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  • Sep 19, 2016
  • 8 Min

What’s burnout and how to treat it?


You probably heard a phrase “occupational burnout” more than once. The truth is, this is far more than just a cliché, and since quite recently – a syndrome. Before burnout was not easy to come by, while these days it’s an essential part of our life. The hectic pace of life is to blame: we are compelled to work incessantly, effectively exhausting our emotional and physical resources.

So what’s a burnout anyway? Basically, it’s chronic stress at its final stage. It’s a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that leads to complete apathy, disappointment with life and yourself. This condition certainly requires proper treatment in order for a person to live a full life and function normally.

What types of burnout are there?

In a nutshell, burnout can be emotional, mental, psychological and professional. If you keep ignoring the wakeup calls for a long time, the burnout can spread across several types, which makes recovery much more difficult.

By severity, burnout can be mild or severe:

Mild burnout is a transient state a person can develop under specific circumstances while under temporary stress. A report period can serve as a good example, during which an employee may need to work at his or her maximum capacity, or an epidemic period when medical workers have to deal with a much greater deal of pressure than usual. As soon as the situation improves (the overload period is over) the burnout symptoms disappear. The most important thing here is not to neglect it and ensure proper offload not to make it worse.

Chronic burnout is a persistent dysfunction that requires immediate intervention. When stress becomes the norm and the body exhausts itself, there come permanent fatigue, emotional apathy and negative attitude.

How to detect signs of burnout?

Burnout comes with a number of signs that can be arbitrarily divided into the following groups:

Physical manifestations – permanent exhaustion, chronic fatigue, sleep disorders (sleeplessness or sleepiness), general unwell feeling, profuse sweating, changes in pressure (hypotension or hypertension), skin inflammations, weight changes, cardiovascular problems.

Emotional manifestations – pessimism, cynicism, apathy, emotional impoverishment, callousness, low self-esteem.

Behavioral manifestations – decreased appetite or loss of appetite, aggressiveness, chronic procrastination.

Intellectual manifestations – refusal of self-empowerment and self-growth, lack of creativity, ignoring creative approach to work and choosing cookbook approach instead.

Social manifestations – indifference and loss of interest to hobbies, reduced social activity, reduced contacts with other people, haunting feeling of loneliness.

Treatment methods for burnout syndrome

When you smell the electrical wiring burning, realize the futility of your own existence, our advice is to take immediate measures.

There is a complex of “medicines” that can help you alleviate the situation:

Rest, rest and rest again!

Workaholism and perfectionism drive us inside the perpetual turning wheel that can be very difficult to break out of. If you have worked yourself to the bone and your life seems pointless, make sure you start leaving plenty of room for rest. Full rest lets you reboot your body gently saving it from chronic stress. The operative word here is “full”. Your rest must be various, active, sufficiently long and different from your job routine. In other words, nothing should remind you of your work. Allow yourself to get completely distracted from the work process!

Change of job

Any vacation ends sooner or later, at which point you have to go back to work, which, the chances are, is your very own source of stress. You can get ahead of that by introducing change into your work process or changing your work environment altogether. Even angling your table differently or organizing the items on it a certain way will help change your attitude to work. The surrounding environment is supposed to cause positive emotions: if your work place pleases your eye, you will equally enjoy the process of working

Division of labor

Stop doing it all yourself! Delegating responsibilities is a painful thing to do for workaholics and perfectionists confident that no one else can handle a certain task. However, delegating is absolutely essential: you can take advantage of labor division to keep your body from overloading. Try and find comfort in the thought that by offloading yourself just a bit you are better equipped to handle the remaining tasks. If you ask me, there isn’t a better motivation for a perfectionist or a workaholic!

Never too late to learn

Even an overqualified super expert has something to aspire for. At first sight, it may seem as if you reached absolute perfection and know it all… But keep in mind that there is no such thing simply because the world around keeps changing and moving forward. Make sure you keep moving along with it! Don’t know where to begin, which direction to move in? Study resumes of your colleagues and see what’s missing for you to be perfect. Even if in the end you discover you have all the possible skills, you could always use an additional one, like a foreign language. Get another degree, change your social circle, get new hobbies and move up the career ladder.

Perfection your socialization skills

We will talk in more detail about jobs that are prone to the risk of professional burnout. For now we’ll just mention that huge volumes of communication with a large number of people can provoke the burnout syndrome, especially if you are an introvert by nature. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to turn away from communication altogether, but it’s just as bad to accumulate negativity.

The best way to rectify the situation is to master your skills in this area. There are lots of practical courses and workshops that help to improve interpersonal skills, handle yourself correctly in conflict situations and resolve them effectively. Especially valuable is the skill of… saying no to people before it’s too late. Unfortunately, not too many of us are capable of doing that. And our lack of ability to say no impacts us negatively, approximating and exacerbating the burnout.

Have a heart-to-heart with your boss

Sometimes all ways described above prove insufficiently effective for healing. Then a heart-to-heart with the boss might help. We should mention that this one is only applicable to sane and easy to get along with bosses. Unfortunately, you do not come across those too often. A wise boss will try to find a way to help a valuable employee and hold on to him or her. For this, a job description might need to be modified, or a different position altogether might be required.

Add variety to your non-work life

Remember that there are other areas of interest besides work: family, hobbies, entertainment etc. Do what you like most. If you have a hobby, do not deny yourself the pleasure and spare some time for it. If you don’t have one – get one. Luckily, there are so many options to choose from these days! Make sure you add some sports too. Playing sports helps you stay healthy while also toning up and invigorating. In addition, it actively excludes you from the mind activity that your job entails.

Personal growth

A human is not just a part of the animal world. Keep in mind that we are spiritual creatures that require, besides physical food, spiritual food as well. As we grow and develop spiritually, our self-esteem improves, our attitude and our thinking undergo change. As a result, we become more tolerant to stress, it’s easier for us to cope with difficult tasks. Keep in mind that you can develop and practice your personal skills in the same way you exercise your muscles at a fitness club.

Change of employment

If the situation is too far gone and no “medicine” seems to be working, the only way out is the most decisive measure of them all – a complete change of working environment. Maybe subconsciously you’ve been aspiring for something new for a while. Maybe you need a dramatic change of occupation. Maybe you didn’t have any perspectives in this company from the get-go but you did not want to acknowledge that. Think well what it is that appeals to you the most. Maybe you want something completely different – more engaging, active, creative? Then just go for it!

As you see, there are lots of ways to treat the burnout syndrome. The difficulty is in applying them methodically, pulling yourself out of the stress pit. It can also happen so that you need professional help. Even if you do not, the recovery process will take a lot of time and effort. Be prepared and best of luck!

P.S. Even if you are yet unfamiliar with the burnout syndrome, you might still be interested to learn which people are in the high risk group as well as which preventative measures can be taken to avoid burnout and related problems. This is exactly what we will discuss next time.

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