How to Recognize The Signs of Burnout (And What To Do About It)

Apr 19, 2013

woman meditating on beachIn a busy world that seems to keep going and going, many of us feel like we’re running on steam most of the time. If you feel like you are constantly running but never seem able to catch up, if you are unmotivated, worn out and unable to experience joy in the activities you used to, you may be suffering from burnout.

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by extended and excessive levels of stress. It can happen when we feel overwhelmed at work, home or school and feel unable to meet the demands placed on you in these situations. If your stress continues, it can cause emotional and physical problems that can trigger feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, resentment, powerlessness and ineffectiveness. Burnout can cause depression or unhappiness that will eventually permeate into your work life, home life and social life, threatening your relationships and your health.

Burnout is not simply excessive stress. Rather, it is a complex reaction to the stress that you are experiencing in your life. It can occur when you feel so stressed for so long that you no longer have the internal resources to cope with the situations that life presents you.

How To Recognize Burnout

Since burnout takes a long time to develop, it may not be easy to distinguish the symptoms as they will likely come on gradually. If you are aware of the signs and symptoms early on, however, you are at a greater chance to take action before the burnout becomes too severe.

Chronic stress can manifest itself in the following ways
  • Psychosomatic illness
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems/change in appetite
  • Grinding teeth
  • Fatigue/insomnia
  • Heart attack
  • stroke
Feelings on the verge of burnout may include:
  • Drained
  • Powerlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Bored
  • Unmotivated
  • Irritable
  • Anxious
  • Resentment
  • Stuck
  • Insecure

When prolonged stress turns into burnout, your body begins to shut down. The end response is a tired body and mind. You may be unable to stay awake or to sleep, you may turn to unhealthy and risky behaviors like drinking, sex and drugs to escape from the negative feelings. These behaviors can seep into your work life as well. You may become unproductive, unmotivated and indecisive.

What Can I Do?

When your life feels out of balance, there are steps you can take to revitalize your body and mind. To address the psychological effects of burnout you should:

  • Learn to manage your stress: Include meditation, relaxation, imagery and positive self-talk in your daily ritual. Working with a psychologist may help you examine the real stressors in your life and they may be able to teach you effective coping strategies to deal with the stress.
  • Focus on your health: By eating, sleeping, exercising and seeing a doctor regularly.
  • Set boundaries: Learning how to organize yourself with effective time-management skills, scheduling time off, learning to say no and delegating tasks can help you stay on track at work and at home.
  • Set realistic goals: By establishing clear, meaningful and realistic goals can help you focus on what’s important in your life and teach you how to let go of what’s not.
  • Put yourself first: Setting time to relax, focus on friends and family,
  • hobbies and “you” can help you regenerate and regain some of your mental energy. Try to set time aside every week just for yourself.
  • Nurture your relationships: Set times to be with your friends and your partner. Creating a nurturing support system with people who will love and sustain you help you feel appreciated and important.

Recognizing burnout may be difficult, especially if you are the one experiencing the symptoms. By recognizing the signs early, and taking proactive steps to prevent and recover from burnout you will ensure that you are able to enjoy a life in a more fulfilled and healthy way. Learning to focus on your mind-body connection and always remembering to put yourself first, and you will achieve balance in your life that will continuously renew your spirit.

Join us as we welcome Bill O’Hanlon as our inaugural speaker for the MAGentix spring conference series. He will focus on both dealing with difficult clients and taking care of yourself as a helping professional. Hope to see you there.


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