Imagine, for a moment, your body is a candle.
Each time a match is struck, a flame ignites.
Think of this flame as stress.
Bursting, full of energy! Over quickly.
Now think of that same flame burning the wick.
Burning through the candle until the wick is at its end, with no light left to give.
Depleted and consumed by the flame.
This is what happens when we experience burnout.
Burnout creeps up on you, quietly sits on your back and forces you to carry it around.
You hardly notice it’s there, but all the while feel a heaviness weighing you down.
In this article, we talk about what burnout is and why we get it, how to recognise its symptoms and what to do about it.
The WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Meaning that work-related stress, although normal, if not managed and monitored leads to burnout.
Think about how you feel on a daily basis while working.
Think also about how you respond when someone asks you how your day is going.
Because burnout is the result of constant workplace stress, it is helpful to reflect and consider how you manage your daily functions and your feelings towards them.
Feeling overwhelmed, indifferent, or lack of excitement when it comes to what you do every day, could be indicative signs of impending burnout.
Many people who suffer from burnout do not realize it as they believe they are simply stressed.
Burnout if left unattended, can lead to sufferers experiencing a nervous breakdown.
Demands and strict deadlines at work combine with unclear job responsibilities and feeling like you have no control over tasks, results in underperformance leading to feelings of overwhelm and depression.
It’s important to recognise that stress and burnout are not the same and that burnout is very often misunderstood as stress.
Stress is something we all experience from time to time and can be extremely useful in situations that require quick reaction and urgency – for instance, slamming the breaks when driving, running from danger, working to an important deadline or participating in competitive activities.
Stress triggers the body’s cortisol levels, the hormone that gives us the adrenaline to perform. Stress in small amounts is useful when needed.
Prolonged stress experienced daily, however, means that our cortisol levels are always on high, never relaxing or releasing.
Our bodies are able to handle small amounts of stress; this is healthy.
Just like the flame of a lit candle…temporarily.
Hans Selye coined the term “stress” in 1936 to describe the body’s response to change. He identified two types of stress: eustress, which is beneficial stress, such as an engaging work project; and distress, which is real or imagined stress that puts more pressure on your system.
Burnout is experienced when stress goes unmanaged and ignored and shows as feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion (both physically and mentally).
Burnout can be recognised by the below personality changes outlined by Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North as the Stages of Burnout.
Stress shows as a need to be over-engaging, burnout presents as a lack of engagement or interest.
Stress can lead to anxiety over tasks or projects, burnout often leads to depression about life.
Changes in your behaviour such as increased irritability with colleagues, family and friends.
Increased time off from work due to mental, physical and emotional depletion and fatigue.
A lack of willingness to partake in fun activities you once enjoyed, opting instead for isolation.
Although burnout can affect anyone, of any age no matter the industry, there are some personality traits that are more susceptible to experiencing burnout than others.
Those who consider themselves perfectionists are at risk for burnout due to excessive stress. Most perfectionists have a high fear of failure and work even harder to ensure success in all they do.
Those with a more pessimistic attitude are likely to suffer burnout as they often cause themselves unnecessary stress and worry with a generally negative outlook and are always expecting something to go wrong.
Those who are naturally excitable have a stronger and more easily triggered stress response. There are calming techniques such as pranayama practices that one can use when they are feeling anxious or stressed.
Burnout is high among employees in jobs that don’t fit their personality or skill-set. The more compatible your occupation is with your personality and strengths, the more likely you are to succeed and enjoy your job and avoid burnout.
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms of Burnout, Here’s What You Can Do.
“Enhancing your mind-body and body-mind connection increases your ability to self-regulate and improves your resilience”. Ann Swanson – The Science of Yoga
A yoga teacher once compared our lack of communicating our boundaries to a garden without a fence. If there is no fence keeping people away or a sign saying “Do not enter” how do people know they are meant to keep out?
It’s important to realize that while small amounts of stress are good, prolonged stress results in physiological and psychological effects on the heart, mind and body. And without noticing it, we find ourselves misdiagnosing burnout as stress and so feel it’s normal and something we should live with.
It is not.
Remember there are things you can do and know that no one will be able to do these things for you or see what you are going through.
Regular introspection, reflection and self-awareness are crucial parts of life and will help you to not only avoid burnout but will also help you learn how to better care for yourself when life gets a little stressful.
Have you experienced any symptoms of burnout? If so, which?
How have you dealt with burnout? Could you recommend a way that might help another?
Let us know what you thought of this article.
Blog Source ( Further Reading )
Healthline (2018) A Guide to Burnout
Verywell Mind (2020) Traits and Attitudes That Increase Burnout Risk
Written by Robyn MacGregor | June 2021