Burnout: More than a Buzzword

burn (oneself) out

adjective (burnt-out)

work too hard, work like a Trojan/horse/slave, work/run oneself into the ground, wear oneself to a shadow, work one’s fingers to the bone, drive oneself into the ground, sweat, sweat blood, work day and night, burn the candle at both ends, burn the midnight oil, overtax oneself, overtax one’s strength, kill oneself, do too much, overdo it, strain oneself, overburden oneself, overload oneself, drive/push oneself too hard



Recently, a BuzzFeed article on burnout (“How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” by Anne Petersen) went viral. This buzzword has been featured on headlines over the years, including how the issue applies to the youngest generation of workers, college students (Why College Students Today Are So Burned Out)… and even articles linking the common triggers of physician suicide to burnout (“Suffering in Silence: The Scourage of Physician Suicide”). This issue applies to people across all fields and can have severe social and health consequences on those impacted.


Below, I pieced together excerpts from various articles on burnout to highlight the definition, signs & symptoms, consequences, and how to seek help!


What is burnout?

Experts define it as a syndrome of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who work with people in some capacity. In other words, burnout creeps up, leaving us physically, mentally and emotionally depleted, as well as frustrated, disillusioned, cynical, ineffective and emotionally distant from those around us, including the ones we are meant to serve. 



The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?


Signs of Burnout:

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment


What are the signs of burnout?

The difference between stress and burnout is a matter of degree, which means that the earlier you recognize the signs, the better able you will be to avoid burnout (IF you do something to address the symptoms when you recognize them).



Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

  1. Chronic fatigue
  2. Insomnia
  3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention
  4. Physical symptoms
  5. Increased illness
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Anxiety
  8. Depression
  9. Anger


Signs of Cynicism and Detachment

  1. Loss of enjoyment
  2. Pessimism
  3. Isolation
  4. Detachment


Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment

  1. Feelings of apathy and hopelessness
  2. Increased irritability
  3. Lack of productivity and poor performance


If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, this should be a wake-up call that you may be on a dangerous path. Take some time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late. Burnout isn’t like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some changes in your life. And as hard as that may seem, it’s the smartest thing to do because making a few little changes now will keep you in the race with a lot of gas to get you across the finish line.


Job Burnout: How to Spot it and Take Action:


Consequences of job burnout

Ignored or unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses


Handling job burnout

Try to take action. To get started:

  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.


Keep an open mind as you consider the options. Try not to let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health.




Helpful Resources:

Job Burnout: How to Spot it and Take Action

Overcoming Burnout

The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout

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