Burnout—a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress—is not simply a result of working long hours. The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.
Equally pressing is working toward a goal that doesn't resonate, or when a person lacks support, either in the office or at home. If a person doesn’t tailor responsibilities to match a true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, they could face burnout—as well as the mountain of mental and physical health problems that often come along with it.
There is a difference between burnout and plain stress, but sometimes, it can be hard to know what one is dealing with. It may require taking a step back to look at the overall picture of one’s work life. If the feeling is short-lived or tied to a specific project, it's more likely to be stress. If one never feels ready to face one's job or co-workers, or feels like achievement has become impossible, it's likely that burnout is looming.