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Stress is something that everyone experiences at one time or another. It can be challenging to balance one’s endurance for normal stressful experiences while still knowing how much stress is too much. Stress can be beneficial, as it can motivate individuals to perform better or work harder. Too much stress, or worsening stress, can contribute to the development of various mental and physical health issues. If stress has caused you to feel helpless and exhausted, you may be on your road to burnout. 

What Is Burnout?

Burnout does not necessarily hold one specific definition and its symptoms show up differently in everyone. All definitions have one thing in common; symptoms are caused by intense physical or mental demands that tend to be work-related or surface from other kinds of prolonged stress. Many people experience burnout from being overworked, while others experience burnout from being under-challenged. There are three areas of symptoms that point to burnout including exhaustion, reduced performance, and alienation from activities or tasks. 

  • Exhaustion: Burnout often makes individuals feel mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Due to feeling drained, individuals struggle with finding ways to cope with their loss of energy.
  • Alienation from (work-related) activities: Burnout causes individuals to lose contentment in their job situation, especially if their stress is caused by work-related demands. People that have burnout may feel consistently frustrated with their job and start to be cynical in their work environment. People with burnout may also start to become emotionally distant or numb at their job.
  • Reduced Performance: With exhaustion and lack of contentment comes reduced performance. Burnout does not only affect a persons ability to work, but also affects how a person goes about their daily tasks at home such as caring for family. People that experience burnout tend to become very negative about their responsibilities and find it difficult to gain the mental strength needed for concentration, creativity, and overall performance.

Burnout vs. Depression

You may have noticed that certain symptoms explaining burnout also tend to surface in individuals that have depression. Knowing the differences between the two is important, as diagnosing one in place of the other could lead to getting the wrong treatment. For example, encouraging someone with (what they consider to be) depression to take a long vacation may worsen symptoms for them, as people with depression often need psychotherapy treatment or medication. Someone with burnout may find that a long vacation may help their symptoms, although most of their healing may need to come from changes to their job role. 

There are some specific characteristics of depression, different from burnout, that can help to clarify what condition is being experienced in a person. First, burnout is more likely to be work-related whether that be work in a career or work in another life dynamic. With people that have depression, stress and negative emotions come from other factors outside of work. Symptoms of depression that are separate from symptoms of burnout include low self-esteem, hopelessness, self-destructive behavior, and suicidal tendencies. 

Causes of Burnout

Anyone can be at risk for experiencing burnout, whether that be a stay-at-home mom or someone that hasn’t taken a vacation from their full-time job in a decade. Another thing to understand about burnout is that it doesn’t solely occur from too many responsibilities, but can occur from a lack of downtime or how one copes with their downtime. Causes of burnout might include:

  • Work-related demands, such as:
    • feeling as if you have no control over your workload
    • having unclear job expectations
    • participating in work that does not challenge you
    • working in a high-pressure work
  • Lifestyle demands, such as:
    • working too much or having too many responsibilities
    • having little to no time for socialization or relaxation
    • lacking close or supportive relationships
    • not sleeping well or not getting enough sleep
  • Demands from personality, such as:
    • being a perfectionist, struggling to believe if anything is ever good enough
    • being a pessimist, struggling to understand your worth to the world
    • needing to be in control, struggling with trusting others to take on responsibilities

Recovery Options for Burnout

There are many strategies and treatments available to help you cope with the experience of burnout. If you recognize signs of burnout in yourself, it is essential to take action and get the help that you need so that your symptoms do not worsen over time. Consider these suggestions for coping with burnout:

  • Locate your source of feeling “burnt-out.” It can be difficult to make necessary changes to your lifestyle without knowing what needs to be changed.
  • Make any immediate changes if you can. You may need to ask your boss for a change in job-related tasks or reschedule some of the responsibilities you had planned throughout your week. Give yourself some time to adjust and change up your routine.
  • Lean on your support systems. Talking with people you trust about your stressors can alleviate stress and might even make you laugh when relating to other people’s stressful experiences. Insight from close loved ones can always bring a new perspective.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Make time for the things that bring you joy and happiness. Make time for these activities weekly to initiate healthy habits.
  • Talk to a therapist. Psychotherapy can help offer guidance and support by helping you identify stressors, explore valuable coping mechanisms, and navigate life experiences as they surface.

While stress is a common feeling we experience from time to time, burnout can be cause for concern. Burnout is a condition that involves exhaustion, reduced performance, and reduced motivation for work-related responsibilities. Resulting from prolonged stress, burnout can occur from a variety of lifestyle demands that do not necessarily have to be related to a career job. Burnout is different from depression, as the source of stress in burnout is something that can be altered more easily than the stress experienced from depression. Anyone can be at risk for burnout. It is important that you have reliable coping mechanisms to deal with burnout stress, as well as give yourself downtime to distance yourself from work-related activities. West Coast Recovery Centers emphasize how crucial it is for people to find healthy habits and ways of coping with symptoms of stress. To find out about the treatment options we offer, call us today at (760) 492-6509.  

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