What is burnout? What are the symptoms and causes? And if you’re experiencing it, what can you do?

Burnout is “the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

Symptoms of burn out can be physical, behavioral and spiritual. Here are some signs that you’re heading for burn out:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Not keeping commitments
  • Lack of effectiveness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Sense of emptiness-nothing left to give
  • Lack of joy, happiness and not able to laugh

Causes of burnout can come from within ourselves or from our organizations.

Some of the common causes include:

high expectations of ourselves, denial of our basic needs like food and sleep, poor time management skills, inability to set boundaries or to say no.

Organizational causes can be a culture of competitiveness, or one in which being constantly busy and overworked is prized with email and phone calls taken along on “vacations.”

Insufficient training in new job roles or cramped, noisy environments can also contribute to burnout.

Here are 3 ways to manage burnout:

  1. Change the stressful situation if you can. If there are some high stress aspects of your job, see if you can rotate this task with others. Limit the number of hours you are under stress. Spend some time on career/life planning. Set your priorities and live by them.
  2. You can reduce your vulnerability to stress by taking care of your physical self with good nutrition, exercise and enough sleep. Avoid nicotine and don’t overdo caffeine and alcohol. Surround yourself with supportive people, work with a coach who will listen to you deeply and help you to create a good balance of work and other aspects of your life.
  3. Finally, change the way you react to stress. You can do this by modifying your self-talk and self-criticism.   Learn techniques to calm yourself – a few deep breaths can bring you right back to a centered place, able to face whatever stress is in front of you. Become a self-care expert and have some fun.