So, what’s the difference between stress and burnout? Stress & burnout have similar characteristics, but there are distinct differences.
You might undergo stress when you feel that your work is meaningless or when you feel disconnect between what you’re currently doing and what you actually willing to be doing; or when things change for the worse. For example, when your workload suddenly increases beyond a sustainable point or when you lose a supportive boss. You might experience stress several days in a row, especially when you’re working under a tight deadline or on a urgent project.
Stress can really affect you over the longer-term. However, once the situation changes, stress often reduces or disappears entirely, whereas burnout often takes place over a longer period.
Stress is much similar to burnout. It is difficult to know where normal stress stops and where a burnout begins.
Stress => more stress => a lot of stress => too much stress => burnout
Stress is kind of the starting phase of burnout. If stress adds up, it can lead to burnout after sometime. A burnout does not develop without stress, but the other way around it is possible for stress to form without ending up being a burnout.
Burnout is a disorder in itself, while stress isn’t. It is even hardly possible to have an existence completely without stress. Everyone experiences stress sometimes. Burnout, however, is a disorder. Burnout can namely make it so that you are not longer the person who you want to be, or who you used to be.
High stress and burnout are also associated with poor health outcomes for the people experiencing it. These include psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality, as well as cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, poor quality of life, and premature mortality. Thus, high stress and burnout are critical medical and public health problems, with profound consequences on individual providers as well as on the healthcare system.
Recent research has highlighted that stress and burnout of maternity providers are key drivers in the disrespect and abuse of women during childbirth—which has also been recognized as a global crisis.
When feelings of burnout start to occur, many people focus on short-term solutions such as taking a vacation. While this can certainly help, the relief is often only temporary. You also need to focus on strategies that will have a deeper impact, and create lasting change.