What is Burnout Syndrome?
08 Nov 2021

What is Burnout Syndrome?

Written by: Monica Mizzi

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”

This quote from Michael Gungor’s book, ‘The Crowd, The Critic And The Muse: A Book For Creators’, encapsulates how debilitating burnout syndrome can be. 

How do you define it? 

Burnout syndrome describes a type of exhaustion that results from constant and severe mental, physical, and emotional stress. It can be the result of one or many factors, with workplace stress often cited as the key driver of burnout.

Burnout can lead to feelings of dejection, irritability, and dissatisfaction, to name just a few common symptoms. Put simply, it can end up making you feel like a shell of your former self.

How Common is It?

We’d like to report otherwise, but burnout syndrome is unfortunately very common. 

According to research by FlexJobs, 75% of people have experienced burnout at some point in their careers. 

Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. A recent study by Indeed found that more than half (52%) of employees are feeling burned out, with more than two-thirds (67%) believing that the feeling worsened over the course of the pandemic

What Symptoms Should You Keep an Eye Out For?

Burnout can present itself in a number of ways, so it’s vital to keep a lookout for signs of it. According to the Mayo Clinic, key symptoms to be mindful of include:

  • Becoming cynical or critical at work
  • Needing to drag yourself to work 
  • Having trouble getting started at work
  • Becoming irritable or impatient with your co-workers, customers, or clients
  • Lacking the energy to be consistently productive
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Lacking satisfaction from your achievements
  • Feeling disillusioned about your job
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Experiencing unexplained headaches, stomach issues, bowel problems, or other physical complaints

It’s important to note that the symptoms of burnout can appear similar to depression. So always get a proper diagnosis from your GP or mental health professional.

How Can You Address Burnout Syndrome?

Hopefully, you’ve gone through the list of burnout symptoms above and reflected on whether they apply to you. If you find yourself nodding along, chances are you’re suffering from burnout. 

Should that be the case, listen up. This next step is critical: resist the temptation to ignore your symptoms. Not addressing your burnout will only make it worse. 

The good news is that there are many ways to tackle the problem head-on, such as:

  • Focusing on your self-care: One of the most powerful things you can do to nip burnout in the bud is to practice self-care. There are several ways to get started such as getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercising daily, learning to say no, and scheduling regular self-care time.

  • Making use of employee assistance programs: If your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP), don’t be shy to give it a go. It can no doubt feel daunting to talk to a professional, especially if you’ve never done so before. But remember that’s precisely what they’re there for!

  • Talking to someone you trust about it: Burnout can be an incredibly isolating experience. You may not wish to involve your friends and family, but distancing yourself from them will exacerbate the problem. Try discussing how you’re feeling with your loved ones, and feel the weight come off your shoulders.

  • Letting your boss know: If work is a key reason for your burnout, it’s crucial to inform your boss about it. We know that this is easier said than done. But rest assured that most bosses will want to help out. If you’re struggling to come up with the words to approach yours, look to these best practices.