People often say they have burnout but it can be confusing as there are many symptoms associated with this condition. Typically, you experience a total lack of energy or drive. People with burnout are too tired to get up, too drained to take care of personal matters, and they feel too exhausted to even care if the world comes tumbling down on them. It has a physical, mental and emotional impact.
The main symptoms are extreme tiredness and exhaustion. Mood is affected but burnout should not be confused with depression which is mainly about a person’s mood. Nor should it be confused with post-traumatic stress that follows as a result of a person’s reaction after a single severe event or a series of stressful of traumatic events. Burnout is about extreme exhaustion, physical and mental, which if left untreated can contribute to depression as well as other, often damaging, symptoms. The main difference is that while a person suffering from burnout usually still wants to perform, but cannot due to a lack of energy, a depressed person often does not want to perform. Burnout is often closely related to the workplace and occurs as a result of prolonged stress due to various taxing work-related reasons.
Stress can be positive and is often useful as you prepare to take action. More adrenaline is released and physiological changes take place in your body. These changes prepare you to perform or take action. However, stress can also be negative and damaging. Think, for example, of a 100 meter sprint athlete: intensely concentrated to put in every effort when the shot is fired, absorbed on the track ahead, fading the sound of the crowd cheering while listening raptly for the sound of the starter pistol, attention so fixed that the presence of the adjacent athletes is blocked out. Imagine then that the shot does not come and the athlete must remain in that state of readiness, always alert, always ready to sprint. This ‘ready to race but the starter pistol does not fire’ is, unfortunately, the state many of us are in: constantly feeling stressed by work demands, financial demands, uncertainty, crime, bad relationships and the list can go on. The constant readiness leads to an exhaustion that often leads to burnout.
Typical symptoms of burnout are:
- Exhaustion: feel tired when getting up and tired through the day, getting more and more tired as the day progresses
- Low feelings of personal achievements: the person feels as if he/she works harder and harder and achieves less and less
- Negative outlook on life: the person loses his/her sense of humour and enjoyment of life; work and personal relationships usually suffer
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Disturbed eating patterns; also sometimes, weight gain for no clear reason
- Lack of work performance: the person is usually unaware of how many mistakes he/she makes and how the standard of work has dropped
Who Can Suffer From Burnout?
The answer is: anyone. Typically, anyone with any of the following characteristics can be prone to burnout:
- a high-performance drive
- hard working
- a high need for recognition
- unrealistic expectations of self and others
If you work in an environment of rapid or constant change, a lack of support, unclear expectations, work-overload, mistakes resulting in severe consequences, lack of feedback, uncertainty, lack of boundaries between work-life and home-life, lack of recognition and intense people contact, it increases the chances for burnout.
Do you recognise any of the burnout symptoms in yourself and are wondering how to deal with this? Please consider investing in your health for a morning. Attend the Maurice Kerrigan Africa Stress and Burnout workshop, led by expert Dr Danie du Toit, where you will identify stress factors in your work and life and gain understanding of your current burnout status. Steps you can take to prevent burnout will also be part of the workshop as well as what to do if you have become burnt out and need to recover.
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to invest a morning in yourself.