The last few years have been a roller coaster of emotional exhaustion for this country, and we’ve seen so many people experience a decline in their physical and mental health.
The constant stress and fear experienced by our society are not normal or sustainable. If you can relate to this feeling, or if you are consistently feeling tired, emotionally drained, or overwhelmed by simple tasks, you may be experiencing burnout.
Many people develop burnout without even realizing it. We grow accustomed to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted in everyday life and chalk it up to work stress or something that will go away in time.
You can’t avoid burnout without fully understanding what it is and its possible symptoms. Let’s discuss what it is and the common signs that you may be experiencing burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”
Job burnout is considered the result of chronic stress in one’s work environment, with cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and lack of personal accomplishment being the top three signs of burnout in a working environment.
Burnout can be associated with work, caretaking, school, and relationships. It is often coupled with decreased motivation, detachment, poor performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.
Burnout stems from excessive, chronic stress, whether that’s at home, school, or work-related stress. It tends to be a response to a specific situation or environment, like a heavy workload or helping care for a sick loved one for an extended period of time.
Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout looks different for everyone, but it can affect people physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Emotional symptoms and signs of burnout are displayed in a few ways.
- Feeling apathetic
- Lack of motivation, purpose, or creativity
- Cynical outlook on the world
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Emotional numbness or exhaustion
- Feeling detached emotionally
Physical symptoms and signs of burnout include the following:
- Extreme physical exhaustion or fatigue
- Frequent illness
- High blood pressure
- Stomach issues
- Muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Insomnia and diet changes
- Tension headaches
Behavioral changes that are often burnout symptoms include:
- Social isolation
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Procrastinating basic tasks
- Emotional outbursts on others
How Does Burnout Affect Our Work Life?
Work-related stress is normal and can be healthy when you are taking on a new job, new challenges, or experiencing personal growth in the workplace.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), job burnout is a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been properly managed.
Burnout research shows that nearly 3 in 5 Americans report negative impacts of work-related stress, including exhaustion, indifference or loss of interest in one’s job, cynicism related to one’s job, and even a reduction in productivity and job efficacy. Job burnout is real, and it’s on the rise each year.
Whether you don’t feel supported in your work environment, your task load is overwhelming, you don’t feel capable of doing your job, or any other reason for work-related stress, it can seriously impact your mental health and well-being.
When left untreated, job burnout can affect job dissatisfaction and negatively impact relationships with co-workers and the overall working environment.
Because burnout can affect your physical health, you may end up taking more sick days as you deal with your body’s response to excessive, ongoing stress.
How Does Burnout Affect Our Personal Life?
Burnout has a way of feeding off your energy, productivity, and positivity and leaving you feeling cynical, sluggish, and hopeless.
For your personal relationships with family members, friends, and your partner, it can be very difficult to watch someone you love experience burnout. These behavioral changes can negatively impact your relationships and even your physical health. It can cause strain and additional stress on your relationships.
Burnout can increase the frequency that you get sick, which will greatly impact your personal life.
If you don’t recognize the signs of burnout, you may begin to withdraw from your social circle or avoid family members. When you’re stressed out and exhausted, the last thing you may want to do is go out and be social.
However, research shows that social support can actually mediate the effects of burnout, especially for individuals in high-stress work environments, like medical professionals and teachers.
Lastly, burnout can lead to debilitating mental health issues such as anxiety and depression if left untreated. It can also have significant impacts on your physical health, leading to problems such as insomnia and heart disease.
Avoiding Burnout & Protecting Your Mental Health
It’s possible to avoid developing burnout, but it requires transparency and honesty with yourself and how you are feeling. Many people try to sweep their stress under the rug as if it can be ignored, but we know this is exactly how burnout develops.
1. Practice stress management
How do you relieve stress? Stress relief looks different for everyone, but establishing and sticking to a self-care routine is an effective way to manage stress.
Self-care is also personal; some people spend time in the gym, meditating, or practicing yoga, while others journal, confide in a trusted family member or friend, or participate in relaxing activities like massage therapy.
You can also manage stress by setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Oftentimes, we do too much and we offer too much of ourselves without realizing it. When we’re stretched too thin, burnout symptoms start to show themselves over a prolonged period of time.
By knowing what your limits and boundaries are and saying no when you need to, you’re successfully managing stress and preventing burnout from occurring.
2. Eat a healthy diet and exercise
Maintaining your physical health is essential to taking care of your mental health. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy, well-balanced meals, and exercising regularly.
Exercise has long since proven to reduce the negative signs of stress in the body, and it does the same for burnout. Physical exercise strengthens both the cardiovascular and immune systems by helping protect the body from the harmful effects of stress. Practicing yoga has also been proven to effectively reduce emotional exhaustion.
Developing healthy sleep habits can significantly reduce the risk of burnout. The better you sleep, the more productive you can be during the work day, which helps you feel accomplished. Our bodies need sleep to function properly; don’t sacrifice your precious sleep for anything.
3. Develop coping strategies
In therapy, coping strategies can be taught and developed to help you deal with burnout appropriately; this includes stressors happening in real-time (typically in a work environment) and the overall stress in your daily life. Coping skills help us properly respond to stress and burnout.
To get ahead of burnout, it’s essential to have coping strategies that you rely on to stay calm in stressful moments and manage the stress in your life in healthy, productive ways. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever get stressed; it just provides you with the tools and skills to react in a positive way and leave room for opportunity rather than instant panic or worry.
4. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
If your stress levels are skyrocketing, it’s time to evaluate and adjust your work-life balance. How often do you wake up early to get work done and work late into the night? Do you dread going to work in the morning? Are you losing sleep because of work stress?
Long hours at work mean sacrificing other things you may enjoy, like physical exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. All of these things help keep burnout at bay and should be equal priorities in your life.
5. Speak to a mental health professional
You may feel the warning signs of burnout affecting your mental health, clarity, focus, and attitude during the work day.
Perhaps you’ve experienced chronic stress in the past and you’re showing signs of burnout that you’d like to address in therapy. Burnout may go away on its own, or it may require the support of a professional in therapy.
If you are more susceptible to feelings of burnout and other mental health struggles related to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, therapy can be a very resourceful tool of support and knowledge.
Treat Burnout Symptoms with Professional Care at Clear Behavioral Health
If you or someone you know is experiencing burnout symptoms, we’re here to help. It’s important to seek burnout treatment as soon as possible.
At Clear Behavioral Health, our virtual intensive outpatient program (IOP) offers a burnout treatment program via secure video conferencing. If burnout is getting in the way of work, school, home, or relationships, call 866.885.1449 to learn how we can help.