What happens when we keep “burning the candle” at both ends” until we reach emotional and physical exhaustion? Like the candle itself, we risk burning ourselves out.
Job burnout is a condition characterized by exhaustion. It might be physical, emotional, intellectual, or together. With burnout, one might feel drained and empty, with no energy or will for work. It occurs due to prolonged work-related stress and affects one’s life.
Risk Factors And Warning Signs
The risk factors fell into two categories: internal and external. Not surprisingly, some internal factors involve one’s approach to work. High potentials and high achievers are at the top of the list. Many of the traits that make them successfully create risk for burnout when out of balance or overused. Those in helping professions are also at high risk because their work means they serve all day without much time to themselves. People who struggle with work/life balance are also at risk, as are those who have the mindset that working harder or longer will help.
Those who have a hard time saying no or who regularly take on more than they can do well are in danger. One’s workload feels and perceived lack of autonomy also factor in. Lack of social support is another factor that may cause some people and a side effect for others. Last but not least, conflict among a person’s various roles puts people at risk. When personal, professional, and social relationships have simultaneous needs, it can feel like you cannot serve anyone well, not to mention take care of yourself. In reality, that is the most critical time for self-care.
Burnout can stem from external factors. Dysfunctional workplace culture is the main culprit; it can include unfair treatment, unclear communication, and lack of support from managers. How you respond is a personal choice. It’s difficult to respond if we are depleted from poor boundaries or if the reward has been less than time and effort.
It’s important to note that burnout compounds over time. It is more often a prolonged perfect storm rather than just one thing. Brendon Burchard says, “burnout happens bit by bit in survival mode” (2016).
Is it severe?
In short, yes! While the short-term effects of burnout seem tolerable, the long-term implications are life-altering. It manifests itself emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Emotionally, it looks like cynicism, distance, apathy, and irritability. Mentally, lost motivation, increased errors, poor memory, vague decisions, reduced creativity, and poor performance. Physically, it presents as unexplained headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, pain, fatigue, and insomnia.
Any one of those signs of burnout might not cause significant problems, but just as with risk factors, the signs of burnout are rarely isolated. It is often cynicism and decreased performance, exhaustion, and apathy. Being in that state becomes a cycle that feeds into more symptoms. If it lasts a long time, it can lead to severe illnesses, such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviors.
Burnout is a serious problem that is affecting more and more people. It can happen to anyone, regardless of their job or lifestyle. Remember, it’s not just adults affected by burnout; youth and young adults are also at risk. Burnout is a significant issue, and it deserves our individual and collective attention. We need to be aware of the signs of burnout and take action to prevent it from happening. We also need to support each other when we’re dealing with burnout. Together, we can make a difference.