Burnout isn’t uncommon. And even before the world took a collective adjustment and switched working patterns or places, research from 2019 showed that workplace burnout is on the rise again. Whether you’re a full-time employee or working on your own, the risks are there. And when you’re suffering…burnout can make even the most everyday tasks seem difficult and overwhelming.
Burnout as a phrase to describe poor mental wellbeing was first coined in 1974. It’s a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability. Other symptoms often come into play, such as increased anxiety and physical symptoms, such as headaches.
It can be hard to address issues around stress in the workplace as many signs and symptoms can relate to other things. And the term ‘rundown’, which often pops up during conversations about ‘burnout’, has become very commonly used. We may proclaim that all we need is a good night’s sleep. We can practice yoga and say that will fix us – but is it enough? When left unhindered, burnout can lead to or increase depression. And like many mental health issues, when something becomes more deep rooted, it’s harder to treat and recover from.
Here are five signs that you might be experiencing burnout, and a quick checklist of what to do.
We all experience some level of anxiety from time to time, but individuals who develop burnout will find that feelings of anxiety become more pronounced and common. When you’re suffering burnout, work and tasks which normally would have been easy or second nature become difficult. Procrastination can prevail and persevering with a difficult task can result in an inability to focus. So, if you’ve found yourself struggling with newly onset anxiety or if work tasks are becoming particularly overwhelming, you might be experiencing burnout.
A lack of sleep can lead to physical illness. Poor sleep may also place you in danger – such as when driving or operating machinery. And burnout doesn’t just affect your life at work, it can have rippling effects outside of the workplace. An inability to sleep and a feeling of fatigue throughout the day is an obvious but often overlooked symptom.
A broken night here and there is manageable to most of us, but when sleeplessness becomes the norm, it affects your ability to function in daily life. And this can be a serious concern for work and health. You’re far more likely to make mistakes and slow down productivity when you’re feeling exhausted, and this can make other symptoms of burnout even worse.
LACK OF PURPOSE
It’s okay to feel a lack of drive from time to time: no one is impervious to periods of creative block and a sense of aimlessness. But when these feelings move from being an occasional frustration to a daily struggle, the chances that serious burnout have taken hold have increased. Sometimes, this aimlessness is felt outside of work and a reluctance to commit to plans or look to far to the future are behaviours that colleagues or friends may recognise as burnout before you do.
The stress headache only became a cliché because it’s been experienced by so many of us. As well as headaches, persistent stomach problems or an aching back may be a sign you’re close to overload. Physical symptoms are a warning, but they can be easy to dismiss or overlook.
If you’re experiencing chest pains or a racing heart rate, this might be the sign of something more serious. Recognising the physical symptoms of stress is tricky, because they may also signpost to more serious illness. We’re not qualified medical professionals and our blog isn’t the place for medical discussion. So, if these are symptoms you’re experiencing we recommend seeking medical advice.
It’s not always easy to recognise when stress is the reason you’re feeling or acting differently. And it can be even harder to seek help, especially if workplace pressure is part of the problem. But workplace stress is not a thing of the past. And the current situation of navigating a so-called new normal is compounding stress and seeing more people burning out. The signs are not hard to spot when you know what to look for. So, there is no better time to keep an eye on colleagues – and check in with ourselves.
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