Health: Burnout represents a breaking point

The term “burnout” was first coined as a workplace term to describe the total psychic energy of a person consumed with trying to fuel the fires of daily existence.

An energy crisis occurs because the psychic demand exceeds the supply, and it is experienced as a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situations. Burnout is accompanied by symptoms including physical depletion, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, disillusionment, negative self-concept, negative attitudes toward work, other people, and life in general.

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Burnout represents a breaking point beyond which the ability to cope with the environment is severely hampered. Simply put, burnout is the rock-bottom consequence of a life that is too busy.

Burnout is a slow and steady erosion of the spirit and energy, as a result of the daily struggles and chronic stress typical of our modern lifestyle today. Occupationally, there are six major sources of burnout: workloads that are too complex, too much, too urgent or just too awful; control issues from being under poor management, or having ineffective leadership and poor teamwork; lack of reward through lack of recognition or job satisfaction; absence of community that provides social support; lack of fairness with little justice, favouritism, or arbitrary and secretive decision making; and discordant values of the continuous and grinding interface between the worker and the work environment.

Common triggers that can result in burnout include: financial stress, intense schooling, raising children, homelessness, being a caregiver to a loved one, prolonged divorce proceedings, death of a family member or friend, high-pressure jobs (nurses, doctors, police officers, teachers, first responders), working long hours, increased workloads, working at a job you hate, or living with chronic pain or illness.

Some symptoms of burnout include: lack of enthusiasm for our job or life in general; feeling of stagnation wherein a person feels their personal, financial and career needs are not being met; frustration wherein an individual starts to question the effectiveness, value and impact of their efforts in the face of ever-mounting obstacles and demands; and lastly, apathy indicates a true state of crisis, and the individual is in a state of disequilibrium and immobility.

If this state of crisis becomes prolonged, it can cause high blood pressure, frequent colds and infections, weight gain, insomnia, premature aging, anxiety and/or depression. 

Here are some strategies to prevent or overcome burnout:

If possible, eliminate or reduce the stressor(s), get regular exercise, get enough sleep, limit alcohol intake, eat a healthy diet, connect with family and friends, talk with a doctor or counsellor, and practice mindfulness activities such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises, and take walks in nature.

Also, engage in self-care activities that promote your overall health and well-being. Do not overschedule your life, take short breaks throughout the day and do some gentle stretching to release muscle tightness and tension held in the body.

Pursue some interests and hobbies you really enjoy as this provides satisfaction and fulfillment. 

Chris Drummond is a registered clinical counsellor in Powell River.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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