If you’re asking yourself whether you're suffering from burnout, you're probably feeling really stressed.
What Brought You Here?
Something led you to think you might be burned out. Burnout can creep up on you in many ways. Maybe you hit a wall and you just can’t seem to find any more energy, even to do basic tasks that are seemingly easy. So you’re thinking maybe something's not quite balanced in your life. Or maybe a teammate made a comment to you that you need a vacation.
It could be that you’ve been stressed for such a long time and you’ve been pushing yourself along, but now your body isn’t cooperating - you’re coming down with colds a lot, and generally just not feeling well. Or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with a condition or disease that’s related to stress, and your doctor is telling you that you need to find ways to better manage your stress.
Whatever brought you here, you’re here because you’re recognizing something about yourself: you think you’re burned out. You want to know if you are. And along with that, you’re thinking about how you can make a change in your life. But you might also not be quite sure about making a change yet, and that’s okay. We’ll start with just understanding burnout for now.
What Is Burnout?
So let’s start with what burnout is. The term burnout is used to describe a state of chronic stress, usually caused by work. It’s not classified as a disease or a mental disorder within the American medical community, and there's some disagreement about symptoms and how to diagnose burnout globally. But it’s still one of the most “widely talked about mental health conditions in today’s society.” There’s no disagreement that the mounting pressures of daily life are real, and that work pressure is a big part of it. This is in part why in 2018, an official definition of the “occupational phenomenon” of burnout was officially released by the WHO. Let’s look at what that is.
Burnout According To The WHO
According to the WHO, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Burnout According To The Medical Community
There are many more definitions of burnout in the medical community. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. "Burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout. Some research suggests that many people who experience symptoms of job burnout don't believe their jobs are the main cause. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.”
Contributing Factors Of Burnout
Very often you can become burned out when you’re working very hard towards some goal or result, and you’re not able to achieve it. This element of burnout was especially important in the very first definition of burnout, provided by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in a research study he did on the chronic stress of staff workers at the free clinic (where he also worked), and he went on to write books on the subject. Since then, the term has been used by many to describe this type of chronic stress.
Common Symptoms Of Burnout
Some of the common symptoms of burnout listed in research are:
-Feeling cynical about work
-Being unproductive at work
-Lack of motivation at work
-Feeling of impatience
-Feeling generally “ill” but with no specific medical diagnosis
-Being unable to sleep
-Waking up in the morning and being exhausted
-A negative attitude
-Inability to concentrate
A More Holistic View On Burnout
When we think about burnout at Mend, we also consider the effects that burnout can have on your emotional and spiritual health - on your heart and soul. Yes of course there are effects of chronic stress on your physical health and mental health, but it’s important to remember you’re a human being. You’re more than just your body and brain. You have emotions. You have a soul, spirit, or whatever you want to call this part of yourself. And burnout can really deplete this part. So in thinking about how to address burnout, we think this dimension is equally important to consider, along with your physical and mental health.
Burnout Is A Process
Just like burnout is a process - it doesn’t happen overnight - mending from burnout is a process. But the first step is recognition. Acknowledgment. Awareness that there’s something about your life that’s worth re-assessing, and maybe shifting. And based on the fact that you’re reading this article, you might be taking this very important step right now. We're proud of you for taking a moment to stop and question how you're feeling. It’s an important moment, and we're here to support you on this journey back to yourself.