In our modern world, we all live extremely busy, chaotic lives.
Juggling family, friends, socialising, finances, work pressures, keeping in shape, mental health…
it is little wonder that more and more of us are finding it difficult to keep our heads above water, and the consequences can be catastrophic.
Whilst many may believe that burnout is simply an overemotional reaction to a situation, studies show that it is a very real, tangible condition, which can have huge negative impacts on our emotional, mental and physical health.
It is a physical reaction by your body that you need to slow down and take the time to take care of yourself – something which may not seem natural in our busy worlds – and can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of detachment and low self-worth, and a cynicism for life in general.
We make constant excuses not to put ourselves first – “I’ll go to bed when I’ve finished this email/briefed on this project/helped the kids with their homework/helped this friend…” and at no point do we turn around and ask ourselves what we need.
As society and life grow more complex and busy, we are at risk of this becoming an ever-increasing phenomenon, which could potentially have a detrimental effect on workforces and individuals alike.
Signs of a Burnout
Our body tries to give us a number of signs and warnings that we are on the edge of burning out, many of which we tend to ignore, putting them down to being tired or stressed.
Here are some key signs of each of the three signs of burnout:
Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
You may feel tired, lethargic and lack of energy, physically and emotionally drained or depleted, and dreading facing the rest of the day to come.
In what seems a contradiction, insomnia is also a key symptom: you feel so exhausted, yet cannot sleep.
Forgetfulness, an inability to focus or concentrate
It may start with forgetting where you misplaced your pen.
Then being late to an important meeting.
Then zoning out in said meeting, totally unable to concentrate.
This escalates until work starts to pile up and seem completely overwhelming.
Shortness of breath, palpitations, lack of appetite, shortness of breath, headaches, fainting, and a decreased immunity to colds, flu and other illnesses can all be physical manifestations of your stress.
Anxiety and Depression
As you move closer and closer to burnout, you may start experiencing feelings of extreme anxiety, depression, worthlessness, guilt and a sense of being trapped in your life.
You may also feel intense bursts of anger for no obvious reason.
Signs of Cynicism and Detachment
Loss of enjoyment
It may be that you initially cease to enjoy going to work.
This can then build and escalate until your receive no joy or enjoyment from friends, family or hobbies.
This can lead to isolation as you resist interactions with people, preferring to be alone with your own negative thoughts.
Again, this may start off as work-focused pessimism but can seep out into other areas of life, such as relationships with peers, family and co-workers.
It can add to a feeling of low self-esteem and a sense that there is no point in attempting to succeed or achieve.
Detachment is the sense of being alienated or disconnected from the environment in which you live, or to other people around you.
It can be emotional – distancing yourself from friends and colleagues – and evolve into something physical – calling in sick, physically withdrawing from people.
Signs of Ineffectiveness/Lack of Accomplishment
You may find yourself snappier than usual, with less patience.
This can be a result of feeling unimportant or ineffective or realising that you are unable to do your job as well as you once did.
Lack of productivity, poor performance
Linked to the symptoms of apathy and depression can come a lack of desire to succeed, as well as a poor performance at work and in your personal life.
You may let deadlines and commitments slide, fail to complete tasks, and perform ineffectively or not at all.
Burnout is a genuine, serious condition, which is likely to affect more of us than we realise.
It is a physical, emotional and mental reaction to excess stress, and can lead to serious long-term health conditions in the future.
Taking on too many tasks or responsibility, neglecting our own health and desires, and ignoring some of these crucial signs can all result in a burnout, which will put us out of action for far longer than simply meeting out needs effectively in the first place.
By listening to your body, and being aware of the risks, you can take steps to manage your stress levels in a healthier and more productive way.
Delegating, list making, prioritising, exercising and making time for yourself can all help to reduce the risks; make sure you are taking positive steps to reduce and eliminate stress in your life before it is too late.