The term “Burnout” has been becoming popular in this ever-connected world. It has been widely searched for and discussed about in recent years. But what is it actually?
Burnout is defined as the state of being physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted due to excessive and prolonged stress to the point that someone finds it challenging to cope with daily tasks (1). When chronic stress and burnout continues for a long period of time, it spills over into other areas of our lives including our home, work and relationships with others.
Another impact prolonged burnout has is on our health. Studies have shown that burnout is a predictor in developing diseases such as depression, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and many others. There are many triggers that may cause burnout. Some examples include work overload, inadequate sleep, and personal life stresser etc
Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist, initially outlined a 12-stage progression of burnout. A simplified version with five stages was developed, which is described below (2).
Stage 1: Honeymoon phase
Whether you're embarking on a new job or taking on a fresh challenge, it's typical to feel a sense of contentment that results in productive periods and the capacity to access your creativity.
Stage 2: Onset of stress
Over time, the initial honeymoon phase fades, and you start to encounter stress. While not every moment of your day becomes stressful, there are increasingly frequent instances when stress creeps in.You might find yourself becoming more easily distracted or less efficient when handling tasks. Physically, you may begin to experience fatigue, making it more challenging to sleep or derive enjoyment from activities.
Stage 3: Chronic stress
There comes a juncture when the stress transitions into a more sustained or chronic state. As the pressure continues to build, this stress is regularly impacting different areas of your life such as job performance. Instances of this may involve a sense of indifference, frequent failure to meet deadlines, tardiness at work, or a tendency to procrastinate while handling tasks.
Stage 4: Burnout
This phase happens when you have reached your maximum capacity and cannot maintain your normal functionality. Issues become all-encompassing, driving you to obsess over them. There are times when you may feel emotionally detached and grapple with profound self-doubt. Physical symptoms become pronounced, manifesting as persistent headaches, digestive problems, and gastrointestinal issues. Loved ones, including friends and family, may also observe significant shifts in your behaviour.
Stage 5: Habitual burnout
If left untreated, burnout can integrate itself into your daily existence and eventually give rise to conditions such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, you may start grappling with persistent mental and physical exhaustion
Now that you understand more about burnout and some common triggers and symptoms to help you identify a burnout, here are some tips to help to form a roadmap to recovery through the 3 ‘S’.
1. Stress management techniques
There are several stress management techniques out there that can be tailored to your needs accordingly. Some effective stress management techniques include but not limited to:
Eliminating stressor (if possible)
Going for walks
Incorporating a combination of these strategies into your daily routine can help you effectively manage and reduce stress (3).
Self-care practices help us better cope with other daily life stressors. Self-care looks different for everyone for one it may be making time for hobbies for someone else it may be journaling. If you have no idea where to start, eating a balanced meal, getting adequate rest and engaging in regular physical activity is a good start to self-care. It is essential to make time for yourself to improve your mental wellbeing (4).
3. Setting boundaries
It is important to understand our own needs, capabilities, priorities and limitations. This level of self-awareness allows us to set meaningful boundaries and say no to commitments be it at work or in our personal lives.
Recovering from burnout is not merely about addressing the symptoms and stressors that led to it; it also involves building resilience and sustaining mental wellness in the long term. In order to achieve this we need to draw on the emotional support from family and friends, commit to continuous learning to facilitate personal growth as well as acknowledge and celebrate achievements and milestones. These steps positively reinforce your ability to overcome challenges and stressors of life and prevent a burnout again.
About the author
Amrita Kaur is a health and wellbeing intern at Actxa Wellness. She is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health from Griffith university and is passionate about educating people on how they can improve their Health.
2.Simona. (2021, March 31). The 5 stages of burnout.Vitrue Vida. https://vitrueremote.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout/
3.Elizabeth Scott, PhD. (2023,September 13). Stress Relief: 18 Highly Effective Stress Relief Strategies. Verywellmind.
4.Moira Lawler. (2023,March 17).What Is Self-Care, and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?. Everyday Health