How to Recognise Burnout and Prevent It
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
We’ve all been there before, where we feel as though we are drowning in a sea of tasks, unable to come up for air. This is burnout, and many professionals struggle with this as they attempt to balance numerous tasks. Slowly, they feel their stress levels building up, and it can be difficult to continue going as they feel all their energy has been consumed.
The term burnout was coined in the 1970s. It can be defined as a condition experienced by workers and other professionals. They develop depression-like symptoms due to aspects of their role where stressors of a job or workplace causing burnout may affect a person’s life in a variety of ways. But how prevalent is it, and how serious can it be?
The impact of burnout
While it is often associated with the workplace, burnout can be caused by emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. In essence, burnout is born through excessive and prolonged stress. It often builds up over time when an individual’s demands in life become too much to handle and become so overwhelming that it results in several adverse mental or physical effects.
These effects can include depression, anxiety, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, an increase in negative emotions like anger and frustration and a decreased immune system, among other issues. It can be generated purely by being overworked and overwhelmed in a highly demanding life situation that consumes all of one’s energy leading to a feeling of helplessness and exhaustion.
A person may not even realise they have burnout, as it can creep up slowly over a period of what can sometimes be years. But it does not always stem from a situation where someone finds themselves in a hectic life situation. For example, a person can experience it by toiling in a job they find boring or if life has stagnated. A general lack of stimulation can lead to a prolonged state of apprehension, which is a hallmark of the condition.
There is no single personal situation or set of external factors that can lead to burnout; it can slowly form in many ways. The best way to know that you may be on the road to burnout is to recognise if you are showing a number of these signs. Prevention is undoubtedly better than cure here. We live in a fast-paced, demanding world nowadays, and it can be challenging to get some me-time and make sure you are looking after your well-being.
How to prevent burnout
Below are a few effective methods you can practice for even small portions of the day that can help you fend off feelings of overwhelm, fatigue, or emptiness, all of which can lead to burnout.
Number one is exercise! Yes, it may sound counterintuitive to expend even more energy if you are already feeling some of the symptoms mentioned above, but even getting in 20-30 minutes of exercise a day is a fantastic way to boost your physical and mental health. Going for a walk or even a light run raises energy levels. Increasing your heart rate and working your lungs get the endorphins flowing and will lead to a feeling of improved mood and fulfilment. It is also significant because you are taking a part of your day to focus on just you and your well-being, which in the long run boosts self-esteem as well.
Get good quality sleep
Focus on having a good sleep pattern. This is sometimes easier said than done but try to make it a priority to get to sleep at the same time every night. Find a herbal tea you like instead of a nightcap or caffeinated beverage. Read a book before bed rather than staring at a smartphone – being exposed to this type of light right before bedtime affects our circadian rhythm and makes it harder to fall asleep.
Practice mindfulness (even if you feel fine!)
Mindfulness is a powerful way of warding off negative emotions and thought patterns and can lead to a more stable mindset. It takes practice but is a surefire path to increased mental health, which can prevent burnout. Not to promote the overuse of YouTube, but there is a wealth of helpful content out there to introduce you to it. If you want to read a book, try ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, packed with lots of mindfulness tips.
Burnout is increasingly prevalent in today’s society, so it is vital to be aware of its triggers, as we are all exposed to them in some shape or form. It can have serious health effects if left unattended, but thankfully, as our knowledge is increasing, we can better identify it when it does arise. Prolonged symptoms cause burnout, so the best way to avoid it is to practice habits that give you stability and raise your inner self-awareness.
Remember, it happens to all of us, especially those working in sectors where we have to turn the wheel to make change happen. If you are struggling, be sure to prioritise your health and get the help you need. There are many excellent counselling services available, even online therapy, where you can speak to professionals from the comfort of your own home without having to spend additional time commuting.
Read more informative sustainability content in our free online magazine, Earth Mother Magazine. You can even download it as a pdf to read offline.