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Burnout: The Basics

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Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs mostly in the workplace, when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Burnout is officially recognised as a medical condition by the World Health Organisation. It incubates silently and can have massive negative effects if not dealt with in time.

Burnout Symptoms

Burnout is often overlooked or confused with exhaustion or common tiredness, however there are distinct symptoms that set it apart. These include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Lack of appetite
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Feeling of fatigue
  • Tension in the muscles
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Migraines
  • Obesity

Emotional symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration and intolerance
  • Loss of interest in daily tasks
  • Irresponsibility
  • Depression
  • Depersonalization
  • Demotivation

Fighting Burnout

If you feel that you have the ability to manage symptoms yourself, the strategies below have been proven to help relieve burnout symptoms:

  • Don’t push yourself. Understand your limits and don’t force yourself to go beyond them whether at work or at home. Speak with your partner and colleagues about the support that you need in order to perform at your best, and hold yourself and them accountable to commitments.
  • Relaxation techniques. Meditation and yoga are great ways to reduce burnout symptoms. These techniques help relax your mind and release muscle tension, as well as reconnect with yourself.
  • Physical activity increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which leads to feeling happier and more relaxed. Fitting just 15 minutes of exercise in your day can significantly improve your well-being and reduce the symptoms of burnout.
  • Spend time with friends and/or family. A shared load weighs less, so spend time talking with your loved ones and take your mind off work. Volunteering in the community is another great way to build valuable personal connections outside of the workplace.
  • Healthy diet. Eating well not only gives you the energy and drive to complete daily tasks, it also affects the balance of “happy hormones” in the body. Although it takes time for the effects to be seen, a good diet can lead to increased levels of happiness, decreased stress and a longer life.

Anyone can experience burnout. It’s not limited by wealth, age or social status. If you are experiencing symptoms it may be time to stop, re-evaluate your circumstances, and work on taking back control. When you name your exhaustion, it becomes easier to identify small changes to your routines and habits that will help you feel more in control of your circumstances. You can start to pinpoint situations where your energy rises and falls — and start working on strategies to tackle it.

In Australia, there are services available to help you tackle burnout. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms and are unable to manage them, contact your GP who will be able to refer you to a specialist. In emergency situations, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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