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Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
Continuous exposure to stressful situations, without any outlet, can lead to this condition.
The WHO categorizes it as an “occupational phenomenon” under the International Classification of Diseases”. Especially with the pandemic and the shift to WFH, employees tend to stretch themselves and work overtime leading to burnout.
What is Burnout?
Coined by the psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s, burnout describes a severe stress condition that leads to severe physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
Worse than fatigue, burnout prevents people from going about their daily activities when it is not managed.
It makes people dread getting out of bed in the morning and leaves them feeling hopeless and helpless.
They start resenting their work and people around once it hits them. They have a pessimistic outlook on life.
If left untreated, it can lead to other physical and psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, heart diseases and stress-induced diabetes.
Who suffers from burnout?
Anyone who is incessantly exposed to high levels of stress can experience burnout. Especially helping frontline professionals like doctors, nurses, caregivers, etc. are vulnerable to this condition.
Along with career-induced burnout, business professionals, people caring for children, Type ‘A’ personalities and perfectionists also face burnout.
What are the signs of burnout?
If you think your friends, family members or co-workers are extremely stressed, here are some signs of burnout to look out for –
A state of extreme tiredness. Lack of physical or mental energy – the inability to stay awake or alert; accidentally falling asleep, such as when driving or operating heavy machinery; the inability to maintain or complete an activity; tiring easily; and difficulty concentrating, memorizing, or maintaining emotional stability.
Physical symptoms may include headaches, stomachaches, and appetite or sleeping changes.
People with burnout tend to feel overwhelmed. As a result, they tend to start keeping to themselves and may stop socializing and confiding in friends, family members, and co-workers.
Dissatisfied with their job or life, people with burnout may fantasize about running away or preferring to stay in isolation. In extreme cases, they may turn to drugs, alcohol, or food as an alternative to numb their emotional pain.
People who burnout may tend to lose patience easily with friends, co-workers, and family members more easily. Coping with normal stressors like preparing for a work meeting and tending to household tasks also may start to feel too big a task to handle, especially when things don’t go as planned.
Burnout can also lower your immunity, making you more susceptible to colds, the flu, migraines and insomnia. It may also lead to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
How to prevent burnout?
Stress may be unavoidable, but burnout is preventable. The following steps can prevent burnout from getting the best of you.
One does not need to go to the gym for exercise, short walks and home workouts every day can boost you emotionally.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids can be a natural antidepressant. Foods rich in omega-3s are flaxseed oil, walnuts, and fish and may help you uplift your mood.
Practice good sleep habits
Our bodies need time to rest for us to heal physically and mentally. A healthy sleep schedule is essential for our well-being.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and banning smartphones from the bedroom can help promote sound sleep hygiene.
Ask for help
When you feel like you are stressed or someone around you is stressed beyond a point, it is okay to ask for assistance. If it is difficult to reach out to a professional, talk to someone you trust and can rely on like a close friend or family member.
How to help friends, family members or co-workers?
While you can’t take away stress, it is important for close friends, family members and co-workers to know that they can rely on you. Here are some ways of doing so –
Before trying to fix someone, always lend your ear and hear them out patiently. Sometimes just talking about what they are going through could help them feel lighter. Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference.
Validate feelings and concerns
When friends, family members or co-workers are burnt out, saying ‘It doesn’t sound that bad’ or ‘I’m sure things will get better, while meant to offer reassurance, can feel invalidating especially if they are feeling low and hopeless.
Instead, offer validation by saying, ‘You’ve been working so hard, I can understand why you feel so stressed.’ so that they feel like you understand them better.
Offer specific types of help
Individuals who are burnt out, often don’t think about how others can help them. They wouldn’t want to burden someone else. So, instead of asking them – ‘How can I help?’ you can offer to drop off a meal or do a load of laundry for them. It would be one less thing for them to worry about.
Practice kind gestures
Sending flowers or a handwritten card can remind friends, family members and co-workers that they’re not alone.
As they often work long hours, people facing burnout can feel lonely but a small act of kindness can be motivating.
If friends, family members or co-workers need additional support, offer to research and look out for resources that would help ease their stress.
Concluding Thoughts on Burnout
We come across this term, “burnout” every other day especially in the workspace, only because our current lifestyle and change in trends are only leading to more stressed-out individuals who are barely staying afloat.
Most workplaces have mental health support like in-house psychologists, for their employees, there’s no harm in reaching out and asking for help or referring a co-worker before burning out completely.