Burnout Prevention
What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed from constant demands. Overtime, you begin to lose interest or motivation in activities you previously enjoyed. Burnout decreases your productivity and energy, leaving you feeling helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may reach a point you feel you have nothing more to give. Most have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated. If you feel this way most of the time, you may be at risk of burnout.

Signs You May Be on the Road to Burnou

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work, home or social life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You are exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
  • More prone to illnesses like colds and flu due to changes to your body that make you vulnerable.

It is important to deal with burnout right away since it has many consequences.

Causes of Burnout

There are many causes of burnout. Anyone feeling overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout - the hardworking office worker who has not had a vacation or a single parent taking care of children, working, and taking care of the home. Other factors that can contribute to burnout include lifestyle and some personality traits.

Work-related
  • Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.  
  • Lack of recognition or rewards for good work.
  • Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
  • Doing work that is monotonous or unchallenging.
  • Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment
Lifestyle
  • Working too much, without enough time for relaxing and socializing
  • Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
  • Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships
Personality traits
  • Perfectionist - nothing is ever good enough
  • Pessimistic view of yourself and the world
  • The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others
  • High-achieving, Type A personality
Stress v. Burnout…The Difference

Stress involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Conversely, burnout is about not enough: feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations and you do not always notice burnout when it occurs.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Burnout occurs gradually over an extended period of time. The signs and symptoms of burnout become worse overtime. You should not ignore them. Warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Physical
    • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
    • Lowered immunity; feeling sick more
    • Frequent headaches, back pain, or muscle aches
    • Change in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Emotional
    • Sense of failure and self doubt
    • Loss of motivation
    • Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated
    • Detachment, feeling alone
    • Increased cynical and negative outlook
    • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
  • Behavioral
    • Withdrawing from responsibilities
    • Isolating yourself from others
    • Procrastinating or taking longer than usual to complete tasks
    • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope
    • Taking your frustrations out on others
    • Skipping, arriving late or leaving early from work

Dealing with Burnout
There is hope. Steps to get you on the road to recovery include:

  • Recognize: Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse: Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
  • Resilience: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health
    • Reassess your priorities
    • Make time for yourself
    • Seek support.

It may take longer and more effort the longer you have experienced burnout. Additional steps you can use to regain your balance include reassessing your priorities, making time for yourself, and seeking support.

Preventing Burnout

Know yourself. If you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout in yourself, work to get your life back into balance by:

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual such as journal writing, meditating, or reading something inspirational.
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
  • Set boundaries.
    • Don’t overextend yourself.
    • Learn to say “no” to requests on your time.
  • Take a daily break from technology -- put away your computer and turn off your phone.
  • Nourish your creative side. Try something new or resume a favorite hobby, activities that have nothing to do with work.
  • Learn how to manage stress.
  • Slow down - rest, reflect, and heal.
  • Get support. Sometimes simply sharing your feelings with another person can relieve some of the burden.
  • Reevaluate your goals and priorities.
  • Acknowledge your losses.
  • Manage stress at work
    • Actively address problems – take a proactive approach to issues
    • Clarify your job with your manager
    • Ask for new duties if you have been doing the same work for a long time
    • Take time off to remove yourself from the situation and recharge your batteries. Use your vacation time…you have earned them.

For additional guidance contact your local Human Resource Representative or health care provider.

(Source: Preventing Burnout, 2010, http://www.helpguide.org)

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