Thrive Global describes burnout as “a state of mental and physical exhaustion that can zap the joy out of your career, friendships, and family interactions. Continual exposure to stressful situations, like caring for an ill family member, working long hours, or witnessing upsetting news related to politics and school safety can lead to this stress condition.” The term was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. He described it as a severe stress condition that leads to severe physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Burnout can often be difficult to spot burnout in others, as well as in yourself.
General symptoms of burnout include:
- Exhaustion – physical, mental and emotional
- fantasies about escaping
- frequent illness, weakened immunity
- headaches, stomachaches, and appetite or sleeping changes.
According to Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North, there are 12 stages of burnout:
- Excessive drive/ambition. Common for people starting a new job or undertaking a novel task, too much ambition can lead to burnout.
- Pushing yourself to work harder. Ambition pushes you to work harder.
- Neglecting your own needs. You begin to sacrifice self-care like sleep, exercise, and eating well.
- Displacement of conflict. Instead of acknowledging that you’re pushing yourself to the max, you blame your boss, the demands of your job, or colleagues for your troubles.
- No time for nonwork-related needs. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable.
- Denial. Impatience with those around you mounts. Instead of taking responsibility for your behaviors, you blame others, seeing them as incompetent, lazy, and overbearing.
- Withdrawal. You begin to withdraw from family and friends. Social invitations to parties, movies, and dinner dates start to feel burdensome, instead of enjoyable.
- Behavioral changes. Those on the road to burnout may become more aggressive and snap at loved ones for no reason.
- Depersonalization. Feeling detached from your life and your ability to control your life.
- Inner emptiness or anxiety. Feeling empty or anxious. You may turn to thrill seeking behaviors to cope with this emotion, such as substance use, gambling, or overeating.
- Depression. Life loses its meaning and you begin to feel hopeless.
- Mental or physical collapse. This can impact your ability to cope. Mental health or medical attention may be necessary.
How to prevent burnout
When you’re physically out of the situation that brings burnout symptoms, you must disconnect completely. Turn off your notifications, don’t work on anything related to it, don’t even talk about it. You need a break from that stress, and to establish different spaces. This way, you actively leave your stress somewhere else, keeping your home environment as a safe space.
Listen to your body:
If your body is telling you to rest, do it. You shouldn’t put your body through unnecessary stress for prolonged periods. For example, don’t write off stomach cramps for a passing thing. If it is recurring, it needs to be checked out because it could be stress induced. Pain can sometimes be a signal of something deeper.
Practice good sleep habits:
Try to get more sleep and go to bed earlier if possible. Staying up all night robs you of valuable sleep. Ideally, you should not have to rely on sleeping pills. Anything that interferes with the brain’s natural sleep process has dire consequences for the quality of your sleep, and you need adequate, quality sleep to avoid burnout.
Ask for help:
If you have a support system, use it! Your friends and family are there to help. It is natural to withdraw when feeling overwhelmed, but this is the time to speak up. Sometimes, just expressing yourself is a great relief. Beyond this, simply being around people who love you helps you to remove yourself from the stresses of work and reminds you to live a little and have fun. If you don’t have someone in your life that you can confide in and lean on, it might be time to seek professional help.
Have any other methods for beating burnout? Let us know in the comments below!