Everyone has times when they feel overwhelmed by everything, but what is the difference between being stressed and reaching burnout?
Burnout occurs when the body becomes exhausted. In burnout, the body is in a complete state of exhaustion physically, emotionally and mentally; a person who has got to the stage when they have no reserves left and will often feel like they just cannot give any more.
Burnout can often be mistaken for stress as some of the symptoms are the same. When a person is burned out they will lack motivation and energy. They might also begin to feel like they have no hope left and can't imagine a time when things will start to get better. These feelings could also be symptomatic of stress or even depression, but there is a difference.
The Difference Between Stress and Burnout
When a person is stressed, they will often feel unable to cope with things. They will often struggle to manage everyday tasks and feel like things have gotten on top of them. They are also likely to experience feelings of anxiety; the stressed person will often over-react to things, perhaps things that would have never bothered them previously.
The symptoms of stress can also be physical. Stressed patients often find it difficult to sleep and can experience headaches and high blood pressure. Stress is also associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Where burnout differs is that the patient doesn't feel stressed as such, they instead find it difficult to feel anything. They can become increasingly withdrawn with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness; rather than experience anxiety, the patient becomes far removed from their feeling and will often experience detachment.
Rather than over-reacting to things, patients with burnout often won't react at all. Their emotions become so blunted that it is hard to draw the energy to react to things. Another difference between stress and burnout is that burnout will often affect the person emotionally rather than physically. Burnout can also lead to feelings of depression.
What Causes Burnout?
The causes of burnout are many and varied. Burnout occurs when unrelenting pressure is placed on a person. This could be down to a stressful and demanding job or an over active social life can cause burnout, as can a hectic family life.
Moreover, people who suffer from insomnia can experience burnout as the lack of sleep will use up energy and deplete the adrenaline reserves until the person feels like they just don't have anything left. Burnout is a feeling of being drained of everything.
The Signs of Burnout
How does a person know if they are close to burnout? They will often experience a host of symptoms that might seem unrelated, but are all part of the same problem. Patients approaching burnout will often feel drained of energy and feel like they are tired all of the time; even the simplest things will feel like too much effort. A weakened immune system may also result, leading to frequent illness.
Other non-physical symptoms include a feeling of self doubt and failure, lack of motivation and an increasingly negative outlook on life.
In addition, there can often be physical symptoms such as headaches and aches and pains. The person might also appear stand offish and perhaps have given up on a social life. Others might turn to alcohol or drugs in a bid to help them cope.
How to Cope with Burnout
Patients with burnout need to take time out. Whether it is taking time off work, finding ways to help manage family life a little better or cutting back on a hectic social life, the person needs time on their own so they can start to recuperate and begin to feel like themselves again.
It is also important to get some form of support. No one can manage everything on their own and sharing feelings with friends can be a useful coping strategy. If someone feels unable to turn to the people closest to them, there are many online support groups that can help.
How to Prevent Burnout
In order to prevent burnout it is important to deal with stress effectively. It is also a good idea to take some time out for some form of relaxation such as meditation or yoga.
Concentrating on a hobby is another good idea as it will help to take the focus away from work and everyday struggles.
If your job is becoming more and more demanding and employers or colleagues are putting on you too much, learn how to say "no". Your time is precious and there are only so many hours in a day. Value your own time and others will do the same.
In the age of hi-tech gadgets, email and smartphones many of us are spending increasing amounts of time staying "connected" online. Try setting time aside where you turn off the computer, stop checking your email and escape from the pressures of work.
Sleep is also crucial. So make sure that you are getting a goods night sleep in order to recharge your batteries so that you are fully prepared for the day ahead.
Finally, don't be afraid to seek help and support. Whether that support comes from friends, family or from a medical professional, recognising that you need help and acting on it is vital in tackling the problem.
April 10, 2014