Signs of Burnout & How to Prevent It

October 26, 2021

Employee burnout is now said to be at “frighteningly high levels,” affecting more than one-third of working adults on a regular basis and 77 percent at least occasionally, including those from various age groups, experience levels and industries.

According to 2021 article published in Time Magazine, recent surveys and reports suggest that women may be even more likely to experience burnout compared to men. The annual Women in the Workplace report found that the amount of women who say they are burned out in 2021 nearly doubled from the prior year.

In 2021, 42% of women and 35% of men reported symptoms like feelings of overwhelm and fatigue, mostly in regard to work-life balance, while 67% also say burnout has worsened due to or during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many ways, you can help treat burnout in the same way that you’d treat adrenal fatigue — which typically involves resting more, working less,  and eating and exercising in a balanced, nourishing way. Addressing issues related to your job, such as your workload and the need to be available nearly 24/7, are other crucial steps in protecting your mental health.

What Is Burnout? (Plus Types)

Since it isn’t considered a real medical diagnosis, what does “burnout” mean? Several definitions exist, but most include aspects of prolonged stress, fatigue/exhaustion, and reduced motivation and productivity, especially related to one’s job.

Forbes defines burnout as “a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that is brought upon by long periods of constant unrelenting stress.”

The most common types of burnout, and the one studied most extensively, is “job burnout.” The Mayo Clinic considers job burnout to be “a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

The term “burnout” was first introduced in the 1970s by an author named Herbert Freudenberger, who wrote “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He stated that burned-out workers “looked, acted and seemed depressed.”

Since this time, researchers have been studying what leads to burnout most often. One report published by Gallup identified several main components of burnout, including:

-Unreasonable time pressure/not having enough time to complete all work

-Lack of communication and support from managers

-Lack of role clarity/employees not knowing what is expected of them

-Unfair treatment/unfair compensation

Aside from job burnout, people may also experience exhaustion and lack of motivation if they feel burnout from dating, keeping up with social media, taking care of their children/families or some combination of all of these.

Signs and Symptoms

Burnout basically comes down to experiencing a combination of stress and exhaustion. This is obviously not very healthy or sustainable, and it can manifest in different ways depending on the person.

What is an example of burnout?

Someone who is burnt out might be a middle-age adult who has young children at home, has a relatively long commute to work, then works long hours at his job, only to come home to a loud house that demands his attention. He might not enjoy his job much, may feel unclear about his responsibilities and may not have a lot of down time outside of work.

He may also struggle to sleep through the night and lack opportunities to relax, exercise or hang out with friends.

Millennials also seem susceptible to burnout due to factors like rising costs of living, trouble finding reliable work, debt and social media pressure that adds to everyday anxiety.

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