Are you frustrated or experiencing burnout?

Unfortunately, burnout is often confused with excessive frustration. Contrary to popular belief, burnout rarely, if ever, comes from working too hard. The underlying causes are usually related to stress which can be caused by frustration. So do you have burnout or are you just frustrated?


What is frustration?

Frustration is a feeling of powerlessness. Something happens that you don't want to happen and then a feeling of frustration creeps up on you. If these events occur more often and you continue to have the feeling that you cannot change anything, you become frustrated. This frustration causes stress and as a reaction to this stress, you can get burnout.

Frustration is exactly the opposite of acceptance. Symptoms that can occur as a result are:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Listlessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced energy
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • Skin rash
  • Rage attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • A slight fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Decreased libido

Because these symptoms are so similar to the symptoms of burnout, it is understandable that frustration can be confused with burnout.

What's the difference between burnout and frustration

Unlike frustration, someone with burnout can't do anything anymore. There is no more logical thinking and emotions dominate the life of someone with burnout. This usually means that someone with burnout has continuous crying fits. Sometimes these crying fits are alternated with panic attacks and catatonic behavior.

In frustration, a person can still think logically and the emotions are more likely to express themselves in the form of anger and impulsive or rebellious behavior.

The treatment of burnout, therefore, differs significantly from the treatment of frustration. In burnout the brain has literally short-circuited, making it difficult to absorb or process information.

In frustration, the brains can still do this, which makes cognitive therapy possible from the very first moment. In case of a burn-out, first, sufficient and complete rest is needed to give the brain the time to start up again, as it were.

How can you help someone who is frustrated?

Frustration is relatively easy and quick to cure. In fact, in almost all cases, the frustration has nothing to do with the accumulation of events, but with how the person processes these events.

This is not to say that events such as a bullying boss, a partner who cheats continuously or too many deadlines that can never be met do not exist. It just means something about how the person deals with these.

With the help of a coach or therapist, a frustrated person can learn the following:


It may sound contradictory that by accepting you can take action, but brains sometimes need space through acceptance to know what a healthy action is.

Example 1: During the Covid measures, many people were frustrated by all the measures. By accepting the measures, these people were able to free up space in their minds again to do fun and meaningful things despite the measures. This did not get rid of the measures, but it did make life a lot more pleasant.

Example 2: A client could not come to terms with the fact that her partner had cheated on her three times and that she had not been able to prevent it. Anger and sadness alternated every few minutes out of frustration. Only when she could fully accept that this had happened could she think clearly again and make the choice whether she wanted to stay with her partner or say goodbye to him.

Distinguishing cause and effect

Some people believe that they themselves are the cause of that unreasonable or bullying boss. Or that they themselves should have tried harder or stood up for themselves when their partner cheated. This is typically a confusion of cause and effect.

Distinguishing responsibility for and towards something or someone

We are responsible for young children. And a pet, for example. This is because young children and pets cannot take care of themselves. In addition, we are responsible for ourselves. Because only we can take care of ourselves. For the rest, we are only responsible towards others.

It would be a strange world if other people became responsible for us and we no longer had any self-determination at all. Precisely because we don't want that ourselves, we shouldn't try to want to be responsible for someone else either.

Assigning healthy meanings to people or events

Every object and deed has a name and therefore a meaning. But we humans can give meaning to a meaning.

Example: Peter hit John, so Peter and John had a fight. We call the hand of Peter that came with force into the face of John hitting. If we associate hitting with fighting, that slap takes on the meaning of "fighting". But could that slap also mean something else? For example, beating a wasp to death? Or a spastic reaction? Or a one-time retaliation? A slap doesn't always have to mean a fight.

... ...

Being more careful about the meaning we sometimes automatically ascribe to an event can reduce frustration or even prove unnecessary in retrospect.

Live intention-driven instead of attention-driven

Intention-driven people put the focus on their own dreams and desires. Their attention is focused on what they want for themselves, while of course still taking into account others and their environment.

Attention-driven people are primarily concerned with what is happening around them. They do all sorts of things to anticipate (possible) events and sometimes completely forget that they themselves also want something.

The latter is not only exhausting because it takes a lot of energy, it can also lead to a lot of frustration when you do everything to avoid something and it still happens. Intention-driven people suffer much less from this because they are much more concerned with their own dreams and wishes than with possible doomsday scenarios and events.

Ask for help in time when you feel frustrated.

With the above tools, frustration gives way to more insight and overview of the situation. This ensures that the feeling of powerlessness gives way to action and healthy positive response.

If you walk around with frustration for too long without asking for help, this can lead to burnout. Even though burnout can be cured, the process takes much longer. If you notice that you have frustrations you can contact most coaches and therapists who are familiar with burnout and depression symptoms.

Usually, already after 1 session, the frustration will decrease and you will experience more air and space.

Ben Steenstra Ben Steenstra
06-03-2021 6 mins read
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