Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

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Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

Post  Admin on Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:54 am

Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

Identifying the causes of your stres, recognizing your limited control of any given situation, and taking care of yourself emotionally and physically can help you to avoid burnout

What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can occur when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly hopeless, powerless, cynical, and resentful. The unhappiness burnout causes can eventually threaten your job, your relationships, and your health.

How can you tell if you’re burning out?
Because burnout doesn’t happen overnight — and it’s difficult to fight once you’re in the middle of it — it’s important to recognize the early signs of burnout and head it off. Burnout usually has its roots in stress, so the earlier you recognize the symptoms of stress and address them, the better chance you have of avoiding burnout.

The signs of burnout tend to be more mental than physical. They can include feelings of:


  • Frustration and powerlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Being drained of emotional energy
  • Detachment, withdrawal, isolation
  • Being trapped
  • Having failed at what you’re doing
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Cynicism (people act out of selfishness and nothing can be done about it)

    If you’re burning out and the burnout expresses itself as irritability, you might find yourself always snapping at people or making snide remarks about them. If the burnout manifests itself as depression, you might want to sleep all the time or always be “too tired” to socialize. You might turn to escapist behaviors such as sex, drinking, drugs, partying, or shopping binges to try to escape from your negative feelings. Your relationships at work and in your personal life may begin to fall apart.

    What is the difference between stress and burnout?
    Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up.

What causes job burnout?
Most of us have days when we’re bored to death with what we do at work; when our co-workers and bosses seem irremediably wrong-headed; when the dozen balls we keep in the air aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves into work requires the determination of Hercules; when caring about work seems like a waste of energy; when nothing we do appears to make a difference in a workplace full of bullying supervisors, clueless colleagues, and ungrateful clients.
We all have bad days at work. But when every day is a bad day, you’re flirting with burnout.
Most burnout has to do with the workplace, and it’s present in every occupation. Those most at risk may be service professionals, who spend their work lives attending to the needs of others, especially if their work puts them in frequent contact with the dark or tragic side of human experience, or if they’re underpaid, unappreciated, or criticized for matters beyond their control.

The following scenarios can lead to workplace burnout:

<LI>Setting unrealistic goals for yourself or having them imposed upon you.
<LI>Being expected to be too many things to too many people.
<LI>Working under rules that seem unreasonably coercive or punitive.
<LI>Doing work that frequently causes you to violate your personal values.
<LI>Boredom from doing work that never changes or doesn’t challenge you.
<LI>Feeling trapped for economic reasons by a job that fits any of the scenarios above.
Remember, workplace burnout isn’t the same as workplace stress. When you’re stressed, you care too much, but when you’re burned out, you don’t see any hope of improvement. You don’t want to get to that point.

What causes caregiver burnout?
Outside the world of paid work, the people more prone to burnout than any other group are caregivers: people who devote themselves to the unpaid care of chronically ill or disabled family members. More than 7 million American households contain caregivers, and that number will probably rise as life expectancy increases and the baby boomers age. While caregiving always represents stress for the caregiver, what may be a burden to one person may be more manageable to another. When caregiving goes on indefinitely, however, burnout — the point at which the caregiving experience is not a healthy option for the caregiver or the person receiving care — is always a possibility.

The stressors of caregiving — changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial concerns, and the sheer amount of work involved — can be overwhelming. The Ohio State University Department of Aging reports that “people today are feeling tremendous pressure to ‘do it all,’ taking care of children and aging parents while maintaining career and home. Instead of having a sense of accomplishment, many people feel guilt when they run out of energy to handle all of the tasks.

Another source of caregiver burnout is the lack of hope for a happy outcome. Often the rewards of caregiving, if they come at all, are intangible and far off, and the lack of control the caregiver feels over the situation is often compounded by other factors such as lack of finances, little or no family support, or poor management and planning skills. Without support, the caregiver becomes more and more isolated and sinks further and further into frustration and despair.

Pablo Casals, the world-renowned cellist, said, “The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” It’s essential that caregivers receive enough support that they don’t lose that capacity.

Can burnout be prevented or treated?
Because burnout is related to stress, many of the methods effective in countering stress can help prevent burnout as well. For one thing, it’s important to build or maintain a foundation of good physical health, so be sure to eat right, get enough sleep, and make exercise part of your daily routine.

Preventing job burnout
The most effective way to head off job burnout is to quit doing what you’re doing and do something else, whether that means changing jobs or changing careers. But if that isn’t an option for you, there are still things you can do to improve your situation, or at least your state of mind.
Preventing caregiver burnout
When it comes to caregiver burnout, the stakes are high, as burned-out caregivers endanger people they care about. And caregivers are more likely to be truly isolated from others. So the first strategy for preventing burnout as a caregiver is, don’t try to do it all alone.

There are services to help caregivers in most communities, and the cost may be based on ability to pay or covered by the care receiver’s insurance. Check to see if these services are available through local agencies:

</LI>
<LI>Adult day care centers
<LI>Home health aides
<LI>Home-delivered meals
<LI>Respite care
<LI>Transportation services
<LI>Skilled nursing
Also, enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands, bring a hot meal, or “baby-sit” the care receiver so you can have a well-deserved break. Finally, be sure to reward yourself. You deserve it.
Best defense against all burnout: Being with other people
Although taking time to yourself to relax is important in reducing stress, if you are approaching burnout, it’s also crucial that you cultivate relationships with other people and spend time socializing with them. Poor relationships and isolation can contribute to burnout, but positive relationships can help prevent or reduce its onset.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your relationships with others:

</LI>
<LI>Nurture your closest relationships, such as those with your partner, children or friends. These relationships can help restore energy and alleviate some of the psychological effects of burnout, such as feelings of being underappreciated. Try to put aside what’s burning you out and make the time you spend with loved ones positive and enjoyable.
<LI>Develop casual social relationships, on and off site, with people at your workplace. “We do all kinds of things, whether it is getting together to play cards or going out to eat. It gives everyone an opportunity to relax and blow off steam,” a teacher wrote to a contributors’ site. Just remember to avoid hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain.
<LI>Connect with a cause or a community group that is personally meaningful to you. Joining a religious, social, or support group can give you a place to talk to like-minded people about how to deal with daily stress — and to make new friends. If your line of work has a professional association, you can attend meetings and interact with others coping with the same workplace demands.
<LI>Practice healthy communication. Express your feelings to others who will listen, understand, and not judge. Burnout involves feelings that fester and grow, so be sure to let your emotions out in healthy, productive ways.

In summary, to prevent or recover from burnout, learn to cultivate methods of personal renewal, self-awareness, and connection with others, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own needs and find ways to get your needs met</LI>

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