Feeling mentally and physically overwhelmed? Unmotivated to do your job? Feeling like a failure? Not performing as well as you used to? You may be experiencing symptoms of burnout. The term burnout first originated in 1974 when Herbert Freudenberger wrote a book called: Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. In it, he described burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Today, many people struggle with burnout without knowing that they are suffering from it and, therefore, not knowing how to cope with it. Burnout syndrome can affect people from all types of professions. Like a snowball that gradually grows as it rolls down the mountain, burnout symptoms tend to progressively increase over time. In order to avoid the build-up of symptoms and burnout all together, it is essential to be able to identify the first signs of concern. In this article, we will define burnout and help you understand more about the condition.
What is Burnout?
Technically, burnout isn’t a separate diagnosis in itself, but it is highly related to conditions such as anxiety and depression. It is usually described as an inadequate way to face chronic stress. A few of the main symptoms include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a decrease in an individual’s performance.
In the current competitive and demanding job culture, more and more people are facing burnout. People around the globe are finding it difficult to get quality jobs that motivate them and push them to be better versions of themselves. Even at the chance of finding a job that they like, people are faced with low salaries and long working hours. This shifts the work-life balance, creating a struggle for some employees.
The long-searched pursuit of money and success often leads to people overworking at jobs they do not feel accomplished in or they dislike, which in turn leads to different levels of exhaustion.
Wemby Psychologist Soraya Vivancos notes that it’s important to differentiate between workplace stress and burnout: “Work stress is that extra energy that helps us to face new situations even if they reflect a certain level of threat. Burnout [on the other hand] is the excessive stress that leads to an increase of excessive cortisol which results in a negative impact on our bodies and minds.”
If you feel unmotivated, hate your job, feel a general lack of enthusiasm towards work and are more cynical than usual, it is possible that you may be suffering from this condition.
Continued stress at work, as we have seen, can be the origin of burnout. Symptoms of the syndrome can easily go unnoticed and individuals could feel that they are incapable of making decisions at the workplace, and it is their fault if they feel unmotivated with everything work-related. In some other instances, they are made to feel that each task takes too much of their time, or that the chemistry with their team is non-existent. All of these accumulated feelings, together with stress, can be a breeding ground for problems such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and even burnout. These are all conditions that generate discomfort in an essential area where we invest a large portion of our lives: the workplace.
How Can You Tell If You Have Burnout?
Burnout is not easy to spot. In order to help you out we gathered some questions you can ask yourself to see if you have burnout:
- Is every day a bad day? Am I always tired?
- Do I seem to dislike my coworkers more strongly than before?
- Am I more irritable? Cynical?
- Is my productivity at an all-time low?
- Do I have a hard time concentrating?
- Did activities stop being fun for me?
- Did I give up on my normal hobbies?
- Do I have back pain, muscle tension, or sleeping problems?
- Does my head or stomach hurt frequently?
If you have a combination of 5 or more of the above symptoms you might be in a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Even if you’re experiencing mild symptoms, it is likely they will become more severe with time.
What Can You Do About It?
Soraya has given us an expert list of tips on how to prevent burnout, but if you are constantly feeling the above symptoms and it has been going on for quite some time to the point that it limits or affects your personal life, do not hesitate to speak to a mental health professional:
- Be clear about your work objectives.
- Recognize your own emotions and learn how to manage them.
- Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are.
- Take care of your internal dialogue. When we constantly criticize ourselves and others, this results in strong emotional discomfort. It is important that we learn to accept ourselves as we are today.
- Set boundaries. Say no when you really want to say no. Only work within your work hours. Know when to rest when it is time to rest.
- Limit the amount of time spent on your cell phone, especially when it comes to work-related issues.
- Exercise. Exercising is a natural medicine. It helps to reduce the cortisol level that comes with burnout syndrome and it generates endorphins, which help us feel a sense of well-being.
- Organizing ourselves both by priority and by short, medium, and long term goals can help us. It helps us to not forget to take breaks, and it helps us to not spend too much time doing the same task so that we don’t get into that monotonous dynamic.
- Viewing the overall perspective of the situation in a personal way can help us see the situation differently, so ask yourself:
- What am I doing? What are the consequences of my actions?
- What do I want and expect to receive?
- Which elements are favourable and which are unfavourable?
- Which internal elements add value to my life and which ones subtract value?
As a final reflection, think about how your life used to be before you started feeling the way you do now. If you were happier or you were doing better in some aspects of it, remember that although life is filled with positive moments, it also happens to be filled with moments that are not so great. However, like all things in life, the ups and downs will pass. You will always have the chance to reach new goals, and that will increase your well being in different ways, which will sometimes feel really rewarding or unforgettable.
If on the other hand you find it difficult to see which strategies you should follow, or it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the mere reading of guidelines might not be enough. Put yourself in the hands of a psychology expert who will help you find the necessary tools to get through the different personal challenges that might emerge. Remember, “the sun always shines after a storm”.