Burnout is the state of mental and physical exhaustion. It is included in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Disease as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ – not a medical condition. This state of being can easily suck the happiness out of your relationships, career and everyday tasks. Burnout is characterised by the following:
- reduced professional efficacy
- mental distance from your work, cynicism related to your job
- depleted energy or exhaustion
It may be hard to detect that you are suffering from burnout, and may only realise it after you cross the line between ‘too tired’ and ‘too exhausted to function. And if you’re used to staying busy, you might not notice it at all. Psychologist, Adam Borland says, “if you’re used to going 100 miles an hour, and then suddenly take your foot off the accelerator, you’re now still going at 85”. But he says that you will think that you are not putting in enough effort or becoming lazy – but going at 100 miles an hour is just unsustainable.
Who gets burnout?
This intense feeling of exhaustion occurs when your work-life balance is out of sync. This is known as career-induced burnout. People who are continually exposed to high levels of stress can experience burnout. People who care for children can also develop burnout – parents can develop burnout in the same manner as doctors and nurses. Your personality type may also play a role. People need to be in control, have perfectionism traits and ‘Type A’ characteristics have an increased risk of burnout.
Signs of burnout
Below is a list of symptoms that you may use as a guide. It is important to note that burnout is presented differently in people:
- Irritability – burnout can cause people to be snappy with co-workers, friends and family more easily. Daily tasks may start to feel overwhelming and stressful, especially when things don’t go as planned.
- Fatigue / Exhaustion – physical symptoms may include stomachaches, headaches and changes in sleeping patterns. Burnout causes people to feel an overall sense of physical and emotional depletion.
- Frequently ill – much the same as other long-term stress, burnout can lower your immune system. This makes you susceptible to illnesses. It can also contribute to mental health concerns like depression and anxiety.
- Isolation – people with burnout may feel overwhelmed and may stop socialising or confiding in loved ones or co-workers.
- Escapism – due to the never-ending demands of work, people with burnout may fantasize about running away. And in extreme cases, they may turn to drugs, alcohol or food as a way to numb the pain.
- Excessive drive/ambition. Common for people starting a new job or undertaking a novel task, too much ambition can lead to burnout.
- Pushing yourself to work harder. Ambition pushes you to work harder.
- Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
- Displacement of conflict. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame your boss, the demands of your job, or colleagues for your troubles.
- No time for nonwork-related needs. Your values are revised. Work becomes the sole focus at the expense of family, friends, and hobbies, which now seem irrelevant.
- Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviours, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing.
- Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. You lack direction and are cynical. Social invitations to parties, movies and dinner dates start to feel burdensome instead of enjoyable.
- Behavioral changes. Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason.
- Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life.
- Inner emptiness or anxiety. Feeling empty or anxious. You may turn to thrill-seeking behaviours to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
- Depression. Life loses its meaning and you begin to feel hopeless.
- Mental or physical collapse. This can impact your ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.
What to do if you have burnout?
Seeking professional mental health help is a good first step in tackling burnout. Having a safe space to talk with someone outside of your social circles can be life-changing. The impartial and professional feedback will aid you during stressful times.
Not only does it benefit your physical health, but it provides an emotional boost and a happiness high. And there is no need for hours-long workouts, mini circuits can help in building a daily habit. Additionally, practice active rest days that include stretching your body, taking light walks or running through the waves at the beach.
Establish your daily routine
It is important to set up strict divisions between your work and personal life. If you are not mindful of this, you can set alarms that signal when it’s time to take a break. Experts recommend taking breaks as a good solution to tackling burnout. If you struggle to maintain a work-life balance, make a daily or hourly to-do list with small, achievable goals -and strike them off as wins! Remember to establish a good sleep routine that leaves you feeling rested and energized.
Explore a hobby
If you don’t find much satisfaction in your work, find something outside of your work that brings excitement and happiness. Hobbies and clubs provide a space beyond the office to socialise and exercise your creativity and brainpower. Volunteer work can stimulate a feeling of gratitude and increase your empathetic capacity.
Continual exposure to stress can cause burnout. Leading to feelings of isolation, exhaustion and depression. However, regular exercise, good sleep and breaks from work can prevent this stressed state of mind. Ultimately, burnout can be avoided by prioritising self-care, every day. And always remember to sprinkle some joy into your day!