Burnout Prevention and Treatment – Part 1

If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, you may be on the road to burnout.

What Is Burnout?

It is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As this stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation which led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you will feel you may have nothing more to give.

The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life, including your home, work, and social life. Burnout can cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. It is important to deal with burnout as soon as possible.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Most of us have days when we feel helpless, overloaded, or unappreciated. If you feel like this most of the time, you may be experiencing burnout. Burnout is a gradual process. It does not happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. The signs are subtle at first but become worse as time goes on. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out.

Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
• Feeling tired and drained most of the time
• Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses
• Frequent headaches or muscle pain
• Change in appetite or sleep habits

Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
• Sense of failure and self-doubt
• Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
• Detachments, feeling alone in the world
• Loss of motivation
• Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
• Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment

Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout
• Withdrawing from responsibilities
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
• Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
• Taking out your frustrations on others
• Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

The Difference Between Stress and Burnout

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that f they can just get everything under control, they will feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People who are experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situation. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a send-off being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Characterized by over-engagementCharacterized by disengagement
Emotions are over-reactiveEmotions are blunted
Produces urgency and hyperactivityProduces helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of energyLoss of motivation, ideals, and hope
This leads to anxiety disordersThis leads to detachment and depression
Primary damage os physicalPrimary damage is emotional
May kill you prematurelyMay make life seem not worth living

Caused of Burnout

Burnout often stems from your job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout, from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation in years to the frazzled stay-at-home mom tending to kids, housework, and an aging parent.

But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home demands.

Work-related causes of burnout
• Feeling like you have little or no control over your work
• Lack of recognition or reward for good work
• Unclear or overly demanding job expectations
• Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging
• Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment

Lifestyle causes of burnout
• Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing
• Lack of close, supportive relationships
• Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
• Not getting enough sleep

Personality traits can contribute to burnout
• Perfectionist tendencies, nothing is ever good enough
• Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
• The need to be in control, reluctance to delegate to others
• High-achieving, Type A personality.