Burnout is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by long term stress or severe stress. There are three main aspects that characterise burnout. These are feeling exhausted or lacking energy, being less effective professionally and feeling removed, cynical or negative towards work.


In 2019, ‘burnout’ was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, but it is not classed as a medical condition.

What are the signs of burnout?

Common symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated
  • Feeling detached or alone in the world
  • Having a cynical or negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed

There may also be physical symptoms such as:

  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Man serving a healthy looking plate of delicious food at a dinner table

Can diet help burnout?

Activities that help you to relax or feel more cheery can help, as can what you eat. Our physical health influences our mental and emotional health, and vice versa, so a nutritious diet should be beneficial. Try these tips…

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Eat a balanced diet

Make sure that you are getting all the important nutrients, and that the focus is on whole foods, rather than those that are processed such as refined fast and sugars. Find out more about a balanced diet.

Stay hydrated

This is the number one rule of good nutrition and plays an important role in both our physical and mental health. Learn the top 5 health benefits to drinking water and the 10 best foods that help you to stay hydrated.

A Glass of Water on a blue background

Reduce or avoid alcohol

Drinking can exacerbate negative feelings. Take a look at our top 30 mocktail ideas for some alcohol-free versions of classic cocktails and fizz.

Include more omega-3 foods in your diet

A 2019 study found that omega-3 helped reduce symptoms of occupational burnout, so check out the top 10 sources of omega-3. For omega 3-rich recipes try a salmon stir-fry, or chia pudding for a plant-based omega-3 hit.

Eat more B vitamin-rich foods

B vitamins can help relieve stress, promote better mood, and may therefore help with burnout. Find out more about B vitamins, which includes B vitamin-rich recipes such as sesame spinach and Thai pork & peanut curry.

Sesame spinach

Get your five-a-day

Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet to ensure you get adequate vitamin C, as low vitamin C levels are commonly linked with high stress levels and burnout. Read more in our articles, what is vitamin C? and the top healthiest sources of vitamin C. Then try roasted summer vegetables or a one-pot vegetable stew for an easy way to reach your five-a-day.

Focus on magnesium

Known as the body’s natural relaxer, having a magnesium-rich diet can help the mind and the body to relax. However, stress can negatively affect the body’s magnesium levels, causing a deficiency. What’s more, a magnesium deficit is thought to increase the body’s susceptibility to stress. Aim to include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, with some pumpkin seed butter or rye & pumpkin seed crackers, or add extra dark-green leafy vegetables such as a kale smoothie or broccoli & kale green soup.

White bowl with bright green soup, photographed from overhead

If you think you’re suffering from burnout, diet is just one of the self-help approaches you can try. Other well-being practices, such as yoga, getting outside, ensuring you are getting enough sleep and exercising are also recommended. However, if stress is impacting your daily life, talk to your GP.

Further reading:

Top 20 healthy, mood-boosting recipes.
10 diet and lifestyle tips to help manage stress
What is stress and how to reduce it
The benefits of exercise and mental health
Why am I always tired?
5 reasons you're waking up tired with no energy
Health benefits of magnesium

Nicola Shubrook is a qualified nutritionist registered with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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