What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as: “physical or mental collapse, caused by overwork or stress.”
We’ve all heard about burnout, but most people don’t realise that it can can sneak up on you without even realising. Those who are most prone to suffering from burnout (physical or mental exhaustion) are those with type-A personalities. There are many symptoms attributed to burning out, if you find that any of those listed below relate to you then it might be a good idea to re-evaluate your current circumstances and tone down your commitments and/or workloads before they have lasting effects on your personal or professional life, which can often be difficult to recover from.
Dr. Carter, from PsychologyToday.com, describes burnout as:
“Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment”
When you’re under the pressures of real burnout, it is difficult to function correctly both personally and professionally. This doesn’t happen out of nowhere though, and it’s not a case of waking up one day and having “burnout”. The root of these symptoms come through over time, which is often why people have difficulty in recognising the issues before it’s too late. That being said, our minds and bodies warn us before it’s too late, if you know what to look for.
What are the signs of Burnout?
The three areas described, by Dr. Carter above, are characterised by specific signs and symptoms. Some of these have overlaps, and they exist along a continuum. The difference between stress and burnout can be minimal, so the earlier you recognise and take action against these signs, the more likely you can avoid burning out.
Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:
Insomnia – It’s normal for all of us to have sleepless nights from time to time, however, if that becomes more regular then it may lead to a persistent issue with sleeping patterns. Regardless of how tired you are, insomnia has no let up and when it becomes a nightly ordeal it can make life miserable.
Chronic Fatigue – This can tie in closely with sleeping issues. In the beginning you may just feel a lack of energy or general tiredness, but when this starts to manifest itself you will feel physically and emotionally exhausted, depleted and that can lead to a sense of dread about what’s in store for the rest of the day. Chronic fatigue has a direct correlation with depression, which is a very serious illness which is talked about more below.
Physical symptoms – Believe it or not, there can be many physical symptoms associated with burnout which can include, but not limited to, the following; dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting, headaches, vomiting, chest pains, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal pain (if you have any of these you should make it a priority to be medically assessed).
Increased Illness – In general, when your body is run down, your immune system is the first to go as it becomes weakened and as a result is less capable of fighting infections. When you have a weakened immune system you are much more prone to colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems. These aren’t simply solved by taking supplements, your body needs rest, and a balanced diet with good exercise, to get back to its full working order.
Loss of Appetite – A solid balanced diet is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Skipping a meal here and there isn’t generally deemed to have negligible effects on ones health, however, regularly skipping meals will have a profound effect on your ability to execute on any normal level. This can lead to weight loss and in turn has negative effects on concentration levels, as well as lowering your bodies defence systems. Always make sure to consume your bodies required daily intake of fruits, vegetables and proteins. Here are some ways that you can Eat to Improve.
Impaired Concentration, Attention, and/or Forgetfulness – Having a lack of focus is an early, mild, sign of burnout. This can transcend to not being able to do normal tasks and getting your typical workloads completed. Once this starts to happen, everything will begin to pile up and you will lose track of where you are, what needs to be done, and even trying to figure out where to start on taking care of what’s important. It is very difficult to be confident in your own abilities if you struggle to complete even the simplest of tasks. Here are 12 Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts so you can focus on what’s important right now.
Anxiety – Anxiety manifests itself in may ways depending on the person. In the early stages, this may portray itself as mild symptoms of tension, being on edge, or generally being more worried than you would typically be. As burnout becomes more progressive, your anxiety may get to a point where you struggle to leave the house and will have inevitable knock on effects on your personal and professional life. To be truly self confident, you need to maintain your self-esteem as Self-Esteem Determines Who We Are.
Depression – This is a serious medical condition, which during its early stages can create a feeling of mild sadness or hopelessness. This can generate feelings of worthlessness as a result. Those who are severely depressed believe that the world would be better off without them, if you find yourself in this situation, please seek professional help as that is not the case. Here are some tips on How To Be Happy With Yourself, Instantly!
Anger – It is only human to be angry from time to time, usually it is drawn from irritability without acting upon it. Without control of your anger, it can lead to angry outbursts and arguments with loved ones or in the workplace. As with most notes above, if you feel that you are struggling to manage your anger, or if you are having violent thoughts, please ensure to seek professional help so that the root causes can be identified and managed appropriately.
Signs of Cynicism and Detachment:
Loss of Enjoyment – Nobody is perfect, and nobody can have fun 24/7, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself on a regular basis either. Losing enjoyment in the things that you typical get satisfaction from is a very common early indicator of stress, depression, and inevitably burnout. If you don’t get a handle on this quickly then this loss of enjoyment may very well extend itself to any and all other elements of your life, including time spent with loved ones and friends. It’s important to find the root cause of the issue so that you can find enjoyment in the things that you typically love, as this will be your go to escape when times get tough. If you don’t have anything that you can think of that you love to do, now is a good time to start trying new things, or travelling once in a while to explore new parts of the world that you have not yet seen. Exercise is scientifically proven to improve your mood, so try and find something that is active to do, as well as something that is creative. If you can find things to do that combine both then you should be on to a winner!
Pessimism – Often times a lack of self belief leads to negative self-talk and a move to a glass half-full to a glass half-empty attitude. This can move beyond oneself to trust issues with those you work with and of family members. Once you’re at a point that you don’t feel you can count on anyone, it is very difficult to return. Optimism is an important part of self-belief, life, and success. It’s important to being optimistic as much as possible, without deluding yourself from reality. Is Your Glass Half-Empty?
Isolation – We get it, going out isn’t as fun as it used to be, it costs a lot, and you are probably focused on using your money more wisely than before. Socialising is such an important aspect of life that it is unwise to completely detach from it. Humans are social creatures, so a lack of social interaction (read: not social media) can only have negative effects in the long run. When we isolate ourselves from other people, it can lead to frustration and even anger when people try to communicate with us. Try to find activities with others who are interested in the same things as you so that you don’t completely detach from this invaluable life construct.
Detachment – Closely linked to isolation, detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others, or from your environment. It can start with isolation, and then the removal of your emotion from those around you. If you find that you begin to call in sick to work often or are often late, or stop responding to emails/texts/calls, then you are probably going through some type of detachment disorder. It is advisable to seek professional help if this is something that you are noticing in your life.
Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment:
Feelings of Apathy and Hopelessness – Similar to depression and pessimism, this represents a general sense of dread, or that nothing can go right. As these feelings creep in, and worsen, they can become unbearable.
Lack of Productivity and Poor Performance – So, you’re putting the hours in, stress is sky high, and you’re not as productive as you once were…projects are not being completed and your to-do list is pages long…how do you cope? Some throw the towel in, others fight back. The best thing to do each day is to take the smallest and easiest task and complete it. This will give you back your power and sense of belief. The second thing to do is the hardest task. After that, everything should be possible.
Increased Irritability – When you know your previous capabilities, it can be irritating to find that you are not as effective as you once were. This can destroy relationships and careers, so please ensure to address it as soon as possible if it is something you are noticing has begun to take effect on your life.
If you notice that any of the signs, or symptoms, above relate to you, there is no better time than now to action a preventative assault against them. Seek the professional help you need, and find groups around who are open to discussing any of said issues with you. Don’t feel ashamed, many people are going through the exact same range of emotions as you are, and talking is typically the best way to feel better and help in beginning to move forward.