Are You at Risk of Mental Exhaustion or Burnout?

(4 min read)

We’re all faced with stress from time to time, but did you know that the impact of stress can build up and play an important role in whether or not you become ill – physically and mentally?

In general terms, it is said that the experience of stress arises when demands exceed one’s coping resources. When this happens, the individual normally experiences an overwhelming sense of losing control. If the individual isn’t able to recover some level of control, their resources become further and further depleted until they eventually burn out.

Our psychological resiliency determines how each stressor will impact us to a large degree. In other words, what one person perceives to be stressful isn’t necessarily what someone else might find to be stressful. For example, travelling might be viewed as exciting and invigorating by some, while others might find it to be incredibly stress-inducing. Nevertheless, as long as one perceives an event to be stressful, and the experience of stress is prolonged over time, the risk of developing symptoms of mental exhaustion and burnout greatly increases.

Thomas Holmes & Richard Rahe developed The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) as a way to measure one’s risk of experiencing burnout. While the list of stressors certainly isn’t exclusive (and may be viewed as a little outdated by some!), it provides a general overview of life events – each assigned a Life Change Unit – that are perceived to be stressful by a large number of individuals.

To calculate your risk of experiencing mental exhaustion/burnout, add up the scores associated with each life event that has been a source of stress in your life over the previous year.



What Does Your Score Mean?

150 points or less = a relatively low susceptibility to developing a stress-related illness.

150 to 300 points = 50% chance of developing a stress-related illness.

300 points or more = 80% chance of developing a stress-related illness.

What to Do About It

If you have a moderate to high score, it’s highly recommended that you re-evaluate the circumstances of your life and see if there is anything you can do to reduce the number of stressors (as much as conceivably possible!) that you’re faced with – both now and into the future. This might involve adjusting your priorities, learning to say no, and ultimately simplifying your days.

How Counselling Can Help

Talking to a mental health counsellor to help you make these adjustments is also recommended. Counselling can also help you build resiliency and learn coping strategies that will help decrease the impact that stress has on you, thereby lowering your risk of developing mental and physical exhaustion down the road. Of course, if you are already experiencing burnout, including the onset of symptoms of anxiety or depression, counselling can help you get to the root of the problem and help you obtain a higher level of functioning once again.

If you feel like you might be on the road to burnout and would benefit from talking to a counsellor, please don’t hesitate to contact me and we can discuss how to start getting you back on track!


Holmes, T.H. & Rahe, R.H. (1967). The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2), 213–218.

3 thoughts on “

    1. Hi Ian,

      Sorry to hear about the stress you’ve been under, and thanks for reaching out. Most of us have times like this at some point in our lives, don’t we. It’s certainly not easy, that’s for sure. What to do about the high score depends, first of all, on whether or not you feel like it’s taking a toll on you (if you have high resiliency, a high score might not impact you as much as the next person, for example). If it IS having a negative impact on your life, however, then it’s important to ask what the cause of the stress is. Often if it’s something circumstantial that you can actively change, you might need to ask yourself some pretty big questions about what you have control over and if it’s possible to make any lifestyle adjustments that will help bring the stress down (big changes or small). If the situation is mostly out of your control, then it’s important to find ways of coping with it as best as you possibly can.

      If you’re developing physical symptoms of exhaustion or burnout, of course, you would probably want to consult your GP or perhaps a naturopathic doctor to make sure you keep your body in good working order, as stress has an incredible toll on us physically.

      In terms of mental health, if this is something you’re concerned about then I’d advise you to seek out a qualified therapist who you can talk to more about your specific concerns, how you’re currently coping with the emotional toll, and how to build more resiliency if the stress will be ongoing.

      I hope this is helpful, Ian. Please let me know if you have any other questions!



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