Burnout: The signs, symptoms and how to avoid it

man sitting in carWhen we talk about burnout it is automatically assumed that you are working too hard, are overwhelmed or too stressed and that you might need to take a break or get some rest.

The thing is burnout is not only a physical thing, you can get emotional burnout as well.

What is emotional burnout?

Emotional burnout is a state that most commonly occurs when you are under a lot of prolonged stress that exhausts you emotionally, mentally and physically. You might feel trapped or stuck and feel like you have no control over your life. It can be caused by a work situation or something that is going on in your personal life or just something that you have had to deal with for way too long. No matter what the cause, emotional burnout is exhausting in every way and can affect how we function, how we deal with daily challenges and even how we interact with other people.

What symptoms do I need to look out for?

Symptoms of emotional burnout can be both mental and physical. Below are a list of some of the symptoms you might experience.

  1. Feeling overwhelmed or like you have no control
  2. Feeling stuck or trapped in a situation
  3. Having no control over your emotions
  4. Feeling hopeless or helpless
  5. Feeling tired all the time
  6. Absent mindedness
  7. Trouble sleeping
  8. Lack of motivation
  9. Irritability or irrational anger
  10. Headaches or other body pains

This list is by no means complete, but it gives you a good indication of what to look out for. Everyone experiences emotional burnout differently.

How can I avoid emotional burnout?

If you feel that you are in danger of reaching emotional burnout there are some life-style changes that you can implement to alleviate the symptoms and get you back on track.

The number one thing to do is to practise self-care. Self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone, but mostly it just means TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Forms of self-care includes:

  1. Eating healthy
  2. Getting enough sleep
  3. Eliminating unnecessary stressors
  4. Exercising
  5. Making time to connect with friends
  6. Taking time for yourself to relax or to do something that you enjoy
  7. Practicing mindfulness or meditation
  8. Taking a break
  9. Asking for help when needed
  10. Talking to a professional about your mental or physical health

What happens if emotional burnout is not dealt with?

If emotional burnout is not dealt with it can result in your mental and physical health giving out.

Physical Health

Because your body is in a continuous fight or flight mode it will impact your physical health. Your sleeping patterns will be affected as well as your eating patterns. This might cause you to lose focus or have difficulty concentrating. You might develop stomach problems because of the increasing anxiety. Other areas of your body that can be affected is your shoulders or back because of all the stress that you are experiencing.

You might also start having trouble in your relationships as you will have little to no capacity to deal with other people’s emotional demands. With low emotional capacity irritability also increases. You might start to lash out at people and they won’t have any idea what is going on.

Mental Health

Because you feel hopeless or like you have no control over your life it impacts your mental health. Your emotions are in overdrive because you are not dealing with them, or because you have been trying to deal with the same thing for far too long. You will start to feel overly emotional and the smallest thing might set you off and you wouldn’t even know why you are crying. You might struggle to cope with daily challenges and even worse you might end up having a complete mental breakdown. Coming back from a mental breakdown is a lot of hard work, but not impossible. But why wait until it gets to that point? It is better to deal with emotional burnout sooner than later.

It is important to note that anyone can experience emotional burnout. People at the highest risk of experiencing emotional burnout though are people who is experiencing challenging life changes. If you are always taking care of others or are in a care-giving job you are also at risk and should take extra care to avoid emotional burnout. Other factors that also contribute to emotional burnout are financial stress, loss, prolonged illness and high demanding jobs.

What should you do?

  1.  Know the signs and symptoms of emotional burnout.
  2. Acknowledge that you are suffering emotional burnout.
  3. Identify the problem that is causing the burnout.
  4. Try and find solutions to the problem.
  5. Seek professional help in dealing with the emotional burnout.
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