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Handling Burnout – What Causes Burnout?

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

Burnout has many causes. Often, but not exclusively, burnout stems from feelings of overwork and undervalue at work. This in turn can be caused by some or all of the following;

  • Feeling that you have little or no control over your work
  • Not receiving the appropriate level of recognition or appreciation for good work
  • Unclear or overly demanding expectations for results
  • Monotonous or unchallenging work
  • Working in a chaotic or unrelentingly high pressure environment
  • Not having access to the resources needed to do a great job

Burnout is also associated with lifestyle problems including;

  • Not taking sufficient time for relaxing and socialising
  • Doing too much without enough help or support
  • A lack of sleep over a long period of time
  • Doing too much, for too many people
  • A lack of caring and supportive relationships with other people

Certain personality characteristics can also contribute to Burnout including;

  • Perfectionism – nothing is ever quite good enough
  • Low self-esteem – always looking to please others rather than oneself
  • A general sense of pessimism about oneself and the world
  • The drive for high achievement – always pushing oneself to meet demands and deliver
  • The need to be in control – finding it difficult to delegate tasks and responsibilities

What are the Symptoms of Burnout?

The early symptoms of burnout can be quite subtle – starting with feelings of anxiety, low motivation, loss of your sense of humour and a general sense of listlessness.

People often don’t think that they have a problem until they experience the more dramatic physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms listed below;

Physical symptoms of Burnout include;

  • A sense of being constantly exhausted and drained
  • Lower immunity to common ailments such as colds and flu
  • Frequent headaches, back pain and muscle aches
  • Lack of energy; being debilitated and fatigued
  • Sleeping badly
  • Changes in your appetite and tastes
  • Weight change

Emotional symptoms of Burnout include;

  • A feeling of helplessness and the adoption of a negative outlook
  • Feeling like a failure
  • A sense of detachment or disengagement
  • Low or poor motivation
  • Feeling trapped or defeated
  • Reduced productivity and low morale

Behavioural symptoms of Burnout include;

  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Taking longer to do things and procrastinating
  • Using food, alcohol or drugs to help you cope
  • Withdrawing from work responsibilities
  • Becoming angry at ‘little’ things and taking it out on others
  • Viewing others negatively
  • Skipping work

If you identify any of these symptoms in yourself, take them as a warning sign and see what you can do to make changes to your lifestyle.

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