How to Recognize Burnout

May 19 , 2021


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How to Recognize Burnout

There is an opinion that burnout affects those who do not do their job, but this is a common misconception. People who love their work and willing to work a little more are at a higher risk of getting burnout.

The author of the idea of "burnout," American psychiatrist-psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, noted that burnout is a depletion of energy in professionals in the field of social assistance when they feel overwhelmed by other people's problems.

Christina Maslach, an American social psychologist, defines burnout as a syndrome of physical and emotional exhaustion, including the development of negative self-esteem, a negative attitude toward work, and a loss of understanding toward the client.

Burnout can drive you crazy, lead to severe illness, and even kill you. In Japan, there is the term "karoshi," meaning "overwork death." The phenomenon was first documented in 1987 after a series of sudden deaths of high-level executives of prominent corporations, according to

Burnout is a condition in which a person, for unknown reasons, feels an aversion to his or her activities. There is no general view of this phenomenon, and everyone has a different pattern, so the best way to identify it is to talk to a psychologist. Burnout can affect both working and not working people.

Who is in the risk group?

- People in helping professions: social workers, doctors, psychologists, teachers, volunteers, and hotline employees and middle managers.

- Motivated and engaged employees who are willing to work harder and give themselves to the last.

- Freelancers and entrepreneurs.

- Moms on maternity leave. Motherhood very much changes the modern woman's lifestyle; there is a loss of her usual activities and social activity, and constant decision-making regarding the child is necessary. Add to this the ideal pictures of happy motherhood from social networks, which rarely have anything to do with reality, and the stress increases. Raising children is hard work, especially during the pandemic.

- Housewives. Monotonous, repetitive work leads to an inability to finish washing the dishes and the floors once and for all.

- Those who work at a job they do not like and do not have any alternative activity.

Psychologists identify four stages of emotional burnout syndrome.

1. Mobilization stage

When we start something new, we feel excited. There is a lot of energy, and we want to do more, better, and at higher quality. It's a beautiful state, but the euphoria can't last forever. For example, if the birth went well and the baby is healthy, young parents are in a state of happiness, but lack of sleep and fatigue accumulates, and the second stage begins.

2. The endurance stage.

When a person works hard but a sense of duty is holding him back, necessity, the desire for results, if nothing stressful happens, a person may exist in this state for years. Simple ones replace difficult periods, and new ones arise. At this stage, the person wants to rest and change the environment, turning the energy-saving mode. For parents, this stage is about the same. Taking care of the child is not so inspiring, but in general, it is tolerable.

3. The stage of non-perseverance.

If you don't reduce the workload in time, you might get into a stressful situation. The third asthenic stage is nervous exhaustion—fatigue changes to irritation.

Here parents feel, "Everything falls out of hand, I can't do it anymore, I don't want to, get away from me." Sleep problems begin: you are insanely tired, but you cannot fall asleep, and after lights out, you sit on the phone for 2-3 hours more to disconnect, which makes your condition even worse.

4. The stage of deformation

It would seem that the person is already at the bottom of emotional burnout. But there is one more stage when the person becomes as cynical as possible, and it "does not hurt" anymore. He may abuse alcohol, pursuing money and status. But no matter how smug he may look, inside, he suffers: there is no more joy in life and no more interest.

The stage of deformity for a parent is when he no longer wants to see his child, begins to act tough, and doesn't even notice it.

The following signs and symptoms can identify burnout:

- Changes in behavior: resistance to work increases, tardiness, and delays at work become more frequent, creativity and decisions are lost, stimulants increase.

- Changes in feelings: irritability and dissatisfaction with oneself increase, feelings of powerlessness and failure, lack of joy appear.

- Changes in thinking: problems with concentration, difficulty learning new things, an obsessive desire to double-check everything, a cynical attitude toward clients.

What can you do about it?

- Seek help from loved ones/colleagues—delegate responsibilities.

- Establish a routine: create a bedtime ritual for yourself; this helps the brain switch: for example, make yourself a cup of herbal tea or listen to relaxing music on Spotify or Apple Music. If you can't do it on your own, see a psychologist. Sleep is a critical and necessary resource for our health.

- Restore work and rest patterns and overall life balance. In this context, a coaching practice - the wheel of balance - is quite compelling - it helps not forget about different areas of life.

- Regular physical activity (neurobiologists advise exercising at least 1.5 hours a week or 15-20 minutes, but every day).

- Diversify your activities and social circle. If you are a doctor, and there are only doctors in your environment, you should start talking to other professions.

- Find time and money for your joy.

- Meditations or Yoga. They help reduce stress and help you switch gears. 

If it doesn't help - contact a psychologist or a life coach and be prepared that it will take time to recover if you are already in a state of burnout.


Let us know what's your take on burnouts. Tag us on social media, and let's discuss :)