Are you burned out?
Do you find yourself caring less about a job you were once passionate about? Is the level of exhaustion you are feeling overwhelming? Are you starting to feel ineffective in your work role or your role in the family? If so, then you might be Burned Out!
What is Burnout?
Burnout is more than just the feeling of being worn out. It is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. Burnout is caused by excessive, prolonged stress and an inability to cope, usually over an extended period of time. The condition of burnout can leave you feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands. It can affect a person’s overall health, especially emotionally and physically.
There are three components:
- Overwhelming exhaustion,
- Cynicism and detachment (indifference or detachment from various aspects of work)
- Sense of ineffectiveness/inadequacy or reduced personal accomplishment.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight; it creeps up on us over time, which sometimes makes it harder to recognise. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but they get progressively worse over time.
Symptoms of Burnout
Chronic Stress – Stress that is prolonged and constant, also known as Chronic Stress, can play a huge part in burnout. Chronic stress is when ‘the body experiences stressors with such intensity and frequency that the autonomic nervous system doesn’t have a chance to activate the relaxation response on a regular basis.’ (Scott, 2020) Chronic stress impacts both the body and the mind and can impact a person’s ability to function normally in their daily life. Chronic stress’s physical symptoms can be headaches, stomach-ache and/or intestinal issues, fatigue, and low self-esteem.
Detachment in relation to work (or aspects of work) – You might feel disillusioned with everything or that what you are doing doesn’t matter anymore. You might start to emotionally distance yourself and begin to feel numb about your work. You may lack motivation, creativity or inspiration.
Emotional Exhaustion – You may notice that your view of things is more harmful than before and that you have become more cynical. Your motivation might be low, and you are feeling helpless, powerless, and full of self-doubt. You are finding little or no satisfaction from work or life in general. You may also have a sense of wanting to give up. You may feel down in general with similar feelings to depression.
Behavioural Changes –You might start to procrastinate and withdraw from responsibilities. You might also start seeking out unhealthy ways to cope:
- maybe eating too much,
- increased alcohol consumption,
- taking drugs,
- being too passive,
- not getting enough sleep,
- not eating enough,
- self-medicating to either numb you out or help you de-stress.
The impact of burnout can leave us wanting to shut ourselves away from friends and family.
Decreased Performance or productivity – Burnout can impact everyday tasks at work (or in the home if their main job is caring for family). An individual can feel ineffective or inadequate in their role. You might find it challenging to concentrate and become forgetful. Insomnia can also form part of burnout, and the ever-mounting tiredness can negatively impact concentration levels and understanding in different tasks.
Burnout and stress are often used interchangeably, and they exist on the same spectrum. However, there are some notable differences. Stress is a necessary part of life. It can help us respond to the daily challenges of life. The stress that is short-lived, that is, linked to a specific situation or project or takes us out of our comfort zone for a short period can keep us engaged and performing in our daily tasks. Burnout, like a dripping tap, corrodes and chips away at us in a very subtle way.
Six Ways to help you recover from burnout
- Create a Rich Non-Work Life – Find something outside of work that you find challenging, engaging, and passionate about. For example this can be a sports activity, a hobby or volunteer work.
- Unplug – Technology can allow work to seep into non-work time, social occasions, and time with family. Setting boundaries around the use of technology can help counter that feeling of always feeling ‘switched on.’ Technology is essential, so it is about you managing the impact it has on your life.
- Sleep Hygiene – Poor sleep can negatively impact many areas of your life, including job performance, motivation, reduced understanding, and leave you more susceptible to errors. Fatigue from lack of/poor sleep can make you more sensitive to stressful events and make it harder to juggle competing demands. Try to establish a regular sleep schedule, not exercising physically or mentally too close to bedtime, limiting stimulating drinks or alcohol, and only using the bed for sex or sleep.
- Relaxation is necessary – Firstly, think about the things you do (can do) to help you relax. Then designate time for them. Relaxation might involve reading, listening to music, taking a walk, meditating, or visiting family or friends. Relaxation should be taken seriously.
- Tune in to Yourself – It is important to stay attuned to those things that highlight the fact that you might be under too much stress. Physical signs might be more intestinal issues, headaches, or tight shoulders. Also, observe your mood; if you notice a decline in your mood or feel depressed, it is important to talk to someone, either within your support network or a seek the help of a professional. It is also important to identify the part you are potentially playing in how you are feeling and the external forces at play. Tune in and ask where this stress is coming from? Is it because I need to have everything perfect and I have high expectations of myself, or is it because I am doing the work of three people? Try to learn when it is you and when it is them.
- Talk to a Manager/HR – If you have identified that an element of your work/ environment is causing constant and prolonged stress, then a chat with a manager or HR might help resolve this. Many companies offer training around stress management, assertiveness, organisation skills, or mental health support.
Even though you might not be experiencing any of these problems, it is important that you keep the warning signs in your mind. As we mentioned earlier, burnout creeps upon us as we are getting on with our busy life.
You may be experiencing some and not all of these symptoms, and if this is the case, take heed. Having some of these symptoms might be a sign that you are moving into a danger zone. Take the time to assess your stress and reduce it. Unless you make changes in your life, burnout will not go away, and small changes now can make a huge difference in the long run.
Ready to face your stress and find ways of learning to cope better. We will connect you with a team of highly regarded therapists who can help. Call us on 0863780009 or visit our website to book an appointment email@example.com
Anne Devlin is a Psychotherapist and Co-founder of City Therapy. Anne works with clients from a Humanistic and Integrative perspective using both language and the body to gain a greater understanding of the person’s struggles. You can contact Anne via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Maslach C, Leiter MP. Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry. 2016;15(2):103–111. doi:10.1002/WPS.20311
- Scott, Elisabeth (2020). What is Chronic Stress? [Online] Sourced from: Very well mind https://www.verywellmind.com/chronic-stress-3145104 accessed on 2nd January 2021
- Sonnentag, Sabine., and Fritz, C (2015) Recovery from job stress: The stressor‐detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 36, No. S1, 2015). Accessed from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/10991379/36/S1 on 3rd January 2020