What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion caused by excessive or chronic stress. It’s often characterized by feelings of cynicism and detachment from work, reduced effectiveness and productivity, and a sense of being overwhelmed, emotionally drained or physically exhausted.
Burnout can affect anyone, but it’s most common in professions that involve long hours, high-pressure situations, and a sense of constant demand. Healthcare workers, Human Resources professionals, business leaders, lawyers, and entrepreneurs are just a few examples of professions where burnout is prevalent.
The Relationship Between Burnout and Mental Health
Burnout and mental health are closely intertwined. In fact, burnout is now recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization (WHO), which describes it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
If you don’t address it, burnout can lead to serious mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse. Burnout can also exacerbate existing mental or physical health conditions, making it more difficult for you to manage your symptoms.
Recognizing the Signs of Burnout
The first step in addressing burnout is recognizing the signs. Here are some common indicators that you may be experiencing burnout:
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion
- Feeling cynical or detached from work, coworkers, or loved ones
- Reduced effectiveness and productivity at work or in daily life
- Dreading Sundays or holidays as you think about returning to work
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions; brain fog
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Lack of joy in life activities that gave you joy before
- Increased irritability or anger; lashing out at others
- Physical symptoms, like headaches, muscle tension or digestive issues
- Poor quality sleep including inability to fall asleep, waking during the night and can’t fall back asleep, or feeling exhausted after a full night of sleep
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action to prevent your burnout from getting worse.
Preventing Burnout and Promoting Mental Health
Preventing burnout and prioritizing your mental health requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some strategies that can help:
Don’t be afraid to get professional help. This may mean working with a healing coach like me who specializes in burnout prevention and recovery by revealing and healing the root cause. When I had burnout during my previous HR career, I wish I found the right support sooner rather than suffering for as long as I did.
Taking care of yourself first is essential for preventing burnout. Selfish is not a bad word! This means getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, staying active, and consistently practicing relaxation techniques like meditation.
In my experience, hard-working, ambitious and giving people who value their work find this difficult. It may be the people pleasing values or work ethic they were taught that causes these work and personal life imbalances. Sometimes you don’t even realize how off balance until it becomes a major problem. It’s important to set boundaries around your work and personal life to prevent burnout. This may mean limiting your work hours, saying no to additional assignments or “growth opportunities”, or taking breaks throughout the day when you need it.
Prioritize Meaningful Activities:
It’s important to prioritize activities that bring you joy and meaning outside of work. This may mean spending time with loved ones and friends, pursuing a hobby, or volunteering for a cause that you care about.
Create a Supportive Work Environment:
If you’re in a position of leadership, it’s important to create a supportive work environment that promotes mental health and prevents burnout for your employees. This may mean offering flexible work arrangements, providing realistic work expectations, creating a culture of open communication and support or paying attention to any signs of burnout and addressing it before it escalates.
Burnout can have a significant impact on your mental health, but it’s a preventable and treatable condition. By recognizing the signs of burnout early and taking action to prevent it from getting worse, you can protect your mental health and overall well-being.
Photo by Elisa Ventur, Unsplash