Avoiding burnout

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Stressed man

What is “burnout”?

Burnout is a term that refers to a state of excessive and prolonged stress that leads to:

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion.
  • Feelings of pessimism, a loss of enjoyment and detachment.
  • A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of productivity.1

All of which can impact on our ability to perform at our personal or professional best and interfere with our health, happiness and relationships.

How does it happen?

Burnout occurs when we feel overwhelmed and unable to meet life’s constant demands and in many cases it’s work‐related.2 But anyone who feels overworked and not appreciated is at risk, whether they are a high‐level executive who works too much without enough time for relaxation or a social life, an office worker who has done the same job for 40 years and is feeling undervalued, bored and unchallenged or a working mum who is expected to be too many things to too many people. Personality traits can also contribute to burnout and those who have perfectionistic tendencies, are high‐achieving A type people, feel the need to always be in control and/or see the glass half empty appear to be most at risk.2

What is the difference between stress and burnout?

While burnout usually stems from unrelenting stress, it isn’t the same as too much stress. When we’re stressed we tend to feel overwhelmed but are able to imagine that once we get back into control everything will be ok. However people experiencing burnout will usually feel devoid of motivation, beyond the point of caring and unable to see any positive change in their situation.2

How can I recognise it?

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight and is a gradual process that will usually get worse over time. The early warning signs and symptoms to look out for include:1,2

  • Feeling drained and low in energy
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep despite feeling exhausted
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Feelings of anxiety, nagging feelings of tension, worry, apprehension or dread
  • Frequent back pain, muscle aches and headaches
  • Lowered immunity, more susceptible to colds, flus and other infections
  • Loss of motivation and increasingly negative outlook on life
  • Taking your frustration out on others
  • Procrastination, taking longer to do simple tasks
  • Feeling helpless and detaching yourself from others

What steps can I take to get my life back into balance?

If you recognise the impending symptoms of burnout, try getting back in control by:

  • Adopting healthy eating, exercise and sleeping habits.
  • Learning to delegate and saying “no” to extra demands on your time.
  • Going on a holiday, even just a long weekend away.
  • Learning how to manage stress through yoga, meditation and exercise or sharing your feelings with trusted friends or family members.
  • Considering a natural supplement. Ingredients such as Sensoril™ (a Withania somnifera extract) can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress including fatigue, inability to concentrate, sleeplessness and irritability.

If you don’t feel you’re able to manage your feelings of stress and anxiety it’s important to seek the advice of your medical professional.

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Published March 18, 2014
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