Burnout Symptoms and Treatment

There’s a high risk of burnout with people who are struggling to cope with workplace stress. It can leave you feeling hopeless because you’re so drained that you’ve become exhausted and unable to cope with the demands of life. Things that you once felt you could easily tackle become extremely daunting tasks.

Burnout may be accompanied by a variety of mental and physical health symptoms as well. If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.

What exactly is burnout?

“The extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

The term is relatively new. Burnout was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He originally defined burnout as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

In layman’s terms, if you feel exhausted, start to hate your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, you are showing signs of burnout.

Doesn’t comes as much of a surprise when you think about it. Most people spend the majority of their waking hours working. So, if you hate your job, dread going to work, and don’t gain any satisfaction out of what you’re doing, it can take a serious toll.

Burnout usually stems from your job. However, anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout. It can be anyone from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation in years, to the strained stay-at-home mom.

Burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors that can contribute to burnout, include your lifestyle and personality traits (like perfectionism or pessimism). In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home demands.

Anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout.

Physical signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time.
  • Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses.
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain.
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits.

Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Sense of failure and self-doubt.
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities.
  • Isolating yourself from others.
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done.
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope.
  • Taking out your frustrations on others.
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early.


Prevention and Treatment: How to Deal with Burnout

As bad as it sounds, burnout is not a permanent condition. You can reverse it, but you may need to make some changes.

There is no set treatment for burnout. Everyone has different coping methods and what may work for one, may not for another. But, trying to push through the exhaustion and continuing like normal will only cause further damage. Now is the time to pause and change direction. Learn ways that remove or reduce the factors responsible for causing your burnout. 

Keep these words in mind: recognize, reverse, and recover. 

Recognize. Watch for the warning signs of burnout.

Reverse. Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress.

Recover. Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.

The following tips for preventing or dealing with burnout can help you cope with symptoms and regain your energy, focus, and sense of well-being.

Work got you down? In some cases, a change in position or a new job altogether may be necessary to put an end to burnout. Of course, easier said than done. Most of us don’t have the luxury to just switch careers. In that case, we have to make the most of things. Try to reframe the way you look at work and focus on the good. Make friends at work because who else could better understand your stress than the people who are there with you every day? Talking to a supervisor about the issues within their control may also be helpful if they are invested in creating a healthier work environment.

It can also be helpful to develop clear strategies that help you manage your stress. Hang out with your friends. Talk it out. Occasionally reaching out will not make you a burden. Sometimes, just venting is therapeutic. Prefer to vent to a professional? Seek the help of a therapist. Self-care strategies, like getting regular massages, carving out time for your hobbies, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercises, and engaging in healthy sleep habits may also help reduce some of the effects of stress.

A vacation may offer you some temporary relief too, but a week away from reality won’t be enough to help you beat burnout. Regularly scheduled breaks from work, along with daily renewal exercises, can be key to helping you fight burnout. Make sure to always make time for yourself as much as you do for others. 

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