How Stress Impacts Your Brain & Overcoming Burnout

November 13, 2020

As the days get “shorter” it can be harder to stay productive and positive into the Winter season. Many of us are spending more time than ever in our homes and the looming cold weather is sure to keep us there. So how do we combat the tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion that comes from the change in season and accumulation of stress from this year? If you’re feeling burned out and even brain “fried” we have a few recommendations for you to give you some relief in the months to come. We’ll also explain the impacts stress has on your brain to better understand why you’re feeling this way.

What Stress Does to Your Brain and Decision Making

Stress affects your mood, focus, and even promotes inflammation throughout your body. Chronic stress can cause significant health problems to your brain and heart when left untreated over time. To better understand how stress impacts your brain it’s important to understand that different working structures work together in your brain to complete tasks and make decisions. “Fight or flight” scenarios, for example, trigger the amygdala (the part of your brain that processes survival instincts) which then takes over and leaves less energy for the other parts of your brain – like memory storage. Essentially, when under stress (life-threatening or not) your brain re-focuses attention to “stress reaction centers” like the amygdala and away from higher-order functions and memory storage. This is why we are often forgetful under stress and why others have memory lapses after traumatic events. Over time this becomes exhausting on our minds and bodies leading to both mental and physical burn-out. If left untreated, this could cause serious adverse effects on your health so it’s important to practice self-care and stress-relieving activities. Learn more about how your brain processes stress here.

How to Know if you’re Mentally Exhausted

It’s easy to tell when you are physically exhausted, but mental exhaustion tends to creep up on us. Slowly piling up as we go through stresses from home and work. So what are the key signs to look out for to see if you’re experiencing mental burn-out?

  • Feeling overwhelmed or run down
  • Trouble focusing on tasks and getting easily distracted
  • Feeling out of touch with your feelings and emotions
  • Avoiding personal problems and situations
  • Lacking enthusiasm for things that typically bring you joy and not finding stress relief in those activities
  • Physical issues like stomachaches, headaches, and digestive problems
  • Trouble sleeping – disrupted, fatigue, or even avoiding sleep because your mind races as soon as you hit the pillow

If any of these sound familiar then rest assured, you’re not alone. Many of us have or are feeling that way, especially this year. We have some tips that will help you overcome this burnout and hopefully avoid future burnouts.


How to Recover from Mental Burnout and Fatigue:

Most of these tips won’t be anything “new” to you. They’re common, well-researched strategies that have been around for ages. But they truly do help and are worth trying in order to help you out of your rut.

  • Get enough sleep – This might be easier said than done, but try to limit screens and begin relaxing at least 30 minutes before you turn in for the night.
  • Exercise and get some sun – Try to go outside for a walk or move around for at least 30 minutes a day. Getting some sunlight and fresh air is sure to help. A study from the university of Melbourne, found looking at a grass rooftop for just 40 seconds helped improve focus. Imagine what a 30 minute walk could do!
  • Eat Right – Focus on high fiber, whole foods to help power your brain and body vs. sugary fatty foods that make you feel heavy and tired.
  • Break projects and tasks into smaller pieces – Rather than feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work you need to get done, break each item into smaller tasks for more checks on your list and accomplishments in your day.
  • Ask for help when you need it – Don’t be afraid to reach out to others when you’re having a hard time. More often than not people are happy to help.
  • Adjust your schedule – If you find that you are more productive in the evening or need to take more breaks throughout the day, try adjusting your schedule to accommodate for that. A change of your day’s schedule may be a refresher that you need.
  • Take a Day off – As many people are working from home they’re afraid to take a PTO day, and might even feel guilty for it. But taking a mental health day here and there can help ease the pressure you’ve built up in the last 6 months of constant change and stress.


We hope as this year comes to a close you’ll find relief from the stress and fatigue that has built up due to the unknowns surrounding us. If you have stress relief tips that have helped you through a burn-out please share them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

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