Burnout is an intense feeling of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. It is often thought of as a “workplace” challenge and it can significantly affect our mental health and our ability to perform everyday tasks. Left unaddressed, burnout may also lead to further challenges, such as depression, anxiety or a mental health breakdown.
Burnout is often caused by excessive and prolonged stress, most often in the workplace, but it can be a combination of both work and homelife.
The term “burnout” was introduced in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He initially used it to describe the effect of severe stress within “helping” professions, such as doctors and nurses, who sacrifice themselves for others.
Nowadays, it is recognised that anyone can suffer from burnout, from business owners and employees, to celebrities and homemakers.
In today's fast-paced world, the boundaries between professional and personal commitments have grown increasingly blurred. I have noticed in my own practice as an Anxiety Specialist and Therapist, many more people come to me because they are struggling to cope with extended working hours and workload while caring for their children or elderly parents. Or they are running successful businesses while juggling clients alongside staff challenges and home life.
At the same time, they have less social interactions with those outside of their workplace or home.
The busier we get, the less time we are able to spend with our support network or doing the things that bring us joy.
What Causes Burnout?
Burnout is an emotional state of exhaustion and can occur when we experience long term stress.
Burnout is our bodies way of telling us that something needs to change, that what we are going through right now is not sustainable.
It may be that you have an excessive workload, and have been assigned more tasks than you can handle in the timeframe given? Perhaps your relationships, either at work or home, are not functioning in a healthy way and this is placing additional stress on you? Possibly you feel that you have little or no control over your life and you feel trapped in a situation with no long term solution? It could be you no longer have the energy to prioritise yourself, and as a result, you are feeling stuck and undervalued.
Burnout is often misunderstood or stigmatised as it can feel that we can not cope with life, when we may feel that others all around us seem to be managing fine.
Statistics on Burnout and Mental Ill Health
A recent report found that almost half of UK workers are ‘running on empty,’ with burnout, mental ill health, and work-related stress now costing the economy £28 billion annually
Only 10% of employees are currently seeking support for their mental ill health
51% of long term sick leave is due to stress, burnout, anxiety and depression, and this is resulting in 23.3 million lost working days
46% said they were feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future, with the UK’s cost-of-living crisis seeming to be having a particularly negative impact.
How Do You Know If You Are Burntout?
Burnout feels draining and overwhelming, like you are carrying an invisible weight on your shoulders that you just can’t shake off. Everything persistently feels like it requires so much more effort and the smallest tasks can become monumental hurdles.
You may feel exhausted all the time, even trapped in an never-ending cycle of stress that you cannot control. You could feel helpless and defeated or feel that you have chronic fatigue even when you do get enough sleep.
You may also withdraw from those around you as you feel that everything is just too much effort. You could find yourself engaging in self doubt and have a pessimistic outlook on life.
Burnout can create a feeling of isolation as you feel different to everyone else around you, and therefore disassociate from your life. Everything seems to take so much longer to get done, and it is all too easy to procrastinate, rather than start something new.
Recognising the symptoms and the intricate relationship between burnout and mental wellbeing is vital for effectively preventing and managing this challenge.
How Do You Recognise Signs of Burnout In Yourself and Others?
Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
Feeling drained physically and emotionally is a major indicator. Emotional exhaustion can lead to detachment and indifference, resulting in a loss of motivation and interest in work.
Increased Irritability and Mood Changes
Burnout can make you easily irritable and agitated, causing small issues to bother you more than usual. Mood changes, such as feeling low or numb, may also occur.
Despite working hard, you may find it challenging to achieve previous results, leading to frustration and exacerbating burnout.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Burnout can disrupt sleep, resulting in insomnia or excessive sleepiness. Difficulty falling asleep or frequent waking up during the night may indicate burnout.
Physical Health Decline
Chronic stress from burnout can lead to physical health problems, including chronic fatigue, headaches, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet can mitigate burnout's physical effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Burnout
Concentration and Productivity
One of the ways burnout can negatively influence our mental health is by decreasing our concentration and focus, which, in turn, reduces our ability to be productive. This puts further pressure on us and results in a decrease in job satisfaction and an increase in stress levels, exacerbating the burnout and causing emotions to spiral out of control.
Memory and Cognitive Function
Burnout can also slow down our memory and cognitive abilities, making it difficult to retain and recall information. This can lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety, which eventually contributes to poor mental health.
Emotional exhaustion is a common trait of burnout, causing feelings of detachment and emotional numbness. Such emotional states can encourage feelings of hopelessness and despair, increasing the risk of developing severe and long lasting depression, or suicidal thoughts.
Impact on Relationships
Additionally, burnout can strain relationships and create difficulties with colleagues, friends, and family. This may lead to you closing down and avoiding situations that you used to enjoy, and lead to further isolation.
It's important to note that burnout affects everyone differently. While some people may have greater resilience and quicker recovery, others might struggle.
Recognising and addressing burnout early on is critical to prevent more severe mental health issues from arising.
How To Overcome Burnout
Prioritising self-care in your daily routine can help to combat burnout effectively.
Regular rest is essential for maintaining energy and focus. Incorporate short breaks and take time away from your current situation to prevent burnout.
Exercise improves mental health and reduces stress as it releases the happy hormones naturally. Incorporate physical activity into your routine, such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.
Good quality sleep is critical for physical and mental well-being. Establish healthy sleep habits, maintain a consistent bedtime schedule and create a sleep-friendly environment.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness and meditation cultivates calm and clarity. Practice by focusing on your breath and your physical sensations. You can also use guided meditations to help you.
Getting your thoughts out of your head and on to paper can be very cathartic. It also offers time and space for reflection.
Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature can have a multitude of positive effects on your mental wellbeing as the calming and tranquil environment reduces stress levels. The sights and sounds of natural settings, such as greenery and flowing water, have been shown to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with anxiety and stress.
Nature can evoke positive emotions, reduce feelings of sadness, and increase overall well-being. It also provides a mental break from the demands of daily life and helps restore attention and focus.
Stay connected with others
Maintaining social connections is associated with lower rates of burnout, stress and anxiety. A supportive social network can provide you with a sense of belonging and purpose, which are essential for your mental well-being. Positive social interactions, such as spending time with loved ones or engaging in enjoyable social activities, can boost your mood and increase feelings of happiness.
Building and maintaining social connections can combat loneliness and its associated negative consequences.
Consult a mental health professional for help in dealing with stress, anxiety and burnout. While self-help strategies can be helpful, seeking professional support may be necessary. A mental health therapist can help you identify the root cause of burnout and help you explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
A therapist can also assist in developing coping mechanisms like breathing and relaxation techniques, mindfulness and stress reduction strategies tailored to your unique needs.
Can Burnout Lead To A Mental Breakdown?
Prolonged exposure to overwhelming stress and anxiety can lead to a breaking point and burnout, which can result in a mental breakdown.
Burnout relentlessly chips away at one's physical and emotional reserves, pushing them to the edge and causing even the strongest of foundations to crack.
In such moments, you may find yourself in a state of crisis, desperately needing the support and strategies that therapy and counselling can provide to rebuild and recover.
If You Need Further Support
If you need further support with your Mental Health, a trained Anxiety Specialist can prescribe a personalised plan to understand the root cause of burnout, stress and anxiety, as well as help develop healthy coping strategies that are focused around your individual needs.
Taking care of your mental health is an essential part of your overall well-being. Left unresolved, mental ill health can spiral out of control and have a significant impact on relationships, work, school and family life.
So if you want to take the next steps to have a happier life, click the link below and book a free no obligation consultation call.
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