In today’s current climate, it can sometimes feel like it’s impossible to avoid stress. Covid, politics, climate change—the list can go on forever of all the different triggers contributing to anxiety these days. With so much to worry about, it’s no wonder that burnout is on the rise.
What is Burnout?
Originally coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, burnout describes the physical and behavioral symptoms as a result of “becoming exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources” in the workplace. Physical signs of burnout include exhaustion, fatigue, frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disorders, lowered immunity, sleeplessness, and shortness of breath whereas behavioral symptoms can include frustration, anger, sense of failure, increased self-doubt, detachment, cynicism, loss of motivation, and general signs of depression.
Burnout can be brought on from a variety of factors including work-induced stress, home life stress, and personality traits that make an individual more susceptible to the syndrome.
Anyone who’s continually exposed to high levels of stress can experience burnout at any point in their life, but there are definitely jobs that can make individuals more vulnerable. Specifically, research has shown that first responders, caretakers, doctors, and nurses are just some of the career positions that are more prone to experience burnout.
Burnout can be brought on outside of the workplace as well. In fact, a recent study shows that similar to doctors and nurses, parents are also vulnerable to the syndrome. Additionally, people with personality characteristics that are considered to be “Type A” are more likely to go through burnout than in comparison to their “Type B” counterparts.
Stress vs. Burnout
Although similar, there is a difference between stress from daily life and burnout. Although burnout can be caused by relentless stress, it isn’t the same as experiencing too much stress, whereas stress usually accounts for the feelings of taking on “too much.” Burnout, on the other hand, refers to feelings of inadequacy and being “not enough.” According to HelpGuide, “being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations.”
Additionally, burnout is a gradual process, whereas stress is usually referring to the immediate moment. In many cases, people will not realize they are being burntout, whereas when stressed, it is more clear to identify feelings of being overwhelmed. Because it can be difficult to know if you’re on the road to burnout until it’s too late, some important questions to ask yourself to help you spot the signs sooner include:
- Does every day feel like a bad day?
- Does caring about work or home life feel pointless?
- Are you exhausted frequently or most of the time?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed by your work during the day?
- Do you often do you feel “numb” from your work every day?
- Do you frequently or most of the time feel underappreciated or unrecognized?
Prevention & Treatment
There are a variety of ways to prevent burnout from happening, as well as how to treat it. According to Healthline, practicing regular exercise, a balanced diet, good sleep habits, and routine check-ins with close family and friends are all good ways to avoid succumbing to the syndrome. Additionally, the American Psychological Association recommends seeking help from a licensed mental health professional for additional assistance in learning how to move forward.