Learn how to spot the symptoms of burnout – and how to take action…
What Is Burnout?
Put simply, burnout is a state of complete exhaustion – mentally, physically and emotionally. When someone is experiencing burnout, they may feel listless, drained and utterly hopeless. You may lose interest in things you once enjoyed and find it difficult to engage in activities or with family and friends.
What Causes Burnout?
Burnout can be caused by many factors. Work pressures, school or university stress, bereavement, relationship troubles or money worries are the most common contributors to burnout, however any prolonged stressful situation can cause an individual to feel burnt out.
Stress Vs Burnout – What’s The Difference?
Burnout and stress are different. Stress is usually something that’s more short-term and caused by a work deadline or something that’s going on in our personal life that does eventually come to an end, whereas burnout takes place over a longer period.
Burnout is usually associated with prolonged work stressors.
People often report burnout when they have been working to capacity for a prolonged period, or when their workload has increased beyond capability.
“I was just so stressed trying to do the work of two people after my colleague left. It was virtually impossible to meet deadlines unless I worked until 10pm at night. And, of course, this became the norm, but I couldn’t sustain it. I used to love my job, but at that point, I felt like the only option was to leave.”
The following also contribute to burnout:
- Starting a new job and having unclear goals or knowing what is expected of you
- Having little support from your direct manager or losing a supportive boss
- Having little or no recognition for the work you have done. Often, ‘no news is good news’ in a busy environment however, we all need some positive feedback now and again.
Finally, do your values align with the organisation or your role? People often find it difficult to sustain a job that doesn’t align with their own moral and ethical values.
5 Signs of Burnout
So, how do you know if you’re experiencing burnout, stress, or if it’s anxiety or depression? Are you just tired and in need of a break or are you dealing with a case of burnout? Here are five symptoms to look out for:
Feeling utterly fatigued and drained is a big red flag – burnout can leave a person feeling as if they just want to sleep all the time. Read more about feeling lethargic here.
- Losing Interest
Burnout can cause an individual to lose interest in their work or activities they usually enjoy. You may have taken great pride and care with your work but now feel apathetic about it or be wondering, ‘What’s the point?’.
Tension headaches and intestinal problems are both signs of burnout. Stress, especially when it’s long-term, can take its toll on the immune system so you may find yourself experiencing headaches, tummy issues and feeling generally run down.
- Changes To Sleeping Pattern
Burnout can play havoc with your sleeping pattern. You may find yourself wanting to sleep more and taking naps throughout the day or you may struggle to drift and wake up repeatedly throughout the night. Read about the benefits of a good night’s sleep here.
- Short Temper
When someone feels burnt out and at the end of their tether, it can lead to frayed nerves and a short temper. Burnout can cause a person to feel less able to deal with situations that arise, and this can lead to arguments and tension with others. If you feel like you have a short fuse, read our 10 ways to keep a cool head here.
Dealing With Burnout
The first step to dealing with burnout is realising you have it and this is often difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms are associated with stress, anxiety and depression. If you recognise the above symptoms and you think you’re experiencing burnout, talk about it with a friend, family member or your doctor.
There are simple steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms of burnout. Start building regular breaks into your day to give yourself much-needed time away from stressful situations. Consider these intervals as ‘mini mental health breaks’ and use this time to focus on mindfulness activities and relaxation techniques. Discover mindfulness tips and activities here.
Exercise is also a great tool to help you in the battle against burnout. Try to build exercise into your daily routine – even a short walk can do wonders for boosting those feel-good endorphins. In fact, establishing a routine can also help you cope with burnout. Sticking to a set routine can help you strike a better work/life balance. Create to-do lists and break tasks into smaller, manageable goals and set regular wake-up/bed alarms to build structure into your day. Learn how to establish a simple bedtime routine here.
Establishing boundaries is key. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and fed up with work/school commitments intruding on your downtime, then it’s time to set some boundaries. This has been a little more difficult by the increase in homeworking with many people feeling as if they’re on the clock 24/7 but it’s important to define and separate work time from home time. Setting alarms on your phone to indicate the start and end of your shift/working day can help. Switch off work emails and notifications when you’ve finished work for the day and put your laptop/phone etc., away and out of sight. Your downtime is now yours and yours alone.
If you’re experiencing burnout and need more support, please make an appointment with your GP, or talk to a therapist about how you’re feeling.