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What is burnout?

If you have been feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied in your work, and disconnected from work and colleagues, then it is possible you may be feeling the effects of burnout. Understanding what burnout is can help you protect yourself from its effects.

Girl with her head bowed, fingers to her temple in front of the laptop considering what is burnout

While burnout is most commonly associated with the ‘helping industries’ such as healthcare workers, teachers, and first responders, workers in every industry are susceptible to burnout. Burnout is often associated and confused with depression-like symptoms, but they're not quite the same. To help you understand what is burnout, check out the our broad areas of symptoms:

  1. Emotional exhaustion: People experiencing burnout often feel tired, drained of energy, and unable to cope. This lack of energy prevents work from being completed to a standard they are used to, leading to emotions of guilt, frustration, and shame.

  2. Alienation from work-activities: People who experience burnout often report cynicism towards work and the people they work with. This leads to distancing themselves from work activities and colleagues.

  3. Reduced performance: People who experience burnout often feel negatively towards the everyday tasks they complete. As a result they report putting less effort in completing those tasks resulting in reduced work performance.

  4. Physical Symptoms: Often the last symptoms to present, physical symptoms of burnout include headaches, stomach aches, and intestinal issues often associated with high stress environments. These symptoms are the hardest to treat.

Once you understand what is burnout, it is important to understand what contributes to it. Some of the main risk factors that may contribute to burnout are unfair treatment at work such as favouritism or mistreatment, lack of role clarity, unreasonable deadlines and other time pressures, unmanageable workloads, and poor communication and support from management.

The good news is there are things we can do to prevent and treat burnout. Having healthy boundaries at work, for example, is a great way to ensure work stays in the workplace, and doesn’t come home with you. With so many people working from home during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this became increasingly difficult. So it is important to ensure those healthy boundaries are re-established. Self-care is another great way to prevent and treat burnout. Often when we are under time-pressure it is those self-care activities that tend to drop off the ‘to-do’ list, when these are what we should be prioritising.

If you are concerned for burnout in your life and would like to know more, please give The Mind Body Practice a call on (02) 8091 7867 to book an appointment with one of our psychologists.


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