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Burnout Syndrome: What You Need to Know

During my first year at university, I suffered from Burnout Syndrome. It was not recognized, then. When it was, I researched it endlessly.

burnout-disorder-a-personal-narrative

What is Burnout Syndrome?

I am sure we've all had these days where we feel like doing nothing except stay at home, order take-out, and binge watch series or read books. It is perfectly normal to take a day or two for yourself away from the overwhelming demands of life. In fact, studies now show that vacation time or 'personal days' result in improved productivity, lower stress and better mental health.

But, what happens when these two days become a week or month, during which you are too emotionally and physically exhausted to follow up on your commitments, whether personal or professional?

As a freshman in university, I experienced a similar situation. It was intolerable to say the least. I would sit at my desk for hours on end not being able to focus or recall any topics from the curriculum. My sleep schedule was very off and I was constantly exhausted. It got to the point where I gave up on trying to study for tests, convinced that the information would seep through my brain in the state that I was in. I was right; by that point, there was nothing I could do, because, as I now know, I was suffering from Burnout Syndrome.

Recognized in May or 2019 as a psychological disorder, Burnout Syndrome is a type of 'human battery depletion' characterized by extreme mental and physical exhaustion for a prolonged period of time as a result of chronic stress. It's symptoms show themselves on a spectrum depending on how far the disorder has progressed.

burnout-disorder-a-personal-narrative

So, what are the symptoms?

Effect on Areas:Early Signs/StagesSymptoms of Syndrome

Physical Symptoms

mild headaches

IBS, chest pains, decreased immune system

Concentration

difficulty paying attention

impaired cognitive function

Mood

acute loss of enjoyment

depressive episodes

Energy

lack of energy

Chronic Fatigue

Sleep

trouble falling sleep on some days

Chronic Insomnia

Appetite

infrequent loss of appetite

weight loss

Anxiety

tension, worry, uneasiness

anxiety interferes with daily tasks

Attitude

irritability

anger, outbursts

Performance

procrastination

inability to finish projects

Self-image

negative self-talk

trust issues

Social Life

resistance to socializing

isolation

Causes of Burnout Syndrome

Acknowledging and treating the above symptoms of the syndrome can spare someone a lot of mental and physical pain. But recognizing and avoiding the following causes before symptoms occur is also important.

  • chronic stress
  • self-sacrifice
  • feeling either permanently overworked or under-challenged, being under time pressure, or having conflicts with colleagues.
  • extreme commitment that results in people neglecting their own needs.

And, while many sources claim that the diagnosis is limited to work environments and shouldn't be applied to other situations, it has been proven that the syndrome can be caused by social, athletic, and academic demands as well.

burnout-disorder-a-personal-narrative

De-stressors

After months of feeling guilty about my inability to function, I made a decision that was crucial to my recovery. I started eliminating stressors from my life and adding de-stressors, such as:

1) Positive and rewarding work:

  • excites and motivates you
  • is enjoyable
  • where you feel appreciated and valued by your boss and peers

2) Supportive individuals:

  • who stick by you at your time of need
  • who do not judge you
  • who are understanding of your mental state

3) Foods that have been shown to decrease stress, including:

  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • blueberries
  • turkey
  • almonds
  • yogurt
  • kale/arugula
  • salmon

It may seem daunting to do this at first. I even left my job for one that was less stressful and deadline-based. But, if I can do it, so can you! You may think that many aspects in your life are not under your control, but they are. You don't have control over your overly-nosy relatives, but you do have control over how often you see them. If you can't leave your job for financial reasons, you can choose to work on less projects. So, do it and put your mental health above everything else.

Is it a Stressor?

For each question, choose the best answer for you.

  1. Which description best describes it?
    • I am always motivated and excited about doing this task/being around this person.
    • I often enjoy doing this activity/being around this person, but occasionally I cannot bring myself to do it/see them.
    • I feel pretty neutral about this activity/person and do not believe it/they affect me that much.
    • I do not feel like I am gaining much from this task/person, which makes it difficult for me to commit to it.
    • I greatly dread being around this person/doing this action.

Scoring

Use the scoring guide below to add up your total points based on your answers.

  1. Which description best describes it?
    • I am always motivated and excited about doing this task/being around this person.: +0 points
    • I often enjoy doing this activity/being around this person, but occasionally I cannot bring myself to do it/see them.: +3 points
    • I feel pretty neutral about this activity/person and do not believe it/they affect me that much.: +3 points
    • I do not feel like I am gaining much from this task/person, which makes it difficult for me to commit to it.: +4 points
    • I greatly dread being around this person/doing this action.: +5 points

Interpreting Your Score

A score between 0 and 1 means: This action/person likely has a positive influence in your life and will help you through your journey to a more relaxed state.

A score between 2 and 3 means: This action/person etiher has some positive and some negative effects on you or does not affect you. Be careful, a hard day or a though task can tip that scale and cause you to dread it. That's why you need to find motivation for doing what you do instead of feeling neutral or having mixed feelings about it.

A score of 4 means: This action/person is a definite stressor, which may negatively affect you in the future. You may need to alter your relationship with this person or how often you do this activity to avoid chronic stress.

A score of 5 means: This action/person is a definite stressor, which may negatively affect you in the future. You may need to alter your relationship with this person or how often you do this activity to avoid chronic stress.

References

Frye, L. (2018, June 01). More People Are Taking Time Off, and That's Good for Business. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/workers-taking-more-vacation-.aspx

Impaired cognitive performance in patients with chronic burnout syndrome. (2004, November 17). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051104001553?via=ihub

The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout ... Do You Have Them? (2013, November 11). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them

Depression: What is burnout? (2017, January 12). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/

Ekberg, J. Y., Griffith, N., & Foxall, M. J. (2006, December 22). Spouse burnout syndrome. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2648.1986.tb01234.x

Oliva, E. F., Santos, Andrade, S., Santos, Abreu, A. T., Melo, . . . De, T. M. (n.d.). Burnout Syndrome and associated factors among medical students: A cross-sectional study. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1807-59322012000600005&script=sci_arttext

Handbook of Sport Psychology - Handbook of Sport Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118270011#page=630

Negativity Is Contagious, Study Finds. (2007, October 07). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071004135757.htm

Beat Anxiety: 8 Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.psycom.net/foods-that-help-with-anxiety-and-stress/

Jideonwo, P. (2014, March 10). These Foods Make Your Stress & Anxiety WORSE. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://blackdoctor.org/431040/foods-that-cause-stress/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Laila Hashem

Comments

TurtleDog on August 15, 2019:

I think we all get this from time to time but,as your article puts so well, it can become a major problem. Probably I struggle the most with finding something exciting, as my de-stressor.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on August 14, 2019:

I was wondering if I might have Burnout Syndrome since I sometimes feel overwhelmed. But that’s just because I have so many things on my agenda that I try to get done.

Based on your table of symptoms I see that I definitely don’t have it, which is good. But even though I don’t have burnout, your list of stress reduces is welcome information that I plan to use. Thanks for such as detailed and researched article.

Laila Hashem (author) from United Arab Emirates on June 13, 2019:

Glad you liked it!

Gupi on June 13, 2019:

Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I like how you have discussed the symptoms in depth and how things can be improved.