a book - whatever works for you.  

The important thing is that you disconnect and focus on being in the moment, not everything else that’s going on in your life.  

Very few things are ever urgent enough that they can’t wait half an hour for you to walk the dog or read a chapter of a book. 


“I felt hopeless. One day driving to work I found myself hoping to have a car accident so I didn't have to face my situation at work. It was at that point I thought, this has to stop. You don't realise when you're in it that something terrible is happening to you, but if you just reach out to caba it can be the beginning of seeing things differently.”


caba client


training and events

24 May 2022

master the art of resilience

This course builds on our Boost Your Resilience introductory course by providing a deeper insight into mastering resilience. You’ll learn …
enhanced course
25 May 2022

espresso mindfulness for busy people

What is mindfulness and why should you care about it? This webinar lifts the lid on mindfulness, including what it is and how it can benefit you …
espresso series
7 June 2022

develop your personal brand

Your personal brand is about how others perceive you. With the right tools, you can use it to make an impact and progress in your career. Learn …
enhanced course
8 June 2022

espresso food and mood: what's the evidence

Can food really influence your mood? There’s scientific evidence to suggest that it can. Watch this webinar for an exciting glimpse into taking …
espresso series

view all training and events 

your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

view more questions

Not got the answer to your question?