Burnout- long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work - is a problem that many people face at some point in their life or career.

But it is not only individuals who hold a job outside of the home who can face burn out. Stay-at-home moms who spend hours carting children from one place to another, doing homework and organizing meals can also be at risk for burnout.

Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker. False optimism is like administrating stimulants to an exhausted nervous system.” ― Sam Keen

Burnout, a chronic condition, happens when a mind or body cannot keep up with overwhelming demands that are placed on it.

The term burnout in psychology was introduced by Herbert Freudenberger in his 1974 study Staff Burnout. His title was presumably based on the 1960 novel A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene, which follows someone suffering from burnout.

Freudenberger used the term to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals experienced by people working in “helping” professions. Doctors and nurses, for example, who sacrifice themselves for others, would often end up being “burned out” – exhausted, listless, and unable to cope.

Social psychologists Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson developed the most widely used instrument for assessing burnout, namely, the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The Maslach Burnout Inventory characterises burnout as a three-dimensional syndrome made up of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.

Unfortunately, in this fast-paced world in which we live, this particular condition is more common than it should be. Burnout feels as if you are trapped in a state of emotional exhaustion and you stop caring about what you do even when you feel guilty.

Burnout and Stress

Burnout is much more than stress and caused by much more than stress. People say they feel completely drained both physically and emotionally and this can sometimes go on for months or even years.

People who are particularly vulnerable are usually highly committed and motivated and who have high standards. It appears much more frequent in entrepreneurs, managers, teachers, social workers, healthcare workers and athletes.

Some of the factors which go into the development of burnout include:

  • Feeling valued or recognized for accomplishments at work

  • Whether or not an individual has the ability to balance work and play in their life

  • An individual feels as if they have the time to accomplish what is expected of them

  • If they feel successful or proud of the work that they have done

People who feel as if they are making a difference in the lives of others often continue to work through their stress and burnout less quickly than those who do not.

Individuals who work through “crunch time” but also have down time in their lives will fare much better than those who work at a high stress level all the time.

Decreasing Burnout Risk

Ocracoke VacationIt also appears that individuals who are able to take low stress vacations and have supportive people in their environment with whom they can share their stress have a decreased risk of burnout.

Researchers have also found that getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night is another factor in the development of the condition.

Workers who are able to do their jobs independently and feel respected and valued by both coworkers and management are often able to justify the amount of stress which decreases their risk for burnout.

Unfortunately, too many times individuals are placed in a situation at work where expectations are not clear. This increases stress and the risk for burnout since it is impossible to meet expectations for a job when those expectations are not clearly laid out.

People Most at Risk

Individuals who have perfectionist tendencies, are highly pessimistic, are naturally more excitable or could be classified as a Type A personality are all at higher risk for development of burnout.

When emotions turn and stay sour, when thoughts become cynical and judgmental, good and compassionate treatment is on the line. Helpers who become sour and cynical tend to begrudge their high need clients for their neediness. There is a risk that helpers become too well-practiced at taking a bleak view of those they have avowed to assist. There is a temptation to begin to blame clients for their failure to improve. If treatment ends pre-maturely, with either a client never returning to treatment or a helper ‘firing’ them out of frustration, there is a tendency for the client to take the fall. Of course what we are talking about here are signs of burnout.” ― Scott E. Spradlin

Often times these are the same personality types that lead in individual into the healthcare market, management or entrepreneurs.

Some of the signs of being burned out include feeling continually fatigued, being forgetful and often irritable. If you feel burned out for a couple of days it is often helpful to put some stress relieving strategies into place immediately.

Here are a couple of things that you can do to help relieve your stress and improve your work productivity.

Turn off the television. Women who watch more than two hours a day had higher rates of depression according to a study from Eastern Washington University.

Try doing mental exercises such as crossword puzzles or learning a new language in order to stimulate the brain and keep sharp.(1)

Significantly reduce your to do list by either getting rid of a task, do something about it or delegate the task to someone else.

But most importantly, get better rest and more sleep.

The best sleep is gotten between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. which means if your project is completed you should go to bed and get up early rather than stay up late. While taking a nap was once considered a bad idea, we now know that taking a 20 minute cat nap will actually have minimal effects on your ability to sleep at night and help keep you sharp during the day.

Take Time Out

time outAnyone who is suffered through burnout will tell you that you must take time out for yourself whenever you can find it.

It might be as simple as watching out the window for 10 minutes at your office or listening to music on your commute home or even ordering out dinner instead of cooking. Whatever your choice if you are always taking care of others you’ll make yourself sick.

It is important to understand the risks of burnout to your personal and financial future. It is easy to become wrapped up in your daily tasks while totally ignoring the response of your body and mind.

However, once burned out, the condition does not go away in one or two days.

In fact, you may not be able to recover all by yourself and may require the assistance of a counselor in order to most objectively evaluate the changes that need to be made in your lifestyle.

For More Information:

  1. Eastern Washington University: Life Without TV?

  2. Western Journal of Medicine: The Prevention and Cure of Physician Burnout

  3. MayoClinic: Job Burnout: Spotting it and taking Action

  4. Texas Medical Association: Three Stages of Burnout

  5. Can’t Get No Satisfaction: In a culture where work can be a religion, burnout is its crisis of faith. by Jennifer Senior November 26, 2006, New York Magazine

  6. The Joy of Burnout: How Burning Out Unlocks the Way to a Better, Brighter Future

Photos: spunkinator, Jason A G, ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER

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