Burnout, is a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. It can affect you at any point in your career & life. and lead to depression and other physical ailments like lowered immunity, and frequent illnesses if it is not diagnosed and treated adequately. Burnout is an occupational phenomenon, and while it has not yet been officially classified as a medical condition, it has real consequences for our mental and physical health.
According to World Health Organization, there are three major symptoms to watch out for:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job.
- Feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
Burnout also affects people in very specific ways, each person has a unique response to mental exhaustion caused by workplace stress. Some of the physical ways it manifests include:
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion, even after adequate rest.
- Frequent headaches and muscle tension.
- Digestive problems such as stomach aches or lack of appetite.
- Weakened immune system, leading to frequent illnesses.
- Sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Physical manifestations of stress, such as rapid heartbeat or chest tightness.
It can also manifest emotionally in these ways:
- Emotional exhaustion and feeling drained.
- Increased irritability, mood swings, and short temper.
- Detachment and cynicism towards work or personal relationships.
- Loss of interest and motivation in activities once enjoyed.
- Feeling overwhelmed and lacking a sense of purpose.
- Increased feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression.
A person experiencing burnout will be less productive when assigned tasks, show up later to work meetings and other scheduled obligations, limit their social interactions with other co-workers and find ways to cope, usually unhealthy ways such as relying on stimulants like coffee or amphetamines to counteract the fatigue they feel. You will also notice that they stop prioritising their appearance or self care and procrastinate on tasks and deadlines.
They become easily irritable and prone to emotional outbursts and they might experience physical symptoms such as headaches, migraines, muscle tension and difficulty sleeping.
Even though work stress is the major cause of burnout, other factors also contribute to burnout and they include:
- Imbalance between work and personal life: excessive work demands and limited time for rest, relaxation, and meaningful activities outside of work.
- Heavy workload, long hours, tight deadlines, and excessive job demands.
- Feeling a lack of control or autonomy over one’s work can contribute to burnout.
- Insufficient support from supervisors, colleagues, or organizational resources, this includes a lack of recognition, feedback, or assistance when needed.
- Unrealistic expectations placed on oneself or feeling pressure to constantly perform at a high level can contribute to burnout, whether self-imposed or due to a demanding work environment.
- Job dissatisfaction characterized by not being fulfilled in one’s job, lacking a sense of purpose or meaning, or experiencing a mismatch between personal values and organizational values.
- Toxic work environments, characterized by poor communication, lack of trust, high levels of competition, or a culture that does not prioritize employee well-being, can foster burnout among employees.
Just so you know burnout is typically caused by a myriad of factors to varying degrees.
If you’re constantly tired, feel like your energy is constantly depleting, and have a loss of interest in your favourite things, try as much as possible to prioritize your mental and physical health. Remember, burnout is not a sign of weakness, but a signal that your mind and body need care and restoration.