Written By Rebecca Vogelpohl
Burnout is no joke.
It affects those that suffer from it, as well as their coworkers, friends and families. Sure, most people deal with stress, and sometimes a lot of it. What makes burnout different from regular stress? Burnout comes as a result of uncontrolled, prolonged stress. Psychology Today defines burnout as a “state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
This does not happen overnight; in fact, it gradually builds over time as stress-inducing events accumulate. The good news is that there are warning signs of burnout that can alert you to take action before it strikes. Some signs of burnout are:
- Chronic Fatigue and Sleep Issues: Some people experience insomnia and restless sleep. Others may find themselves sleeping excessively but still feeling exhausted.
- Anxiety and Depression: Increasing anxiety and depression begin to interfere with your work, or your professional and personal relationships.
- Weight Loss/Weight Gain: Extreme levels of stress may cause one to “stress eat,” which can lead to significant weight gain, or to lose their appetite which can lead to significant weight loss.
- Cynicism and Detachment: One may begin to feel resentful, overwhelmed, angry, and pessimistic. This can also have an impact on professional and personal relationships.
A person suffering from burnout may feel like they are unable to pull themselves out of this “rut.” They may begin to feel stuck or trapped, helpless to their situation. There are many ways to help prevent and treat burnout after recognizing the warning signs. Some ways that people can cope with or prevent burnout are:
- Developing Healthy Sleep Hygiene: Establish and stick to a sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every night. Try to get up at the same time every morning. Avoid caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime. Read a book instead of surfing the web, playing video games or watching TV before bed. For more advice on healthy sleep hygiene, visit this website.
- Exercising: Go for a walk or find a physical activity that you enjoy. This will help you feel in control, clear your mind, and manage your stress. Exercising is known to increase our bodies’ production and release of endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitters, and serotonin, our “molecule of will power,” along with other health benefits.
- Taking Time for Yourself: Remember to have fun and do the things that you enjoy. Some examples might be to read, create arts/crafts, go hiking or fishing, discover new hobbies, or simply relax with friends or family.
- Building a Support System (and Using it): It is easy to isolate oneself when feeling burnt out. Having a network of supportive friends and family members can help one through stressful and difficult times. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional, such as a therapist, counselor or psychiatrist, either. Sometimes talking to someone who is unbiased and knowledgeable about mental health, stress and burnout can lead to the most effective results.
Talking to Your Employer: People should communicate with their employers if they are concerned that they are overburdened or in danger of becoming burnt out. They may not be the first person in the office to have experienced it and perhaps additional advice and resources are available to help lighten their workload.
We will leave you today with the wise words of Bill Owens, former Governor of Colorado:
“Leadership is an active role; ‘lead’ is a verb. But the leader who tries to do it all is headed for burnout, and in a powerful hurry.”