What is Burn Out?

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
physical and emotional exhaustion.
cynicism and detachment.
feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. However, burnout does not happen suddenly. You do not wake up one morning and all of a sudden “have burnout.” Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognise. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognise it before it is too late.

What are the signs of burnout?
Each of the three areas described above is characterised by certain signs and symptoms (although there is overlap in some areas). These signs and symptoms exist along a continuum. In other words, the difference between stress and burnout is a matter of degree, which means that the earlier you recognise the signs, the better able you will be to avoid burnout (IF you do something to address the symptoms when you recognise them).
Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

1. Chronic fatigue.
You may feel lack energy and feel tired most days, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day.

2. Insomnia.
You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week.

3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention.
Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs.

4. Physical symptoms.
Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).

5. Increased illness.
Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

6. Loss of appetite.
You may not feel hungry and may skip a few meals.

7. Anxiety.
Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess.

8. Depression.
In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result.

9. Anger.
At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace.
(If anger gets to the point, where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or co-workers, seek immediate professional assistance.)

Signs of Cynicism and Detachment.

Loss of enjoyment.
Loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave.

At first, this may present itself as negative self-talk and/or moving from a glass half-full to a glass half-empty attitude.

In the early stages, this may seem like mild resistance to socialising (i.e., not wanting to go out to lunch; closing your door occasionally to keep others out).

Detachment is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment.


© 2014 – 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.