What is a burnout

Reviewed by our psychologist : Nine Gramberg

Burnout is your body’s response to experiencing too much stress. Your physical and mental reserves are depleted because, for example, you’re experiencing a toxic situation at work. It could also be the result of having to care for a sick friend or family member, intense periods of study, or long-term financial concerns. 

Burnout is a very common problem. Millions of people suffer from burnout symptoms every year.  

Read on to learn exactly what burnout is, how you can recognize it, and what the symptoms are. We’ll explain the causes and effects, as well as giving you some tips so that you can learn to manage it better. 

In this article

  • What Is Burnout?
  • How Do You Know If You’re Burned Out?
  • What Are the Symptoms of Burnout?
    – Physical Symptoms of Burnout
    – Mental Symptoms of Burnout
  • Causes of Burnout
  • The Effect of Burnout on Your Health
  • Help and Treatment for Burnout

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What Is Burnout? 

The term “burnout” is pretty self-explanatory. Just imagine a spent match. You find yourself feeling figuratively burned out when you’ve experienced prolonged periods of emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue. 

Burnout meaning:

  • It’s the result of prolonged emotional overload and stress
  • You’ll experience physical (over)tiredness and emotional moodiness
  • Burnout is your body reacting to having insufficient periods of relaxation following exertion

Please note: Burnout is not the same as emotional exhaustion. You’ll experience emotional exhaustion after a short period of stress or overworking. Burnout is the result of prolonged periods of stress or overworking. 

How Do You Know If You’re Burned Out?

You can recognize burnout by looking for these six key signs:

  • Symptoms of stress
    Are you experiencing physical exhaustion, problems concentrating/remembering things or trouble sleeping? Worrying and feeling agitated are also symptoms of stress that might be signs of burnout. 
  • Losing control
    You’ll feel like you’ve lost control over your life or you’ll experience a sense of helplessness. Burnout makes you feel like there’s no way to tackle your problems or change your situation. 
  • Daily activities
    The symptoms you’re experiencing will make daily activities difficult or even impossible. You’ll notice it both at home and at work, whether you’re on the go or attempting to socialize. 
  • Indecision
    You can’t make decisions. Instead, you find yourself doubting everything and unable move forward. 
  • Insecurity
    You feel insecure about yourself and the choices you’re making. Feeling insecure tends to make you withdraw. 
  • Irritability
    Small setbacks will start to seem like major inconveniences. You’ll find yourself getting irritable, meaning you’re more likely to lash out at other people.  

What Are the Symptoms of Burnout?

Typical signs of burnout include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpations
  • Stomach pain or bloating
  • Digestive problems
  • Insomnia

Physical Symptoms

You’ll experience the physical symptoms of burnout both during stressful situations and also at other points throughout the day. An example of this might be the fatigue caused by sleepless nights. A lack of sleep makes you irritable. Fatigue also causes a range of other physical symptoms. Burnout makes your body feel incredibly heavy. You’ll find it difficult to stay active – even walking to the grocery store will feel like a long trip.

And do you find yourself suffering with headaches or dizziness, for example? These could be symptoms of burnout. Chest pain and heart palpitations are some of the most serious physical symptoms. 

Mental Symptoms

You’ll feel burned out – like you’re running on empty. You’ll also have trouble remembering information and what you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll get the sense that you’re no longer in control and that you’re just going through the motions. This will make it harder to sleep at night because you’ll lie awake worrying about everything.

You’ll start to think that it’s all out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation. You’ll become tearful and find yourself crying at random moments. 

The mental symptoms of burnout mean you can no longer function the way you used to, whether that’s at work, at home, or when you’re on the go. You’ll have trouble concentrating, sleeping and remembering things. 

Causes of Burnout 

Burnout occurs when you don’t have a proper balance between exertion and relaxation. The main causes of burnout are stress at work, certain personality traits and specific situations:

  • Work stress
    Stress at work is the leading cause of burnout. After a while, constantly being under pressure at work just gets too much. If you stay stuck in this downward spiral for too long, it will eventually lead to burnout. 
  • Personality traits
    Being a perfectionist increases your risk of burnout. And do you have trouble setting boundaries? This personality trait also makes you more susceptible to developing burnout.
  • Specific situations
    There are certain situations that increase your risk of burnout. Caring for a family member or another ill person in your vicinity can have a major impact on your mental and physical health.

The Effect of Burnout on Your Health

Burnout has a detrimental impact on your health. Common effects include:

Help and Treatment for Burnout

Treatment for burnout works best if you continue to do as many of your daily activities as possible and stay active. Burnout treatment consists of three stages:

  1. Acknowledge and accept
    Only once you’ve acknowledged and accepted the extent of your burnout you can begin to relax again. Assess whether you can continue to work or if it’s better to take a break. 
  2. Create structure
    Identify what’s causing you to feel stressed and find ways to structure your day. Think of solutions that will help you to manage energy-draining situations better in the future and stop you from getting too stressed. 
  3. Put solutions in place
    Put these solutions in place so that you’re better able to manage stress. Slowly introduce more activities to your routine and regain that sense of control that you lost. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout, your physician or a psychologist can help you with this. Get in touch and talk about what you’re going through. Talking will make you feel better and it’s the best way to come up with strategies that will work for you.

Do you have any questions about the symptoms of burnout? Or would you like to talk about your specific situation? Give us a call on +3120 214 3928 and we’d be happy to discuss it with you personally.

GZ-Psychologist : Nine Gramberg

“As much as you'd like to keep going, you can't seem to move forward. Getting up, brushing your teeth, making a shopping list, all the things you normally don't mind doing, now feel like an unwinnable contest.“

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