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Handling Burnout – The Warning Signs

“Burnout is when you are emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted” – Susan Scott

Burnout is terrible. It severely and adversely affects the lives of those who suffer as well as their families, friends and colleagues. Burnout has both a personal cost and an organisational cost. It is in the best interests of employees and employers that it is taken seriously…and everything that can be done is done, to help prevent it occurring.

If you are suffering from burnout, or think you are approaching it, get help – please. You will really struggle to recover without support, advice and help from someone.

What is burnout?

Burnout is when you are emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. Burnout is caused by excessive and prolonged pressure and is characterised by exhaustion and a lack of enthusiasm and motivation.

Sufferers find that their productivity declines and their energy is drained. They become increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful.

Burnout was first defined by the psychoanalyst Herbert J. Freudenberger in 1972. He went on to say that burnout ‘is not a condition that gets better by being ignored. Nor is it any kind of disgrace. On the contrary, it’s a problem borne of good intentions.’

It is important to note that whilst burnout is not the same as depression, the two conditions can share characteristics.

When you experience burnout, your body is actually suffering from the long term overproduction of cortisol. When overused, cortisol wears a person out….hence the phrase ‘Running on Empty’.

Burnout – The Warning Signs

We are all unique individuals and thus have different propensities as to how pressure translates into stress and then to burnout.

However the typical early warning signs are when we are expected to, or expect ourselves to, work long hours under constant vigilance, at a high pace and with a demanding drive to achieve results.

Some of the early signs to pay attention to include;

  • Not wanting to go to work or get down to it
  • Find yourself getting irritable at home
  • Thinking about work when not at actually at work
  • Not exercising because you feel too tired
  • Sleeping poorly
  • Feeling rushed or impatient

These do not necessarily mean that you are about to suffer Stress and then Burnout. Pressure is generally good for us…but they are early signs and attention should be paid to them.

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