How Close to Burnout Are You?

Day to day life can be stressful enough but when problems, pressures and extra demands come in we can find ourselves on the slippery slope of burnout.

Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that comes from an excessive amount of stress that has gone on for too long.

None of us can continue to function well under constant pressure. We may cope for a time, but stress is cumulative. The affects build up until eventually symptoms appear. Often we are so intent on coping we fail to recognize these symptoms and can become burnout without even realising what is wrong.

When we are suffering burnout everything seems bleak. We may feel detached and unable to muster any motivation. Burnout saps our energy and can leave us feeling overwhelmed, cynical, helpless, hopeless and resentful.

Here’s a list of symptoms of burnout:

  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Chronic worrying
  • Difficulty making decisions 
  • Memory lapses 
  • Withdrawal from other people 
  • Loss of confidence
  • Decreasing enjoyment of life
  • Lack of motivation
  • Working harder but achieving less 
  • Crying spells 
  • Feeling depressed 
  • Changed sleeping patterns 
  • Loss of sex drive 
  • Changes in food consumption 
  • Increased alcohol consumption 
  • Misuse of drugs 
  • Tension headaches 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Allergy flare ups 
  • Other physical symptoms 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Feeling hopeless about life 
  • Sense of helplessness 
  • Feeling disconnected from yourself 
  • Inability to cope with life 
  • Doubts about your sanity 
  • Dread of the future 
  • Thoughts of suicide

How is your mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing at the moment?

Fortunately burnout doesn't happen overnight. There are usually many warning signs that can alert us to the fact we are losing ground, such as chronic tiredness, low mood, frequent headaches or bouts of sickness.

If we listen to these early symptoms and get our life back into balance we will hopefully stop things getting worse. If we don't, we may get to the point where problems seem insurmountable and we feel we have nothing more to give.

Take special care of yourself:

Self-care is a powerful antidote to burnout. To overcome burnout make your recovery your top priority. Get back to the basics of healthy eating, regular exercise and adequate sleep. This is a time for you to set clear boundaries by saying no to people's requests for extra time and energy. Slow down and rest as much as possible. Take regular lunch breaks. Schedule some downtime everyday where you can completely disconnect from obligations and demands. Take a nap in the afternoon if possible.

Don't isolate yourself:

Talk to people you trust about how you are feeling. If you have an understanding manager let him or her know how you are feeling. Consider taking some time off if possible. You may also want to see your GP who can arrange for you to have some sick leave from your job if needed.

Seek help:

Counselling can be a very good option if you are needing support to assess your situation, set boundaries or put self-care strategies in place. Counselling can help you to clarify exactly what is causing you excessive stress and help you take the necessary steps to put things right.


© Copyright Kay Douglas. Kay Douglas is a registered psychotherapist, counsellor and life coach. She is also the author of four self-help books: Invisible Wounds, Challenged by Childhood, Living Life Out Loud and Power Games (co-authored with Dr Kim McGregor). She is in private practice in Auckland, New Zealand. For more information please visit www.kaydouglas.co.nz

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