Burnout is a common feeling that can happen to anyone who is often exposed to high levels of stress that could be work-related or not work-related. It is characterized by exhaustion and often time, depression and isolation. Burnout refers to a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion that can take whatever joy a person has in their career, friendships, and family interactions out. Continual exposure to stress, like long hours at work can lead to burnout. Burnout isn’t usually easy to spot if you do not fully understand what it is and its symptoms. This is why we’ve put together this article to guide and help you identify what the signs of burnout are and ways to prevent getting it.

What is Burnout?

Burnout can be defined as a state of physical, psychological, social and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and exacerbated stress. It can be triggered by a variety of factors, including work-related stress, an overly demanding workload, a lack of support or resources, or a lack of control over one’s work environment. It can have a serious impact on one’s psychological and physical health, as well as affect your work and personal relationships.

Symptoms of burnout include feelings of fatigue, cynicism, detachment, and ineffectiveness, as well as physical symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Burnout can have serious consequences for both individuals and organizations, including decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and increased risk of mental health problems.

If you suspect that you might be coming down with the symptoms of a burnout then, it is important to note your triggers and seek support from friends, family, and healthcare professionals. This may involve making changes to your work environment, setting boundaries, and finding ways to manage stress more effectively.

As we move along, we would be talking more on burnout triggers, burnout symptoms and how to deal with burnout.

What does burnout feel like?

As stated earlier, burnout is as a result of stress which has been brewing over a long period of time. It can often lead to low self-esteem in individuals. The individuals are said to be in a constant state of uneasiness trying their hardest to get over the feeling of emptiness. It can also affect an individual’s physical and mental health as well as their work performance.

Some common symptoms of burnout include

  • Physical exhaustion: feeling tired, drained, or fatigued all the time, even after a good night’s sleep
  • Emotional exhaustion: feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, or lacking the emotional resources to cope with stress
  • Mental exhaustion: difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, or feeling mentally foggy or forgetful
  • Decreased productivity: struggling to complete tasks or feeling like you are not performing to your usual standards
  • Loss of motivation: feeling uninterested or unengaged in your work or activities
  • Negative feelings: feeling negative, cynical, or detached from your work or other activities
  • Health problems: experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, or changes in appetite or sleep patterns

Burnout Symptoms

Here are some common signs of burnout:

  1. Exhaustion: Exhaustion is a feeling of extreme physical and mental fatigue. Different factors have been known to cause exhaustion, including physical activity, stress, lack of sleep, and illness. Symptoms of exhaustion may include feelings of extreme tiredness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty completing tasks, irritability, and decreased motivation. If you are experiencing exhaustion, you must first ascertain what could be the main cause of your symptoms and to get sufficient rest and relaxation. This may include getting more sleep, reducing stress, and engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge. If your exhaustion persists or is severe, consulting a licensed professional can go a long way in further evaluation and treatment.
  2. Loss of motivation and decreased productivity

Loss of motivation and decreased productivity can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common ones include:

  • Lack of clear goals or purpose: If you don’t have a clear sense of what you’re trying to accomplish or why it’s important, it can be hard to stay motivated.
  • Boredom or lack of challenge: If you’re not challenged or stimulated by your work, it can be hard to maintain motivation.
  • Stress or burnout: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can be difficult to find the energy or focus to be productive.
  • Personal problems or distractions: Personal issues or distractions can take your mind off of work and make it hard to stay focused and motivated.
  • Poor work environment: If you don’t have the resources or support you need to do your job effectively, it can be hard to stay motivated.

To address these issues, you might try setting clear goals, finding ways to make your work more challenging or meaningful, taking breaks to recharge, addressing personal issues that are causing distraction, and improving your work environment. It can also be helpful to talk to a mentor or counselor for additional support.

  1. Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  2. Negative or cynical attitude Having a negative or cynical attitude towards work and others can be detrimental to both personal and professional relationships, as well as overall well-being. It can lead to a lack of motivation and productivity, and can also cause tension and conflict with coworkers and supervisors.

If you find that you have a negative or cynical attitude towards work and others, it may be helpful to try to identify the root cause of these feelings. Sometimes, negative attitudes stem from feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, or disconnected from the work that you do. In these cases, it may be helpful to try to find ways to reframe your perspective and find meaning and purpose in your work.

If negative attitudes are a result of negative experiences with coworkers or supervisors, it may be helpful to try to address these issues directly and find ways to improve communication and build stronger relationships.

It may also be helpful to try to find ways to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance, as these can contribute to negative attitudes. Exercise, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can all help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Finally, seeking support from a mental health professional or joining a support group can be helpful in managing negative attitudes and improving overall well-being.

  1. Decreased satisfaction with work and personal life

It’s completely normal to feel dissatisfaction with work or personal life from time to time. Oftentimes, different factors can be the reason for this, such as feeling unfulfilled in your job, experiencing conflicts with coworkers or loved ones, or simply feeling overwhelmed by the demands of daily life. If you’re experiencing decreased satisfaction with work or personal life, there are a few things you can try to help improve your overall well-being:

  • Reflect on your values and goals: Take some time to think about what is most important to you and how your work or personal life aligns with those values. This can help in pinpointing zones where you may be feeling disconnected or lacking.
  • Set boundaries: Make sure you are taking care of yourself and setting healthy boundaries in your work and personal life. This can include setting aside time for self-care, saying no to unreasonable requests, and communicating your needs to others.
  • Get help: It is really useful to confide in a friend or professional who has been trained to help you or even a family member about your feelings of dissatisfaction. They can provide an outside perspective and offer support and guidance.
  • Make changes: If you feel like the source of your dissatisfaction is something that can be changed, consider taking steps to make those changes. This could include finding a new job, changing your work schedule, or finding ways to improve communication and relationships in your personal life.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay to not feel satisfied all the time, and it’s normal to go through ups and downs. Taking care of yourself and seeking support when needed can help you navigate these challenges and improve your overall well-being.

  1. Increased absenteeism and turnover intentions
  2. Physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, and insomnia
  3. Escape fantasies about running away from stressful situations.  In extreme cases, they tend to turn to drugs, alcohol, or food as a way of escaping emotional pain.

12 Stages of Burnout

The 12 stages of burnout are a framework for understanding the progression of burnout over time. These stages are not necessarily linear and may not occur in the same order for every individual.

  1. Pre-burnout: This stage is characterized by high levels of enthusiasm and motivation.
  2. Onset of stress: At this stage, an individual begins to experience increased levels of stress due to work demands or other life stressors.
  3. Chronic stress: As stress continues, an individual may begin to feel overwhelmed and may have difficulty coping with the demands of their job or other responsibilities.
  4. Crisis: At this stage, an individual may experience a significant crisis, such as a health problem or a personal crisis, that further exacerbates their stress levels.
  5. Burnout syndrome: This is the classic stage of burnout, characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and a lack of accomplishment or meaning in work.
  6. Depression: Burnout can lead to feelings of hopelessness and a lack of motivation, which may progress to clinical depression.
  7. Physical symptoms: Burnout can also lead to physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, and increased susceptibility to illness.
  8. Disengagement: At this stage, an individual may become completely disengaged from their work and may start to experience a decline in job performance.
  9. Withdrawal: An individual may begin to withdraw from social interactions and may become isolated.
  10. Habitualization of defense mechanisms: An individual may start to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, to deal with the stress and demands of their job.
  11. Complete burnout: This is the final stage of burnout, characterized by a complete loss of energy and motivation.
  12. Recovery: With proper support and treatment, it is possible to recover from burnout and return to a healthy and balanced state.

How to Recover from Burnout?

Here are some strategies for dealing with burnout:

  1. Take a breather: Make sure from time to time to pause and relax for a while. This can help you recharge and refocus.
  2. Engage in self nourishment: Involve yourself with activities that uplift your mind and body, such as exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
  3. Seek support: Talk to a friend, family member, or mental health professional about how you’re feeling. It is usually a good idea to have someone in your corner who can listen and offer guidance.
  4. Learn to stand firm: Always maintain your stance if you believe it is right and never get forced into a corner by anyone, set limits on your commitments to protect your time and energy.
  5. Find purpose: Reflect on the things that give your life meaning and purpose, and try to incorporate them into your daily routine.
  6. Seek out new challenges: Engaging in new and challenging activities can help boost your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
  7. Seek out a mentor or coach: Having someone who can provide guidance and support can be a valuable resource in helping you navigate difficult times.
  8. Seek out new opportunities: Consider changing jobs or seeking out new opportunities that align more closely with your values and goals.

How to help people Recovering from Burnout?

If you suspect someone you know is experiencing burnout, here are some ways you can help:

  1. Encourage them to seek medical help: Burnout can have serious physical and mental health consequences, so it’s important that the person gets professional help. Encourage them to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional.
  2. Offer emotional support: Let the person know that you are there for them and that you care about their well-being. Listen to their concerns and offer your support and encouragement.
  3. Help them set boundaries: Encourage the person to set limits on their time and energy, and to say no to unreasonable requests. Help them prioritize their tasks and responsibilities, and encourage them to delegate or outsource tasks when possible.
  4. Encourage them to take breaks: Encourage the person to take regular breaks from work and to engage in activities that they enjoy and that help them relax. This can include exercise, hobbies, or spending time with friends and family.
  5. Help them develop healthy coping mechanisms: Encourage the person to find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as through mindfulness practices, deep breathing exercises, or seeking support from a support group.
  6. Help them find work-life balance: Encourage the person to find ways to balance their work and personal life, such as by setting aside dedicated time for leisure activities or by setting limits on their work hours.
  7. Encourage them to seek social support: Encourage the person to seek support from friends, family, and colleagues. A strong social support network can be a powerful resource for managing stress and preventing burnout.