There’s stress… and then there’s burnout. But what’s the difference, exactly?
The drive, passion and excitement that you had at the beginning of the year has slowly been replaced by a quiet hatred for everything you do (your work) and everyone around you (your colleagues). You don’t know what those feelings are or where they come from, but what you do know is that you’re exhausted!
Have you ever considered that you might be experiencing burnout?
What is burnout?
“Burnout is a physical and mental collapse where a person feels extremely exhausted and is often caused by overwork and great stress,” general practitioner, Dr Nandi Ndhlovu, tells Women’s Health.
Just this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised burnout as a medical diagnosis. They also added that it is a direct result of a workplace-related issue and nothing else.
“Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life… [it is] a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” WHO said.
Signs and symptoms
We all get stressed out at work, but there’s a thin line between healthy stress and stress that takes a toll on your overall health and well-being.
Dr Ndhlovu takes us through the burnout signs that you should look out for in yourself:
- You are highly irritable
- You are uncomfortably cynical
- Thinking about your job exhausts you
- You are constantly tired (extreme fatigue)
- You experience sadness often
- You experience anger often
- You are careless with clients
- You keep dropping the ball
- You constantly feel overwhelmed
- You get palpitations just thinking about going to work
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself, then it’s important that you see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and professional help. If you don’t, the consequences can be quite devastating.
“Burnout is a very gradual process that must be stopped at the very beginning,” she explains.
“Being constantly stressed negatively impacts your immune system and you can become susceptible to being constantly ill. Burnout can also increase your risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and even heart disease.”
Dr Ndhlovu adds that it also pushes some people on to alcohol and drug abuse, which have their own consequences.
In the meantime…
While seeking professional help is the first thing you must do (you can’t compromise on this!), there are other ways you can lessen your burden.
1. Evaluate your work situation
As it is with all things, you must always treat the cause. Figure out what it is at work that’s causing you to burn out and try to find a solution for it. If it means you need to start actively looking for a new job, then do that. You can’t win if you don’t treat the cause.
2. Reduce your alcohol consumption
If you used to have one glass of wine every night and now a bottle has become your new norm, you need to actively work towards a more moderated consumption rate. Being hungover at work every morning is going to make your professional life even more miserable.
3. Find support
Don’t drown in silence. Reach out to the people in your life who you know care about you and let them know what you’re going through. Sometimes all you need to feel lighter is an ear that’s willing to listen.
Numerous studies across the globe have shown the stress-reducing benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Read our guide on how to meditate here.