Burnout is a term you've likely heard before. It's a word all too familiar for the young people of today. In fact, millennials in particular have been labelled the burnout generation. But what exactly is burnout? And why is it a condition that seems so common?
What exactly is burnout?
Burnout is feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, with many people feeling as though they can’t catch up. It is typically caused by feeling overworked or prolonged stress and, if ignored, can culminate into serious mental health concerns. In fact, The World Health Organisation announced that it will recognise burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, allowing healthcare professionals and insurance companies to acknowledge, treat and cover the symptoms from next year onwards. The World Health Organisation defines burnout as being caused by ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’, with symptoms of depleted energy/exhaustion, increased feelings of negativity towards career path and reduced productivity at work. It is important to distinguish burnout from stress. While it may seem similar on paper, stress is more commonly associated with having too much of something, whether it be demands or expectations, but with the understanding that if work will be under control, then the stress will dissipate. Burnout, on the other hand, is not having enough, such as energy, time or care.
What does burnout feel like for someone experiencing it?
People can experience burnout in many different ways however the most obvious symptoms are physical and emotional exhaustion. This is where a person feels emotionally and physically very tired, demotivated and unable to see positivity in their situation, the cause of which is most often related to ongoing work and excessive stress. However unfortunately some people will continue on with life whilst constantly feeling this way.
Chronic tiredness and fatigue are also common results of burnout whereby a person will feel constantly exhausted and tired, with no amount of rest will fix and can lead to other issues such as anxiety or a depressed mood about dealing with everyday life.
Someone experiencing burnout may also experience insomnia or have trouble sleeping. Often constant stress can cause a person to overthink things at night time, leading to unrest or disrupted sleep.
What does burnout look like for anyone wanting to identify it in their loved ones?
Loved ones will seem constantly stressed, overworked and on the go. It will seem as though they aren’t getting time to relax and unwind or focus on self-care. Instead they might be rushing through their days and having sleepless nights. They may also be neglecting their health, such as not making time for exercise or eating nutritiously. It is normal to be concerned about these things, but a few key signs to look out for burnout specifically include: Lack of focus, forgetfulness, hopelessness, loss of motivation or hope, and disengaged with one or more aspects of their life.
Often physical and mental health are very closely linked, so sometimes, the symptoms of burnout may appear as frequently becoming unwell (as stress suppresses the immune system), forgetting to eat or overeating, troubles with sleeping or unexplainable aches and pains.
How can we recover from burnout?
As hard as it may be, the first step is to recognise and accept what is happening, whether it is self-identified or noticed by someone else. It is important to force yourself to stop and alleviate some of the excessive stresses and workload in your life. This means making whatever changes necessary to change the things causing you to feel constantly overworked or stressed. It could be by putting some boundaries, in place such as speaking with your boss about your work hours or work load, or asking sharing the chores and tasks with your loved ones at home. Making plans to have some time off is also a great way to help recover – so long as you commit to actually taking a break and not working through it!
Finally, it is important to learn how to prevent this in the future by building resilience, identifying signs and symptoms earlier and developing management plans, all which can be done by engaging with a mental health professional.
How can we prevent it in the future?
Prioritise number one – you! Recognise when you are feeling constantly stress and make a point to diarise the time you need to focus on yourself. That might mean blocking out an entire day in your calendar for ‘you’ time and letting those around you know that it is non-negotiable. It is extremely difficult to help others, in whatever way, if you yourself are not okay.
What do you think more people should know about this phenomenon?
Burnout can be managed in the short term, however if a person constantly experiences the symptoms of a burnout, it can be extremely detrimental for both their physical health and emotional wellbeing. As with any physical or mental ailment, prevention is always better than cure. It is important to know that burnout can lead to other mental health concerns, which can further impact a person’s life, whether personally or at work.
Another thing to remember is that everyone is prone to experience stress and feeling overworked, however if these feelings linger on, it is important to seek help from a professional. Just like you’d consult a GP or personal trainer for your physical health and fitness, seeking an expert’s advice for mental health is simply like a trainer for your mind. Remember that it’s a work in progress which can require an expert’s help! Lysn provides access to psychologists over the phone or video chat, which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home for a fee. Lysn can also help you find your best-fit online psychologist through a simple, sophisticated matching questionnaire.
Rucha Lele is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health. www.welysn.com