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  • Chantal Tougas, D.Psy.

Is this burnout?




Burnout may not be defined in the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used by mental healthcare professionals, but it is generally understood to be a condition that can result from chronic workplace stress. Burnout can affect how you feel physically and emotionally, but it can also manifest in how you act and think. Whereas you struggle at work, it is likely that other aspects of your life are going well. In general, people who are experiencing a burnout will tend to show the following:

  • Overwhelming physical and emotional fatigue that you can’t seem to recover from

  • Detached or distanced attitude towards work and clients

  • Feeling inadequate, having a decreased sense of accomplishment at work

You may sleep perfectly well on the weekends, but start to have more trouble falling asleep come Sunday night, as you start to dread the work week ahead.


It often comes with an overwhelming sense of fatigue (mental and physical) and you just can’t seem to recharge, not even after a vacation. This can lead you to be more irritable and impatient than usual. You start to believe that you will never be able to accomplish all of your objectives or achieve those of your employer, and that you don’t have enough time or knowledge to meet these expectations. You may try to compensate for this by putting in more hours, but being so tired, you are not able to be as productive as you would like. Looking at the gap that appears between what you feel is expected of you and what you are able to deliver can make you feel ineffective and incompetent, and this can affect your self-esteem and motivation.


You may try to protect yourself from the stressors that cause this tiredness by keeping your distance from colleagues or clients or calling in sick more often. You look for ways to just avoid going to work so as not to face the mounting demands and sense of personal ineffectiveness.


Below is a list of some of the signs to look out for if you think you may be experiencing a burnout.


PHYSICALLY

Burnout is a result of chronic stress, so it would follow that symptoms of stress would be present, such as headaches, nausea, hyperventilation, gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension, and impaired sleep.

Some also report being more prone to repeated infections such as catching more colds.

Burnout often includes decreased energy and changes in weight or appetite.


***Before concluding that any physical symptom is due to burnout, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor to rule out any other possible ailments.


EMOTIONALLY

You may notice a depressed or variable mood, anxiety, irritability.

Emotional exhaustion.

Some report feeling less empathy or being overly sensitive.

Job dissatisfaction, boredom, and discouragement that are out of character.


COGNITIVE SIGNS

More negative thoughts, mainly regarding work: not feeling appreciated, suspicion towards colleagues.

Thoughts of helplessness or of not being able to manage your work schedule.

Increased difficulty remembering things.


BEHAVIOURAL SIGNS

Being more impulsive or aggressive, increased conflicts.

Procrastinating on tasks.

Complaining more frequently about work.

Making more mistakes and being less effective than usual.

Looking at the time more frequently to check when the day is over.

Increased absenteeism.

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