Burnout: What Is It and How To Prevent It

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We can all experience stress, but what happens if we feel constant stress? Constant stress can make you feel helpless, completely exhausted and disillusioned. This can lead us down the road to burnout. Do not despair –  you can learn how to regain your balance and begin to feel hopeful and positive again. 

What is Burnout?

Excessive and prolonged stress can cause a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion known as burnout. It occurs when you feel emotionally drained, feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet the constant demands that are placed on you. As the stress continues you start to lose interest and motivation in some or aspects of your life.

Burnout may suck your energy, reduce your productivity and leave you feeling more and more helpless, hopeless and cynical. It can eventually lead to you feeling like you have nothing more to give.

Burnout doesn’t just affect your work life, it may also affect your home and social life. It can cause long term changes to your body which could make you more vulnerable to illnesses such as cold and flu. Due to its many consequences and effects, it is important to deal with burnout immediately.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

You may have days when you feel helpless, overloaded or unappreciated and even days when it is hard to get out of bed and deal with everyday life. However, if these feelings occur every day then you may be experiencing burnout.

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, it is a slow process that can creep up on you if you are unaware of the signs. These signs can be subtle to begin with, but as time goes on they get worse. If you actively try to address these signs you can prevent a major breakdown, if you don’t, you may eventually burn out. These signs can be physical, emotional and behavioural.

Physical signs:

Emotional signs:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Detachment, feeling alone
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt
  • Lack of satisfaction and sense of self-accomplishment

Behavioural signs:

  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Isolating from others
  • Taking the frustration out on others
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities

Causes of Burnout

Most commonly, burnout is caused by stress from your job, but anyone who feels overworked and not valued is at risk for burnout, not just office workers. It can also stem from your lifestyle choices, personality or what you do in your spare time. This can cause as much stress as work or home demands. 

Work-related causes:

  • Working in high pressure or chaotic environment
  • Feeling that you have little or no control
  • Lack of recognition for good work
  • Overly demanding job expectations

Lifestyle-related causes:

  • Lack of supportive relationships
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Lack of work-life balance (CBT for work life balance)
  • Having too many responsibilities with no help from others

Personality related causes:

  • Feeling that nothing is good enough (perfectionist tendencies)
  • The need to be in control
  • High achieving
  • Pessimistic view of the world and others

Tips for Dealing with Burnout

It is difficult to continue in the same ways that you have been if you notice any of the signs or symptoms of burnout. This may only cause further emotional and physical damage. Instead, it is time to learn how to overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again.

1 Turn to others

When you are burned out, it seems that you can not solve your problems. But you have more strength over your stress than you think. Talking face to face with a good listener is one of the quickest ways to relieve stress and calm your nerves. They don’t have to try to fix your problems, but they can listen without judging. Reach out to those closest to you, your partner, family or friends. Become more sociable with your work colleagues and build friendships will help to prevent burnout at work. Possibly think about your contact with negative people in your life, as this will bring down your mood if they are constantly speaking negatively.

2 Change the way you think about work

It is important to have a job that you love as this plays a part in your work-life balance which can be a big cause of burnout. If you can’t leave and get a new job then find value in your work and focus on aspects or areas that you enjoy. A change of attitude towards your work can help you regain a sense of purpose and control. 

3 Re-evaluate your priorities

Burnout is a sign that something in your life isn’t working so take time to think about your goals, hopes and dreams. Take it as a chance to rediscover what makes you happy and take time to rest and reflect. Ensure you set boundaries and learn to say “no”. Take some time away from technology and social media to disconnect. Ensure you get enough sleep, and set aside some time for relaxation techniques to allow your body to enter a state of restfulness.

4 Exercise

Even though when you are burned out and exercise feels like the last thing on your mind, exercise is a great way to release stress. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, this could even be broken up into 3 lots of 10 minutes. While exercising, try to focus on your body instead of your thoughts.

5 Healthy diet

What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Your body may crave sugar and comfort foods but these lead to a crash in mood and energy. Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and unhealthy foods as this also affects your mood. Avoid nicotine and alcohol as this can lead to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

Interested in ensuring you are looking after your employees? Our Mental Health First Aid Training Course is essential for any business that want to look after their employee’s health.  For more information, please get in touch.

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