In today's modern hectic times, there is a great emphasis on performance, people are often overworked and live under long-term stress. This chronic stress then causes feelings of exhaustion, increased cynicism and declining work performance, all of which can result in burnout syndrome.
Symptoms of burnout syndrome
According to the World Health Organization, burnout syndrome is caused by chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully managed. Burnout syndrome can affect your mental and physical state. Many people don't notice the first signs or ignore them and only realize it's burnout when it's too late.
One of the common symptoms is irritability associated with mental and physical fatigue. This often results in an inability to work effectively. Activities that you normally do suddenly start to take up a lot more of your time. Since we have almost constant access to emails and messages thanks to smartphones, the pressure is on us to respond quickly and this can also play a part in the development of burnout syndrome. If your To-Do list is constantly filling up with more tasks, it can lead to feelings of exhaustion to the point of hopelessness.
Over time, even small tasks can seem like a chore, which increases feelings of incompetence and helplessness. Once you are burned out, you have much less capacity and are more explosive. People often start to withdraw into themselves and are more antisocial. Another symptom is that you no longer have the time or capacity to do your normal routine, such as cleaning your home, your favorite sports activities, or spending time with friends. Some people then resort to drinking alcohol.
Another symptom is increased procrastination, this can manifest itself in not responding to emails and can result in a backlog of projects where you don't know what to start first. Burnout syndrome also manifests itself in impaired memory, poor quality sleep and overall dissatisfaction with oneself.
Stages of burnout syndrome
- Enthusiasm - In this phase you are enthusiastic about your work, enjoy life, are very productive and feel optimistic and full of energy.
- Stagnation - you begin to realize what reality is like and start to miss time for personal needs. You spend less time with family and friends. Often people consider work to be the most important thing in their lives.
- Frustration - you work performance starts to decline, long-term stress starts to take a toll on your physical and mental health. Even small things can upset you, you begin to distance yourself even more from social life. Feelings of powerlessness increase.
- Apathy - you begin to see your work as a source of income only, it no longer gives you pleasure, you may feel despair and become indifferent to your work. You are constantly tired, may have chronic headaches and a pessimistic view of work and your life.
- Burnout - at this stage you don't enjoy anything, are often sad and emotional, physical and mental exhaustion sets in.
Prevention of burnout syndrome
Once people become aware of feelings of burnout, they often opt for a short-term solution in the form of a vacation. Although a vacation can provide a sense of relief, it is only a temporary solution. Stress at work cannot be avoided, but burnout can be prevented. So what is the proper and effective prevention of burnout syndrome?
Physical activity helps maintain mental health, reduce fatigue, and improve overall cognitive function. If you find time to move every day, it is a very effective prevention against burnout syndrome. Of course, it doesn't have to be an hour at the gym every day, short walks count too.
Set boundaries on how far your work life can encroach. Learn to say no to clients sometimes. Set a time that is yours alone, it could be a walk in the countryside, going to the theatre, or watching your favourite TV show.
A balanced diet
A balanced and regular diet has an impact on our psyche. Eat a healthy diet full of omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates. Due to workload, it sometimes happens that people skip lunch and have a full meal only in the late evening. Be sure to avoid this and have three meals a day and one or two snacks.
Some foods promote stress and create unhealthy cycles. What foods to avoid?
- Refined carbohydrates and sugars - although they give us energy in the short term, they make us hungry very quickly, leading to increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone);
- alcohol - causes more cortisol to be released into the body, resulting in increased appetite, dehydration, and poor insulin levels;
- caffeine - increases cortisol levels while reducing the absorption of adenosine, which calms the body.
Start working on good sleep habits. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Avoid taking stimulants such as caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. Brew a soothing herbal tea and avoid blue light before bed.
If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, slow down, think more about yourself, and don't be afraid to seek professional help.