Across a wide variety of professions, workplace burnout is commonplace. Look out for these burnout symptoms to keep yourself and your loved ones on the right track.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon which results from unmanaged, excessive, and chronic workplace stress. The key here is that it is prolonged, rather than intermittent phases with heightened stress. While high-pressure deadlines now and then may lead to periods of increased workplace stress and anxiety, burnout is a state in which one is constantly overwhelmed by stress.
Workplace burnout may be caused by many different factors. Some of them are self-imposed, while others are due largely to our surroundings and company culture. Look out for signs of a toxic workplace to try and steer clear of jobs that may easily lead to burnout.
- Lack of recognition for hard work
- Lack of control over your work or schedule
- Unclear expectations
- High-pressure, fast-paced environments
- Little or no work-life balance
- Inadequate sleep
- Lack of emotional support
Consequences of Burnout
Burnout typically comes on slowly, leading people to feel helpless, disillusioned, and physically, mentally and emotionally drained. Eventually, burnout leads to decreased workplace productivity and efficiency, as well as decreased interest and inspiration. When a person feels constantly overwhelmed and unable to perform well, the stress spirals and burnout worsens. While it is not a medical condition, burnout can have real physical and mental effects on people, even causing heart problems, depersonalization and depressive moods. Pay attention to your body and watch out for the signs of burnout.
Stages of Burnout
- Overworking: burnout typically starts with the inability to switch off work for the day.
- Neglect: the individual may begin to neglect their core needs like getting adequate sleep, eating properly, and getting social interaction.
- Work obsession: the person begins to dismiss issues outside of work. They begin to put work first, and other aspects of their life lose value. This includes time with friends and family, rest and relaxation.
- Denial: as the negative symptoms of burnout creep in, the person denies that it has anything to do with their life changes.
- Withdrawal: as the individual’s social life becomes nonexistent, loved ones become concerned.
- Depersonalization: the person becomes distanced from their own thoughts and feelings, and starts to feel like a work robot. They no longer can perceive their own needs, and they have a hard time seeing anything outside of work as valuable.
- Depression: the person feels completely emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. They are cynical about the future and may feel empty inside.
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms: the individual may find ways of coping through binge eating, using drugs and alcohol, or becoming obsessed with some other activity.
- Burnout syndrome: the last stage of burnout is the complete mental and physical collapse of a person. This may manifest through a panic attack, physical disease, or something else. At this point, they require medical attention.
Signs, Symptoms, What to Do
It may be hard to pin-point whether you are on the road to burnout, but there are several signs you can look out for.
- Every day feels like a bad day
- You’re tired all the time
- You feel like nothing you do makes a difference
- You get sick frequently
- Your appetite or sleep schedule has changed
- You are full of self-doubt and loneliness
- You feel hopeless, helpless and defeated
- You’ve lost motivation and have a cynical outlook
- It’s hard to feel satisfied or proud of yourself
- You’ve isolated yourself form loved ones
- It’s becoming harder to get your work done
- You’re using food, drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
If you don’t think burnout is a big concern for you, that’s great. Try and take steps to avoid burnout in the future. However, if this has become a problem in your life, there are things you can do about it as well. Firstly, change the influences you surround yourself with. Reach out to loved ones and professionals for help, try and stay away from negative people and possible triggers, and consider connecting with a new community.
Next, prioritize your physical and mental well-being by fostering a work-life balance. Aim to find value in your life by spending time with loved ones, nourishing your body with proper food and sleep, taking time off, giving yourself time to rest, and adhering to your work hours. This might mean you need to make a concerted effort to set aside time to relax, as it may be harder than you think to remove yourself from work. Make sure to set boundaries at work as well. If your needs can’t be met at your company, consider seeking employment elsewhere. All of these changes may be a difficult transition, so make sure to take advantage of your loved ones’ support while getting back on your feet. Medical attention and professional counseling can also be immensely helpful.
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