What is Burnout?
We’re sure everyone is more than familiar with the term ‘burnout’ by now. But what exactly is it, and what makes it so prevalent in today’s society; in and out of the workplace?
Coined in the 1970s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout is a term used to describe the consequences of severe stress, mostly at work. In his own words, Dr. Freudenberger describes burnout as, “...a response to stress. It's a response to frustration. It's a response to a demand that an individual may make upon themself in terms of a requirement for perfectionism or drive.”
Herbert had a successful psychology practice on New York’s Upper East Side and simultaneously ran a clinic on the Bowery, considered NY’s Skid Row, helping mostly drug addicts. It was his inability to find joy in his life outside of work that led him to do some self-analysis. He found himself somewhere between exhaustion and depression, and called his illness burnout - which he talks about in his book, "Burnout: The High Cost Of High Achievement."
While burnout can affect just about anyone from full-time caregivers to those climbing the corporate ladder, experts can’t always agree on exactly what it is and how to diagnose it. And many might downplay its significance, brushing off frustrations at home or work as petty annoyances, not the cynicism commonly associated with the illness.
So, how can you tell if what you’re feeling is burnout? Here are three symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Feeling exceptionally drained, emotionally depleted, unable to cope, and a complete lack of energy.
- Becoming disconnected to or abundantly cynical about your job or home life.
- A reduction in performance with a lack of concentration and feeling of listlessness.
If you find yourself dealing with any or all of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is seek the help of a medical professional. Talking to a therapist who can help you come up with coping strategies should be a top priority. If you don’t have access to a therapist, talking to anyone you trust about how you’re feeling is still a step in the right direction.
Next, find ways to take more control over your environment by finding more balance, sticking to your boundaries, and being mindful who you surround yourself with.
Lastly, make time for the things you care about and that your body needs; exercise, cooking, resting during the day, meeting a friend for coffee, actually booking a trip and using your PTO.
However this time looks to you, build it into your schedule and make sure it's as much of a priority as anything you do for work.