Stress and Burnout

The end effect of chronic stress is called burnout. The term burnout was first used in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” In this book he states that burnout “the extinction or incentive, especially where ones devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the needed results.”

Burnout can happen in any profession where there is a constant feeling of stress. An estimated 60% of doctors experience burnout. How severe it becomes and how long it lasts depends on if the stressors are controlled.

This type of stress is not because of chemical imbalances in the brain, it is directly credited to stress factors in the life and career of the individual. If the stressors are removed, burnout disappears.

Stress at Work

Other professional people are susceptible to burnout. I noticed many signs of burnout when I worked at a large call center. It caused excessive absenteeism, low morale, and loss of productivity. Employees became physically sick, hated coming to work, and took as much time off as possible.

What signs do you look for in employees with undiagnosed burnout? You may be a manager or employee who doesn’t understand what is happening to your body or to your team. Lets look at burnout from the perspective of the individual. One of the first symptoms that are noticeable is a lack of physical energy.

Symptoms of Stress and Burnout

The individual feels tired all the time, no longer has the energy to do normal activities, and getting out of bed is more difficult each day. You start dreading the morning, especially those when you are had to go to work.

When you are suffering from burnout you have a limited resistance to disease. Stress begins to affect the immune system and you catch “the cold of the day.” If the stress becomes chronic with no relief in sight you may also suffer from a major illness.

You may wake up in the morning and feel sick and once you have called in sick, you feel much better. From personal experience that is a sure sign of burnout!

You also suffer emotionally when you are experiencing burnout. You become moody, lack patience with other and yourself, and sadness overtakes you often. You may become easily frustrated and unable to handle even minor mishaps during the day.

If you are experiencing burnout you may find yourself putting less time into personal relationships. You begin to withdraw, lose interest, and have less fun than you did before. You lose patience with people, even those you love. Relationships are often affected by burnout.

Burnout may also cause you to look at the negative side of your life. It is hard to find positive events to be happy about, and you stop having fun, its also harder to pull yourself out of your rut.  The important point to remember is to take a vacation, time off, or take action to relieve the work stress in your life before you become burned out.