Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined the term "burnout" in the 1970s to describe a phenomenon that happens to many people in helping professions such as medicine. Today, experts know that burnout is not limited to first responders. It can happen to anyone who experiences stress for an extended period of time.
People most often get burned out in work situations. However, it can also occur in people who do not have a traditional job, such as celebrities or stay-at-home parents. Burnout even occurs among students.
Symptoms of burnout
Most symptoms of burnout are fairly mundane things that each of us experiences for a day or two. However, if you experience these symptoms daily over the long term, burnout could be possible.
Burnout starts slowly. The symptoms may be difficult to notice at first. If you don't treat burnout, it will only get worse in the long term.
Burnout manifests itself in physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms include: Feeling exhausted, Noticeable changes in appetite, Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, Headache, Muscle aches, Getting sick often, Digestive problems
Behavioral symptoms include: Feeling withdrawn, Isolating oneself, Leaving work early or arriving late, Procrastinating more than usual, Abusing coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol, Becoming more irritable with others, Markedly reduced performance (usually at work)
Emotional symptoms include: Feeling like a failure, Low self-esteem, Feeling trapped in the situation you are burned out from, Lack of motivation, Cynical outlook, Negative thinking, Lack of satisfaction, Harder to be proud of achievements, Feeling alienated, Feeling alone
How does burnout differ from other mental health conditions?
Burnout has similar symptoms to other mental health conditions, such as depression. Sometimes it can look a lot like exhaustion or general stress. How can you tell the difference?
Exhaustion versus burnout. Exhaustion is just one symptom of burnout. So even if you're completely exhausted, you don't have to be burned out unless you recognize several of the other symptoms mentioned above.
Stress versus burnout. Too much stress can eventually lead to burnout , but just feeling stressed is not the same. When you feel stressed, you become hyperactive and try to get everything done. You have a sense of urgency and still believe you can do anything.
With burnout you lose energy and motivation. You feel helpless, you want to stop trying because you are so overwhelmed. You no longer believe that you can do everything you need to do.
Depression versus burnout. Feelings of burnout usually relate to a specific situation, often work. People who are burned out only feel hopeless about that specific situation. Depression often affects several or all aspects of life.
Causes of burnout
Risk factors for burnout include: Lack of work-life balance, Working too much overtime, Working as a care provider, Not having control over your work situation, Taking on too much, Repetitive tasks at work, Lack of recognition for achievement, Too much pressure at work, Perfectionist tendencies, Generally having a pessimistic outlook
How to manage burnout
Seek support: We are very happy to see that the taboo around burnout is becoming smaller and smaller. Speaking about it with colleagues, friends and family members can be a great first step. Since the tendency in burnout is to withdraw, it can be easy to lose touch with people. Talking about your feelings in a timely manner alerts the people around you to this.
Exercise: Moving your body is a great way to clear your mind. Exercise can also relieve the underlying physical stress that is causing your burnout.
Try mindful activities: Many people benefit from meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong or other mindfulness exercises. These exercises can help you become more aware of how you are feeling and can help manage mental stress.
Take a vacation: Although not a long-term solution, taking a week or two off can provide temporary relief.
Change your work environment: Talk to your boss, manager, or HR about the working conditions that are making you feel burned out. If it's your home situation that's burning you out, talk to your partner and other people who live in your home to see if you can improve conditions there. If your burnout doesn't go away, consider making significant changes to your job or home situation.
Get enough sleep: Sufficient sleep is essential to protect and recover your body and mind. If your stress levels prevent you from sleeping well, try improving your sleep hygiene or supporting your body with supplements.
Seek professional help: Talk to a professional early. There are many burnout professionals today who can provide you with appropriate guidance. Your GP can be a good first point of contact. Some workplaces also offer free or cheaper coaching to their employees.
Pharmacist Dirk Christiaen
Founder of Metis Supplements