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Burnout: is it something you’ve heard of or are suffering from?

There have been many recent reports about Burnout in the press, both in the UK and internationally and it seems to be a condition on the rise. Not surprising, we hear you say.

So, what exactly is burnout?

Defining burnout is difficult because there is no official definition, only symptoms, and experts disagree about the definition. However, it can involve being in a state of emotional, mental or physical exhaustion.

According to an article in Psychology Today, burnout is more than stress, it is chronic stress. It states: When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.

The Health Guide Org also provides helpful differences between stress and burnout. But it should be noted that if stress is not diagnosed and managed correctly, there’s a possibility it can lead to burnout in the long-run.

What are the symptoms to burnout?

There are numerous symptoms, but in short it can include:

  • mental symptoms: a feeling of pointlessness, lack of motivation, feelings of alienation, anxiety and depression;
  • physical symptoms: such as more frequency of illness, chest pain, heart palpitations, lack of concentration, or increasing negative habits to compensate feelings of stress, such as unhealthy eating, increase in drinking and/or smoking, and lack of exercise; and
  • changes in behaviour: a noticeable reduction in work productivity, feelings of apathy, hopelessness, loss of enjoyment, pessimism, increased irritability etc.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive!

What leads to burnout?

HelpGuideOrg state the causes of burnout normally fall within one or more of the following areas:

  • Work-related: being highly-motivated and hard-working, having little or no control over your work, feeling under-challenged, working in a high pressure environment;
  • Life-style causes: lack of sleep, not enough time socialising or relaxing; lack of close, supportive relationships; taking on too
    many responsibilities; and
  • Personality traits: High-achieving personality type (A), perfectionist tendencies, the need to be in control, and reluctance to delegate.

If you’re reading this article and think that you’re suffering from stress or burnout symptoms, then you’re not alone. Results from a mental health study of over 4,600 respondents undertaken by Mental Health Org in 2018 found 74% of respondents stated that they have felt so stressed they were unable to cope.

What can you do if you’re suffering from stress or burnout?

There are several approaches you can take, but we love HelpGuideOrg’s 3R approach:

  • Recognise: Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse: Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress
  • Resilience: Build resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

And Psychology Today also offers 10 steps to overcome burnout in the professional environment:

  1. On one half of a piece of paper, list situations that make you feel anxious, stressed or frustrated in someway.
  2. On the other half of the paper, write down one way of how you might overcome the ‘stress’ factor. Make a conscious effort to put this into practise. You won’t remember to implement it all of the time, but making a note of when you tried it and the resulting effect can help. Try and try again.
  3. Don’t take on any new responsibilities or commitments whilst you are in recovery mode.
  4. Delegate as much as possible, even if you have to compromise on speed or quality (where necessary).
  5. If you’re dealing with a big project, make sure you take plenty of breaks so that you can look after your mind and body adequately.
  6. Lay-off as many gadgets as you can including PCs, smart phones etc.
  7. Make sure you have time to socialise, mixing with new or different friends can help provide new ideas and fresh perspectives.
  8. Do not take work home.
  9. Reinforce the effort you put into something and not necessarily the outcome.
  10. Get together with friends, a mentor or other group where you can discuss how you feel and share ideas, as it can help to reduce isolation.

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash