The pandemic has put a spotlight on workplace burnout like never before. New research shows that more than 75% of professionals feel that they have experienced burnout. Yet very few people actually know what burnout is, and what it looks like.
Burnout is really some combination of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of low personal accomplishment that leads to decreased effectiveness at work. Burnout arises from workplace stress and has both mental and physical consequences.
Before you start calling up your doctor because a work deadline made you worry, burnout is about more than just stress over workloads. Burnout comes from systemic stress, continuous and unabating. When stress is long-lasting and affects how you go about your life, then it may be time to seek help.
In this article, we will talk about burnout, the causes, the symptoms, and what you can do about it. While this process is no replacement for professional advice, hopefully, it will help you on your journey to health, wealth, and living your best self.
Burnout can be very tricky to catch. It shares many symptoms with other physical and mental conditions, so burnout is easy to misdiagnose. But looking through the major symptoms is helpful nonetheless.
One of the most common physical symptoms of burnout is simply being tired. Those approaching burnout will feel exhausted all day, have trouble getting out of bed, and will be generally lethargic. Those experiencing burnout can be tired even without doing any strenuous activity. It can feel like from the moment you wake up you have no energy.
Often tiredness due to burnout can co-exist with another common symptom: trouble sleeping. People facing burnout can suffer from a loss of sleep while also experiencing tiredness. The co-morbidity of these symptoms may seem contradictory, but that’s a representation of the confusing effect that burnout can have on the human body.
Major mental symptoms of burnout include anxiety and depression, two ailments that are often co-morbid. Other mental signs of burnout include irritability, anger, and boredom, all part of the cloud of symptoms that are brought on by depression and anxiety.
Further mental symptoms of burnout include a sense of failure or helplessness, the feeling of being trapped or defeated, feeling detached from the world, the loss of motivation, and a decreased sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Burnout can be hard to diagnose simply because these symptoms can manifest in a wide range of psychological diagnostic categories, in particular depression. To properly assess burnout, we need to know its causes as well.
Although burnout can have both physical and mental symptoms, its causes are primarily psychological. It’s not just job stress that leads to burnout. Many people experience regular and continual stress on the job but don’t experience burnout because their needs in the workplace are being met.
Think about it: can you name a worthwhile career that is completely free of stress? It’s nearly impossible because responding to and overcoming stress is one of the most satisfying parts of a fulfilling career. Problems arise when stress is accompanied by a workplace that fails to meet the needs of the individual workers.
The need for meaning: Finding meaning in your work is important. Some workers find meaning in supporting a family, while for others, it could be reaching a personal goal. Meaning gives our bodies the energy to get the job done. When you do a job for the wrong reasons or are unsure of them, it can lead to burnout. Think about what your career actually accomplishes. How does your organization make the world a better place? What value are you creating other than shareholder value? If you can’t answer these questions, it might be time to find another career, or at least another company.
The need for recognition: As any compensation expert will tell you, providing recognition to people is about more than just money. Yes, they need to be paid a fair and equitable wage. But beyond that, people need to feel appreciated. They need to know that the organization sees and values the contributions that the individual makes. If managers are not properly recognizing your contributions, aren’t listening to you or making you feel heard, this can lead to feelings of isolation and futility. Even if the job provides a great deal of meaning, lack of recognition will eventually lead to burnout.