Anyone Can Experience Burnout

Burnout used to be limited to occurring in the occupational setting. It is now recognized as being the result of chronic stress and can occur in any setting, to many different types of people, including:

  • Stay-at-home parents
  • Managers
  • Teacher
  • Self-employed individuals
  • Consultant
  • Psychotherapists
  • First responders

Chronic stress weakens the immune system, and may result in heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, substance abuse, depression, suicide, anxiety, anger issues. It can be very damaging, and thus it’s important to get to the bottom of it with effective stress management strategies.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

The following are signs and symptoms of work-related burn out, but they can apply to any situation that causes chronic stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce and stress in relationships, and financial stress, for example:

  • Cynicism
  • Reluctance to go to work; difficulty starting work
  • Irritability/ impatience
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty with memory, attention and concentration
  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Disillusionment
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to ease or numb these feelings
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced performance
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Reduced initiative and imagination
  • Increased illness (eg, frequent colds)
  • Weepiness
  • Loss of empathy
  • Bitterness
  • Relationship problems
  • Sexual challenges
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles

These symptoms look very much like depression, so sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish burnout vs depression. Some symptoms experienced by individuals with depression, but not usually with burnout are: low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and suicidality.

Why Do Some People Experience Burnout and Others Don’t?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to an individual’s likeliness of experiencing burnout. One of these factors include the work environment; in a poor work environment, individuals might experience:

  • A lack of control
  • Unclear expectations / lack of communication
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics
  • Monotonous or chaotic tasks
  • Unmanageable workloads
  • Lack of social support
  • Perception of being treated unfairly
  • Work/ life imbalance

However, there is an aspect of burnout and chronic stress that may be (and probably is) deeper rooted in an individual; we call these limiting beliefs, which are beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the world around us, and often develop in childhood. Some of these may include:

  • I have to be perfect
  • I am responsible for everything
  • I am not in control
  • I am not good enough/ capable
  • I cannot say ‘no’
  • I am powerless
  • I have to please everyone
  • I am falling behind

There are also certain personality types that are more susceptible to experiencing burnout than others, including those: who may be considered perfectionists, with a need for harmony, and those who believe they have little control.

So What Can Shift (and you) Do?

As always, we’ll get to the root of the issue. It’s likely that you have some internalized limiting beliefs (which we all do), which come from non-nurturing elements in our childhood.

Limiting beliefs can underlie an individual’s unwillingness/ inability to take care of themselves and establish a healthy work life balance. Sometimes, people learn to define their self-worth in terms of their work, their achievements, and their work ethic (my commitment to my work must be my priority else I’m lazy, unmotivated, underachieving, etc). They may have witnessed their successful parent completing dedicating him/herself to their work and model themselves after that parent.

Here are some things that you can do:

  • Try to find more of a work-life balance
  • Foster your social connections
  • Evaluate your diet and incorporate more exercise
  • Take breaks
  • Learn to say ‘no’
  • You can also try our free Life Analysis activity below. This will help you determine if you’re fulfilling the different aspects of your life that you consider important.

At the same time, it is important to get to the root cause of the issue. At Shift, our therapy involves identifying your limiting beliefs from the beginning, then using reprocessing to take their power away. You’ll find that you are no longer reactive to things that used to trigger you, and can live a more optimized life.