Professional burnout is a kind of work-related stress that makes people feel unmotivated, uninspired, and disengaged from a job they once loved. People experiencing professional burnout might also struggle with their self-esteem, as they wonder what it means about them as a person if they no longer find fulfilment in their work.
According to the Mayo Clinic, experts haven’t determined any one cause of burnout, but there are several factors that might induce enough stress to interfere with physical and mental health.
What causes burnout? Lack of resources and control, poor communication, workplace dynamic, and lack of stability and support are all roads that lead to burnout. Furthermore, if a person puts their work before everything, including quality time with family and friends, this person is at risk of burning out. People who don’t necessarily choose work over their loved ones but experience work overloads are also susceptible to distress.
There are several signs that indicate a burnout, including cynicism, irritability, lethargy, and lack of focus. Other symptoms include a change in sleep habits, using food, drugs, or alcohol more often to cope. Physically, burnout can manifest as unexplained headaches, digestive issues, or aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, and joints. When experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to see a primary care physician or mental health provider to rule out depression, anxiety, or any other health disorder, as these symptoms often overlap with burnout. Whether or not a health condition is diagnosed, a medical professional can suggest lifestyle changes that may help.
While not a diagnosable medical condition, burnout can put an individual’s health at risk in the long run. According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term consequences of burnout include hypertension, diabetes, chronic fatigue, substance abuse, insomnia, and a weakened immune system – just to name a few. And these just name the physical health consequences, not the emotional toll it takes when you no longer enjoy the work that you do or see value in the contributions that you make.
The first step in handling a burnout is to find support. Whether it be professional or within the workplace itself, support is integral to recovery when isolation is partially to blame for burnout in the first place. Second, discuss your concerns with the higher-ups in your workplace and see if some type of agreement or new arrangement can be made. If you the or one of the higher-ups review your habits and workload to see what can be delegated to others or readjusted (such as pushing a deadline). Allow yourself a moment to breathe.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and mild exercise are a great step toward integrating the mind and body and creating harmony at work and in other areas of life. Conscious eating – consuming fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains daily – impact both the brain and the body and can help combat fatigue and cognitive difficulties that burnout exacerbates. Cultivating a mindfulness practice together with conscious eating may also address sleep difficulties.
Burnout happens to the best of us, but if we understand where it comes from and how to navigate it, we can get past it. See a doctor and rule out mental illnesses and other medical conditions when these symptoms arise, especially if you already practice a healthy and mindful lifestyle. Ultimately, burnout encourages us to look at our lives and our decisions so that we can makes tweaks to live with more harmony.