Burnout – Its Definition, Signs & How to Deal with It
Coined in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout syndrome (BOS) was first used to describe the consequences of severe stress and high aspirations in “helping” professions. For example, doctors and nurses who sacrifice themselves for others would become exhausted, listless, and unable to cope with their responsibilities. In other words, they became “burned out”.
Today, the term is not only used for those in the medical and caregiving professions but across every industry possible. From stressed-out entrepreneurs and healthcare workers to overworked homemakers and entry-level employees, burnout syndrome (BOS) can affect anyone. When left unchecked, BOS can lead to a host of physical and psychological health problems.
What is burnout?
By definition, stress can place an individual under extreme pressure. When left unchecked, this stress can lead an individual to feel empty, exhausted, unable to cope, and eventually burned out. In its simplest form, burnout refers to the various physical, mental, and psychological reactions that occur in response to prolonged stress and overworking. Although experts frequently disagree on how to define burnout, in recent years BOS has widely become recognized as a medical diagnosis among medical professionals.
Nevertheless, it’s important to be able to spot the signs and symptoms of burnout because it’s associated with a number of health problems. Chronic stress contributes to anxiety, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, and emotional difficulties. Additionally, burnout changes the brain, impacting working memory, creativity, and problem-solving.
Who gets burnout?
Anyone can get burnout. Individuals who are continually exposed to high levels of stress are more prone to experiencing burnout syndrome. Caregivers and helping professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and first responders, are more likely to experience burnout. However, a recent study found that parents and individuals caring for children, such as teachers and childcare providers, experience burnout similar to business executives and doctors.
The three types of burnout
Over time prolonged stress in the workplace (or for caregivers and homemakers) can lead to a host of mental and physical symptoms. While there are many causes of burnout, most commonly BOS is caused by feeling overworked or under-challenged, feeling pressured by looming deadlines, or from mitigating conflicts with colleagues. Regardless of the underlying cause, most people suffer from burnout as a result of neglecting their own needs.
There are three basic classifications for burnout syndrome:
- Overload burnout: Individuals experiencing overload burnout relentlessly work to achieve success. They rarely take time off or step away from their professional obligations and responsibilities. Some of these people are willing to risk their own personal life and health in pursuit of their professional ambitions. Others are not aware their work is all-consuming and taking a toll on their mental and physical health.
- Under-challenge burnout: The opposite of overload burnout, individuals suffering from under-challenge burnout find little fulfillment or joy in their work. Under-challenge burnout can be caused by a number of variables, to include feeling underappreciated and bored resulting from a lack of learning opportunities. These individuals often become cynical and indifferent, which can lead to avoiding responsibilities and disengagement.
- Neglect burnout: This category of burnout results from feeling professionally helpless. Individuals who experience neglect burnout may feel unable to keep up with the responsibilities of their job. Neglect burnout can lead to an employee becoming unmotivated or passive.
Symptoms of burnout
Like with any other physical or mental conditions, burnout syndrome does not manifest the same way in every person. However, there are common physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms associated with Burnout.
Physical symptoms and signs of burnout
- Frequently feeling tired, drained, or fatigued
- Consistent muscle pain or headaches
- Compromised immunity and frequent illness
- Change in sleep habits or appetite
Emotional symptoms and signs of burnout
- Feelings of doubt or failure
- Feeling trapped, helpless, or defeated
- Feeling alone or detached
- Decreased motivation
- Increased negative or cynical feelings
- Feeling a lack of accomplishment or satisfaction
Behavioral symptoms and signs of burnout
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Using drugs, alcohol, or food to cope
How to prevent and manage burnout
Stress is unavoidable, but you can prevent burnout. Regardless of your profession, the best way to avoid burnout is to practice self-care. Be sure to take time for yourself, resting, spending time with family and friends, and doing things you enjoy.
- Exercise: Regular exercise is great for your physical health, and it also gives you an emotional boost. Even a few minutes a day will help you feel better as you devote time to your mental and physical health.
- Nutrition: Eating a well-balanced diet will not only improve your energy and provide your brain with the nutrients it needs to “see” clearly, but a balanced diet will also improve your overall health.
- Sleep: Your body needs to rest and reset in order to properly function. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps to ensure you receive the rest you need to function at your highest levels.
- Ask for help: When it comes to preventing or managing burnout, one of the best things you can do is ask for help. During stressful times ask for assistance so that you can take breaks when needed. Consider developing a self-care “check-in” with close friends, family, or colleagues that can guide you through stressful times.
According to the Statista 2017 report, 13% of respondents in the U.S. would turn to psychologists in case of burnout and 52% would ask for help from their families and friends. Both options are fine, but at the same time, about 23% of people said that they would try to get through burnout on their own. Thus it’s very important to understand in time that you aren’t making progress and start looking for someone’s help. We recommend you being attentive to your mood and feelings so you won’t miss this moment.
If the stress becomes overwhelming and you are on the verge of experiencing burnout, do not be afraid to seek professional health. The psychological professionals at BE Psychology Center offer burnout counseling services to help you get back on the path to living a happy and healthy life.
As we comply with current COVID-19 guidelines and regulations, we continue to offer our therapy sessions via virtual platforms to provide the support you need to maintain your mental health during these temporarily uncertain times. Virtual sessions are completely confidential, safe, and secure. Additionally, if your traditional sessions are covered by your insurance, your virtual sessions will be covered by your insurance provider as well.
Contact a member of our team to learn more about how our counseling services can improve your life.