When Stress Becomes Burnout

Burnout is a problem that many people either face or come very close to facing at some point in their life or career and the numbers are rising. According to the American Psychological Association : three-quarters of Americans experience symptoms related to stress in a given month: – 77% experience physical symptoms – 73% experience psychological symptoms. In Germany, a recent study by the government revealed that 5% of all adults between the ages of 25 and 45 are officially suffering from burnout. They cited common symptoms such as: depleted physical energy, emotional exhaustion, increasing absenteeism at work, less investment in personal relationships, increasingly pessimistic view of the world and lowered immunity to illness.

If your job or some other commitment keeps you completely drained physically or emotionally, and if this situation goes on for an extended period of time, you may finally reach breaking point and fall victim to Burnout Syndrome. Burnout is a chronic condition that happens when your body or mind can no longer cope with overwhelmingly high demands. You are trapped in a state of emotional exhaustion, and it is hard to get out of that state. You stop caring about what you do, even though you may feel guilty about that fact. Even if you still continue working, it seems to be hard to make progress. You hardly accomplish anything significant, just going through the motions.

Burning out is not just stress, it is much more than that. There are people who may experience high amounts of stress in their job at all times but job stress does not necessarily mean that they are at risk of job burnout. However, certain categories of people and professions are particularly susceptible to job burnout. Most often these are people who are highly committed and motivated, who have high standards and idealistic dedication to their jobs. This condition more commonly occurs in such professions as entrepreneurs, managers (in business, education, health care, and many other fields), teachers and social workers or athletes.
There are many different situations that could lead to burnout. Common burnout causes include:
  • An overwhelming workload.  Could be due to insufficient time management skills especially a lack of planning, prioritizing, or delegation skills.
  • Hard work with no clear goals. You work harder and harder, but no matter how long you keep at it, you cannot see any progress.
  • Powerlessness to change something important to you. Something that you are very much emotionally attached to but is at the same time beyond your control.
  • Forcing yourself to make the impossible happen. For example, solving problems without having the necessary resources.
  • A conflict between your personal values and the values of the company you are working for or partner. You don’t believe in or disagree with what you are doing, but you feel the circumstances force you to keep doing it anyway.
  • Hitting the invisible ceiling. No matter how good or competent you become, there is hardly any chance of recognition or promotional opportunities.
For all of those burnout causes, what is important is not as much the external factors that fall on you, but how you interpret them, what you say to yourself, and what actions you take in response. Finally, it is important to understand the risks of burnout in your personal or job situation. Once you are its victim, it may not be easy to get things back on track. The condition does not go away quickly . You may not be able to recover by yourself, and you may need to make drastic changes in your attitude and life style. You are much better off taking preventative measures than putting your life back together later.
If you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout in yourself, remember that it will only get worse if you do nothing about it. If you take steps to get your life back into balance, you can prevent burnout from becoming a full-blown breakdown.

Burnout prevention tips

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual.  Get out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least fifteen minutes meditating, writing in your journal, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you.
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands.
  • Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
  • Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email.
  • Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
  • Learn how to manage stress. When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help you regain your balance.

To finish. a famous quote on the subject by Susan Scott :

” Burnout happens, not because we are trying to solve problems but because we are trying to solve the same problem over and over again”

  8 comments for “When Stress Becomes Burnout

  1. rima
    November 21, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Amazing article..the best advice is to turn off technology. I think that if every person, stressed or unstressed, does that; they will notice a huge change in their life as they will notice the relaxation they will get from that.

    Thnks Dr. Jenner 🙂

  2. November 21, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Reblogged this on kenkennardblog.

  3. November 21, 2015 at 6:04 am

    I suffered from burnout about 14 years ago and ended up in a psychiatric clinic. I was working hard to look after a family of 5 – school runs, and routine house maintaining, and doing 3 jobs to pay the bills. I noticed that my concentration was deteriorating and I simply wasn’t hitting my goals. I also felt very isolated and hopeless. I lost my appetite and couldn’t sleep. Then one day it got so bad that I couldn’t even read the newspaper headlines.
    After admission to the clinic I slept for 36 hours solid, save for the odd toilet break.
    It was 6 months before I could return to fulltime work.
    Over the past few years I’ve changed my career, I eat healthily, and try to practise yoga and meditation daily. I also make a deliberate effort to nurture myself e.g. gardening, reading, listening to music. Things I felt I never had time for before.
    Burn out is horrid – don’t let it happen to you. Review your values and aim to enjoy life as much as you can, cut down on expenses so that you don’t need to work too hard to earn money to buy things hich you probably don’t need anyway. Good luck!

  4. November 21, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I’m definitely there. I hit every bullet-point cause on your list (lawyer). But I’ve been calling it depression and recently started back on antidepressants. Is burnout different than depression? Or is it a type of depression caused by work demands?

    • November 22, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Of course..they often go hand in hand and sometimes it is the chicken and egg situation. However, I have also known clients who have suffered from burnout who had no history of depression before. It is also a misconception that it is only to do with work. Psychological overwhelm can happen in any situation.

      • November 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm

        Psychological overwhelm. That’s it. Thank you, Dr. Jenner.

  5. November 23, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Thank you for the bullet points at the end. Burn out or not, these are excellent points to live by. I need these reminders so that I can navigate a healthy life.

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