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How to Identify Burnout

Emotional Symptoms

Do you dread going to work each day?
Do you feel like you’re not making a difference?
Do you feel unappreciated?
Are you constantly feeling overwhelmed with stressors or tedious work?
Are you incessantly exhausted?
Have you lost motivation?
Do you feel trapped, helpless, and defeated?
Do you feel detached from work?

Behavioral symptoms

Retreating from responsibilities
Withdrawing from others
Contributing less effort at work
Procrastinating from tasks
Taking your frustrations out on friends or family
Numbing yourself through drugs, alcohol, or food 

What is burnout? 

Burnout is the consequence of protracted emotional and physical stress. Usually people feel drained, overwhelmed, and struggle to meet the unremitting demands in their life. When it occurs, motivation or incentives becomes less reinforcing because it’s more difficult to produce the anticipated results. In other words, when effort is not equivalent to the outcome, motivation to continue to sustain determination begins to waver.

How is it different from stress? 

Burnout is different from stress because of the perceived outcome. Burnout relates to the perception of your contributions. Stress is experienced in the moment, but burnout speaks to a larger process of how people consider their input relative to output. 

What are the most common signs and symptoms? 

Psychomotor symptoms include the effects of chronic stress on the body, these include stomachaches, headaches, and body pain. These symptoms relate to the way stress is stored in the body. Because burnout is correlated to perception, the way in which people view their performance or work will be affected. Someone who is burned out will likely feel more cynical about work and the people they are surrounded by. In turn, they may dissociate from work to cope and become more distant. Another factor contributing to dissociation is emotional exhaustion. Burnout can drain emotional energy, leaving individuals feeling tired and depleted, which requires more energy to complete the tasks, which were once done with ease. This also leads to a reduced performance, not because a person loses competency, but because perception about their tasks becomes overly negative. 

How does burnout effect productivity? 

If you are feeling burned out in one area or from one task in which you feel your effort was not commensurate with the result, that perception may generalize to other areas. If you are not being acknowledged for your hard work, withdrawing effort could be perceived as adaptive as it preserves your sense of well-being. This however only creates a negative feedback loop, in which decreased productivity leads to poorer work performance, and undesirable outcomes for future effort. The key is to consider the impact of your perception, and ways to celebrate yourself when the outcome of your hard work isn’t intrinsically rewarding or if others do not provide reinforcement. 

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