Are you suffering from burnout?

Are you feeling constantly stressed out? To the point where you feel completely overwhelmed, exhausted and helpless? If so, you could be suffering from burnout. And you’re not alone – the problem is so prevalent in modern life that the World Health Organisation  (WHO) has now recognised the condition in the latest version of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health problems, a handbook for recognized medical conditions.

What is burnout?

The WHO definition of burnout states: “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context, and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

This means that burnout is very much rooted in employment, but is much more than simply being stressed and tired. Burnout is a long-term problem, whereby weeks,. months or even years of stress goes unchecked by the sufferer or employer and eventually manifests itself in a breakdown.

Who suffers from burnout?

Anyone can suffer from burnout, but those in jobs that carry a high level of stress and/or long hours are more susceptible. Research from the Mayo Clinic, a US-based nonprofit academic medical centre, has found the following occupations are most at risk:

  • Physician
  • Nurse
  • Social Worker
  • Teacher/Headteacher
  • Solicitor
  • Police Officer
  • Shop workers

As you can see, it’s not confined to high-powered careers, so everyone needs to be vigilant and look out for the signs of burnout.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Burnout is a long-term condition that is specifically related to your occupation, and sufferers generally show signs of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

Although we all suffer from work-related stress at some stage, if this becomes a long-term problem it can be all-consuming and significantly affect the quality of your everyday life. If you think that you, or someone you know or work with, could be suffering from burnout, look out for the following general symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Lack of sleep
  • Fatigue
  • An increasingly cynical outlook on life and work

If these symptoms seem familiar, look out more closely for the following mental and physical symptoms:

The mental symptoms of burnout

  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Anxiety
  • Detachment
  • Feeling listless
  • Low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Negative attitudes towards one’s coworkers or job
  • Low commitment to the role
  • Loss of purpose
  • Absenteeism
  • Quickness to anger
  • Job turnover
  • Cynicism
  • Emotional numbness
  • Frustration

The physical symptoms of burnout

  • Exhaustion
  • General aches
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Hypertension
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or a disrupted sleep cycle
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and flu
  • Muscle tension

How to deal with burnout

If you think you are, or someone you know is. suffering from burnout, it’s important you recognise the problem and address is as soon as possible, considering the following:

  • Talk about the problem – Discuss any specific concerns with your employer, and try to work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait. You should also turn to friends and family for support, as this is a problem that affect both your work and home life. It may also be worth getting professional help, particularly for any mental issues.
  • Exercise –  Exercise is great for both mental and physical well-being, and it’s worth considering specific types that can  help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi. It may also be worth taking on a new hobby.
  • Sleep – Sleep is so important as it restores well-being and helps protect your health. Make sure you get at least eight hours each night.
  • Switch off – Set boundaries between work and home life, and avoid checking work emails once you get home. For more tips check out Are you always turned on? and How to deal with tech stress.
  • Change your diet – If your diet consists of foods that are high in caffeine, sugar, refined carbs, trans fats and chemical preservatives or hormones, or if you drink a lot of alcohol you should cut this out of your diet as much as possible. And try to avoid any nicotine products.

It’s important to keep an open mind to treatment for burnout, so you can find a solution that fits you and your lifestyle.

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