The keyword hallmarks of burnout are exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. This represents more to the individual experiencing burnout than just job related stress. Burnout is a condition which can leave an individual feeling helpless, hopeless, confused, isolated and lost.
I have described the differences between burnout and stress. Burnout is a much more serious state which requires more immediate and drastic intervention. The reason is because the symptoms and consequences of burnout are so profound.
Individuals who become burned out are at risk for chronic unhappiness, increased irritability, depression, anxiety, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, suicidal actions, alcoholism and drug abuse. Besides the obvious consequences of these, there is also a potential for a great loss of knowledge, expertise and creativity.
Physicians may quit medicine. A person’s creativity may be stymied or destroyed. Someone’s passion and sense of purpose may be completely subverted. All of which are tragedies.
In her book, The Truth about Burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach observes, “What started out as important, meaningful, fascinating work becomes unpleasant, unfulfilling, and meaningless.” She further adds, “The positive feelings of enthusiasm, dedication, security, and enjoyment fade away and are replaced by anger, anxiety and depression.”
How can you recognize if you or someone you care about is burned out or burning out? Listen for these statements of warning.
- I feel used up or empty or dead inside.
- I feel hopeless, helpless, or lost.
- I feel I have nothing left to give.
- I go to work and all I feel is frustration.
- I have lost enthusiasm for the work I used to love.
- I feel trapped, overwhelmed, overloaded or overworked.
- Or, if “I love my job” has been replaced by “I hate my job!”
The individual experiencing burnout may view this as some sort of personal crisis of their own making, and in some circumstances, it is. But, burnout more than likely represents a dysfunctional work environment. Either way, there is much that can be done to alleviate and prevent burnout.
If you recognize someone who is burning out or burned out, please reach out to them and let them know it just doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps that can be taken to introduce or restore an individual to a state of engagement, the opposite of burnout.
Do you know someone who may be suffering from job related burnout? Have you ever experienced burnout? If so, did you recognize it for what it was and what did you do as a remedy?