The term burnout can be explained as a state of exhaustion which is experienced on an emotional, physical and mental health level.
People experience burnout when they feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and not able to cope with the constant demands on them (2).
Although everyone can experience burnout, there are six occupations that have the highest levels of burnout: Social work, Emergency response, Design, Business development, Retail and Medicine (3).
Common Signs of Burnout
Alienation from work – A person who experiences burnout sees their job as stressful and frustrating. They tend to become cynical about their work conditions and the people they work with (5).
Physical Symptoms – High stress can lead to physical symptoms like:
- Frequent colds;
- Sleeping disorders;
- Tightness in chest;
- Muscle tension;
- Respiratory problems;
- Back pain;
- Stomach complaints;
- Sexual problems;
- Constant tiredness;
- Severe perspiration (4).
Emotional Exhaustion – People struggling from burnout are physically exhausted. They are always tired and struggle to cope with normal everyday activities due to a lack of energy (5). The person may also struggle with constant fatigue, concentration and memory problems, reduced initiative and imagination (4).
Reduced Performance – A person who suffers from burnout struggles with everyday tasks at home and at work. They have negative feelings about tasks they must do, struggle to concentrate and are not very creative (5).
More Symptoms of Burnout
However this is just the start. Other symptoms may include:
- Crying very easily without reason;
- Lack of empathy;
- Becoming very cynical;
- Loss of idealism;
- Relationship and/or family problems;
- Not able to make decisions;
- Indifference (4).
Dealing with Burnout
One of the biggest causes of burnout is high stress and not understanding what is happening to you.
The use of mindfulness can be beneficial to understand what is happening to you, but also will help to calm you down. The insight gained from practicing mindfulness can help with recognising the causes of the high stress levels (7).
Some lifestyle strategies to help deal with burnout could include breathing exercises, going for walks in nature, exercise and keeping a journal (1).
When a person experiences or experienced burnout, there are certain lifestyle changes that need to be adopted to make sure that history does not repeat itself.
- Take your body’s signals seriously – Do not ignore it when your body feels stressed and tired. It is vitally important for your body that you take regular breaks.
- Say No to new things – Make decisions not to take on new commitments for a month of two when you are experiencing symptoms of burnout. When you say no to someone, be honest and tell them the reason why you said no.
- Have mini retreats at home – Do something special and restorative even if it is only for 15 minutes per day. Some ideas might be to take a bath, enjoy a glass of wine or cuddle up on the couch with a good book.
- Take control of your priorities – One of the reasons people burn out is because they waste a lot of time and energy doing tasks that exhaust them, that are not important. Look at the tasks that needs to be done and organise them according to priorities. Priorities are valuable because they help us make choices on how we spend our time.
- Focus on your strengths, delegate your weaknesses – People tend to burn out faster when they do tasks that do not come naturally to them because they must work a lot harder. When people use their natural strengths, the tasks feel easier and can boost energy levels. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, do not be too proud to ask for help for your weaker areas (6).
How a Counsellor can help
There are various treatments for burnout, it all depends on the individual suffering from burnout and how long it has been going on.
- The first type of treatment is giving the person information about burnout, so they can recognise the symptoms and understand what is going on. The goal is to help the person to understand their situation better.
- The second type of treatment is when the counsellor and the person start to work on the problem of burnout and work toward a sustainable solution.
- In the third type or final stage of burnout treatment, the counsellor helps the person to implement new habits to be able to be effective and productive in all areas of life again. It is very important to be guided step by step to prevent the risk of relapse. In general medication is not prescribed for burnout, but in some cases sleeping tables can be prescribed to overcome sleeping issues (8).
Corey Human has 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- Cafasso, J. (2019). What Is Emotional Exhaustion and How Do You Fix It?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-exhaustion [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
- org. (n.d.). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. [online] Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
- Martinez, R. (2019). The 6 Industries Where People Burnout The Fastest. [online] Ladders. Available at: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/the-6-industries-where-people-burnout-the-fastest [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].
- Schoen-clinic (n.d.). Burnout: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnostics. [online] Schoen-clinic.com. Available at: https://www.schoen-clinic.com/burnout [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].
- Scott, E. (2019). How to Watch for Signs of Burnout in Your Life. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516 [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
- Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 5 Ways to Cope with Burnout. [online] World of Psychology. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-cope-with-burnout/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].
- Werber, C. (2019). A psychologist explains how to deal with the symptoms of burnout. [online] Quartz at Work. Available at: https://qz.com/work/1640624/a-psychotherapist-explains-how-to-deal-with-burnout-symptoms/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
- 15 Minutes 4 Me. (n.d.). Treatment of burnout? | 15 Minutes 4 Me. [online] Available at: https://www.15minutes4me.com/treatment/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2019].