Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recognizing and Dealing with Burnout

Does this picture feel familiar? Ever feel like you have gotten to the point where you no longer care, are exhausted and overwhelmed? You might be dealing with burnout. Burnout is the state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity. Anyone can experience burnout, whether you are someone who works in an office, a stay-at- home mother, or a student.

Some possible signs that you are experiencing burnout are that every day seems bad or hopeless; you are exhausted and wiped out; you spend your day doing nothing, focused on boring or overwhelming tasks; feel that regardless of what you do it will not make a difference; and when it comes to trying to make changes you wonder what is the point.

Some of the symptoms/effects of being burned out are:
1- decreased productivity
2- decreased energy
3- increased feelings of hopelessness
4- increased feelings of helplessness
5- feeling detached
6- lack of motivation and energy
7- apathy
8- lowered immunity
9- feelings of failure
10- use of food, alcohol or drugs to cope
11 - isolating
12 - procrastinating

There are three factors that tend to lead to burnout: personality; lifestyle; work/school/home environment. Some personality factors that can lead to burnout are being pessimistic, always in need of control, and being a perfectionist. Lifestyle factors that can cause burnout are things like all work and no play, lack of proper sleeping and eating habits, lack of a support network, and taking on too many responsibilities, trying to be too many things to too many people. The workplace/school/home environments have many factors that can lead to burnout, such as: working in a high pressured work environment; working in a dysfunctional situation; having unchallenging or boring work; lack of recognition for one's work, over expectations of work responsibilities; having different values; and having little or no control over your work.

Now that we know the effects/symptoms and factors that lead to burnout, let's talk about how to prevent them. One of the main things you can do for your overall health, physical, mental and emotional health, is to have a positive support network. Having a positive support network to turn to, can help to relieve some of the feelings of being overwhelmed. Try to re-focus your attitude, instead of looking at the things that did not happen, look at what did. Work on improving your problem-solving skills, evaluate your options and get creative with possible solutions. Work on managing the stressors that led to the burnout, and establishing healthy boundaries. In other words, if school was the primary source of your burnout, maybe take less classes, get a tutor, form a study group or re-organize. Be sure to get the proper amount of sleep, eat properly and exercise routinely (check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program). And finally, unplug. Give yourself time to get away from your computer, phone and television. I know a lot of my clients tell me that they use their television to unwind, but the truth is that it simply postpones reality. Go for a walk, swim, or read a good book.

If you are feeling burned out, counseling can be one way to help you manage your feelings and get back on your feet. If we can help, please give us a call.

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