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Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, often resulting from prolonged occupational stress. If you have been working fine at a job for the past few years but have lacked energy or felt empty towards that profession for a few weeks or months, you may be having burnout.
Burnout is not essentially related to your work life only. It can also occur due to personal factors such as discrepancies in relationships, parenting, caretaking, etc. Often it is confused with stress, but it is important to understand the difference. Stress is usually short-lasting and is resolved once the causative factor is fixed or eliminated. Burnout results due to long-term stress that doesn’t resolve easily and begins to affect your overall health and performance.
The majority of the cases of burnout are related to long-term occupational stress. Some of the common causes of burnout may include:
Unmanageable workload: If you have been given too many tasks at once with a limited deadline, it is highly possible that you may suffer from burnout. This is frequent with those new at work and is not given enough time to adjust.
Lack of support system: Support in the work environment from your supervisor and coworkers can improve your efficiency. Lack of support and understanding from either one can cause long-term stress and exhaustion.
Lack of clarity for job expectations: Often, employees are not sure of the expectations they have to fulfill after joining a job. This may leave them feeling lost at all times with no sense of target achievement.
Lack of time management: Too much work to be done in a bit of time can cause excessive stress. Also, if you’re unable to make out time for your personal life or friends/family, it may also lead to burnout.
Dysfunctional environment: Persistent trigger factors at your workplace, such as bullying, racism, abuse, etc., are significant factors for burnout. It can affect your well-being and decrease your efficiency to perform better at given tasks.
Extremes of workload: If you have a monotonous job for a very long period, it can get tiring to perform the same tasks over and over. On the contrary, too much chaos that shifts you from your usual routine can also be challenging to cope with.
Burnout not only disturbs your mental well-being but also affects your emotional and physical health. Some of the common symptoms experienced during burnout include:
The signs and symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person. These symptoms may depend on the duration of stress, personal abilities, and outlook on life. Burnout can often be mistaken for depression. The presentation of both of these conditions is almost similar, and they can co-occur. It is beneficial to consult a mental health expert to identify the possible signs and symptoms and guide suitable management options.
Burnout is a reversible condition, unlike the name suggests, and can be managed with certain modifications. If you’ve been experiencing persistent work-related stress, identify the stressor first. For example, are you stressed because you have too much work or your supervisor is not cooperative? Identifying the stressor can help you make relevant changes that can lessen the symptoms of burnout.
It is also important that you reach out to other people if you’ve been suffering from persistent distress. Often people detach or isolate themselves while going through such a critical period, which can be more damaging. Reaching out to your coworkers, friends, family members, or a medical health professional can help you find solutions for your existing problems. If your workplace has a human resource department, ask for their help regarding your issues.
Prioritize yourself over other things. If you’ve been having difficulty making out time for yourself, talk to your supervisor about it. If it is possible, take a short-term break and focus on yourself. Improve your diet, drink plenty of water, do physical activity and engage in creative environments that redeem your self-confidence.
It is beneficial to consult a therapist or mental health expert to counter your burnout symptoms. Practicing relaxing techniques as guided by your therapist can help you cope with occupational stress. Meditation, yoga, and other breathing exercises are also beneficial. If you feel like leaving your job and looking for a new opportunity is the best option for you, consider it and go for it when you feel ready for a change.
Sarwat Makkani, MD
Syed Hassan, MD
Yanelquis Torres, MD
Fabiola Baptiste, NP
Raga Mohamed Ali Osman
Sipra Talvikki Autio