Work-related stress is one of the leading causes of burnout – a condition that often gets attributed to specific professions, for example, physicians, paramedics, and firefighters.
Although, burnout can affect anyone at any time and for several reasons.
What is burnout?
Burnout occurs when people struggle to cope with the demands of workplace stress.
The condition can lead to severe emotional exhaustion, feelings of disparagement and emptiness, and an inability to cope with everyday life.
Mental and physical symptoms
It is common for people suffering from burnout to experience a range of mental and physical symptoms.
If burnout remains unresolved or untreated, it can have severe implications for the person’s mental health and create difficulty with their overall functioning.
German-born psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term ‘burnout’ in 1974.
Freudenberger identified burnout as:
”The extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to achieve the desired results.”
The stress associated with burnout usually comes from workplace stress and demands.
However, personal stress can also lead to symptoms of burnout.
In the above instance, a person’s job may be affected by other life – stressors which put them at further risk of burnout since they may find themselves unable to cope with the demands of working life.
Research shows that specific personality characteristics may put someone at higher risk of burnout, such as:
- Having a pessimistic personality
- Negative thinking patterns
- Having a health condition, such as depression
Speaking to a mental health professional
Tackling burnout symptoms is imperative to prevent the condition from taking a more profound toll on a person’s life.
Additionally, for those experiencing burnout, speaking to a mental health professional as soon as they notice the symptoms arise can help prevent any further complications.
A lack of fulfilment or job satisfaction
Since we spend a considerable chunk of our lives at work, it is vital for those experiencing stress and burnout to understand how severe the symptoms can be.
If you begin to hate your job, dread going into the office, and don’t experience any fulfilment or job satisfaction from your role, it will likely start affecting other areas of your life.
Signs of burnout
The symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person and is not a diagnosable mental health condition.
However, burnout must get taken seriously, and people experiencing burnout symptoms must seek support and guidance as soon as possible.
Symptoms of burnout
Some of the most common burnout symptoms include:
- Emotional exhaustion: Severe fatigue and emotional exhaustion are common symptoms of burnout. A person may feel unable to cope, drained, and extremely tired. It is also common for people to lack the energy to cope with workplace demands.
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, stomach complaints, severe fatigue and lethargy are usually the result of chronic stress and burnout.
- Isolation from work activities: When a person fails to achieve a work-life balance, they may begin to isolate themselves from work-related activities. They may appear distant, uninterested, and feel numb and cynical about their job.
- Decreased performance: The physical and mental symptoms of burnout often affect a person’s work performance where they may lack creativity or motivation to complete tasks. People with burnout may experience negative feelings about their job role and what is expected of them.
- Cynicism and negative thought patterns: Negative thoughts and feelings are typically associated with burnout; this may involve a person hating their job or wanting to leave the office as soon as they arrive in the morning.
Depression and burnout
The mental and physical health symptoms of burnout often get confused with other mental health conditions, such as depression.
Burnout symptoms may get confused with other mental health conditions.
Since the above conditions have shared symptoms, such as negative thoughts and feelings about work and life in general, it can be challenging to distinguish between them.
Symptoms of depression can mirror those observed in burnout, such as feelings of hopelessness, a lack of interest in things, a change in appetite, and cognitive and physical symptoms.
What are the risk factors associated with burnout?
Studies show that specific risk factors can put a person at a higher risk of developing burnout.
Intense job – stress is not always a factor in what causes burnout, especially if there are positive stress management strategies in place.
Burnout syndrome in specific occupations
Research shows that working in certain professions can put people at higher risk of burnout, such as in the medical field.
Time pressures, heavy workloads and emotional exhaustion can be just some of the factors involved in workplace stress.
However, burnout is not a condition reserved only for physicians; many industries are affected.
Research shows five reasons why someone may experience burnout at work.
- Communication problems between managers and employees: Studies show that when employees feel supported by their management team, they are 70% less likely to experience burnout compared to those who don’t. Support and guidance from managers to employees are vital in psychological well-being.
- Overbearing workload: When a person feels overwhelmed by an unmanageable workload, they are more likely to experience burnout symptoms far quicker.
- Lack of understanding over one’s job role: Having a clear understanding of your job role and what gets expected of you is imperative to your well-being at work. When expectations or targets constantly change, it may confuse people where such stress may lead to burnout.
- Unrealistic time constraints and pressures: People who feel under the cosh because of time pressures at work are at serious risk of burnout. For example, firefighters and paramedics often feel they do not have enough time to do their jobs because of what is involved.
- Getting mistreated: Studies show that people who feel undervalued or who get mistreated at work are up to 2.3 times more likely to experience severe burnout. Such treatment may include stonewalling employees, favouritism, and mistreatment from a colleague.
Fortunately, plenty of treatments and resources are available to those experiencing burnout.
Burnout is a reversible condition, primarily when addressed early on.
Coping with burnout
There are some changes that an employee experiencing burnout may want to consider.
The above may include changes to their work environment or speaking to the human resources department about making healthier changes to their role or surroundings.
In many cases, workers may find that their work issues cannot get resolved and may decide to leave their jobs entirely.
Taking a break
Studies show that although taking a vacation from work may help combat feelings of burnout, the relief is often short-term because inevitably, a person returns to the same issues and humdrum they left behind.
Self – care
Other self-care measures that a person with burnout may wish to consider are:
- Engaging in better sleep habits
- Adopting positive stress management techniques
- Spending more time with family and friends
- Cutting out working long hours
- Considering a new job
- Engaging in therapy to cope with signs of burnout
- Eating a healthy diet
Getting in touch
At Centres for Health and Healing, we specialise in treating all forms of burnout.If you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, please get in touch with one of our specialists who can help.