What is burnout and are you vulnerable to it? Burnout is a state of prolonged chronic stress that leads to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Overwhelming fatigue and loss of motivation, feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of ineffectiveness are also symptoms of burnout. When experiencing burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. Remember that burnout doesn’t just happen one day out of the blue. It happens slowly and although one thinks one can handle everything in life, one gets to a point where we can no longer cope. Our bodies and minds do, however, give us warning signs, and if you know what to look out for, you can recognize it before it is too late.
Signs Of Burnout
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion. In the early stages of burnout, you may have a lack of energy and feel tired most days. In the later stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day. You will feel overwhelmed and as if you cannot pick your head up from your pillow.
- Increased illness and lowered immune system. As your body is depleted and exhausted, your immune system becomes weakened, making you more vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems. Start taking a good multivitamin that can help boost your immune system.
- Feeling anxious. In the pre-burnout phase, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and irritability. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become quite serious that you begin to have panic attacks. This will interfere in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal and professional life.
- Feelings of depression. You may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. You may not even know why you are feeling down. As the burnout grows, you may feel trapped, severely depressed, and think the world would be better off without you. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Loss of enjoyment in daily activities. At first, a loss of enjoyment may seem very mild, such as not wanting to go to work or being eager to leave, or feeling like driving to the shops is a burden. Without intervention, loss of enjoyment may extend to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family and friends. At work, you may try to avoid projects and figure out ways to escape work all together.
- Isolation. Isolation may seem like mild resistance to socializing (i.e., not wanting to visit friends, finding reasons why you need to be alone). The need to isolate yourself becomes more and more evident as you experience burnout. You may become angry when someone speaks to you, or you may come into work early or leave late to avoid interactions.
- Lack of accomplishment and productivity. Chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were, which often results in incomplete projects and an ever-growing to-do list. At times, it seems that as hard as you try, you can’t seem to meet deadlines or effectively manage your work and time.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, you need to be aware that you are on a dangerous path. Take some time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late. Burnout is not like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some changes in your life. My next article will be about practical steps you can take to overcome burnout.
Master Life Coach, Counsellor and NLP Practitioner at Continuous Growth Life Coaching