Are you finding yourself unmotivated at work, tired, irritable, or dreading the start of each work day? You could be showing early signs of burnout.

While our modern ‘always on’ work culture would have us believe that feeling stressed or exhausted is a normal part of life, research tells us that mental health symptoms such as these should be taken seriously. Extended periods of stress can lead to high blood pressure, substance abuse, insomnia or heart disease.

What is burnout?

Burnout is not a formal psychological diagnosis, though experts believe that conditions such as depression or anxiety can accompany it. The term ‘burnout’ was coined by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. He defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Burnout is usually associated with the pressure that comes from an individual’s job, but any situation creating stress can cause it — for example, relationships, parenting or school. Personality types with a strong focus on achievement and perfectionism may be more susceptible to burnout.

Am I burnt out?

If you’re wondering if you’re burnt out, ask yourself the following questions:

– Are you finding it harder than usual to concentrate?
– Has your performance at work declined?
– Do you feel disillusioned or demoralised at work?
– Has the quality of your sleep been affected?
– Have you become more critical or grouchy with colleagues?

Answering ‘yes’ to one or more of these could mean that you’re experiencing burnout.

What to do

A great first step in dealing with burnout is simply taking a mental health day. Set aside a day off work as soon as possible, turn off your phone and spend some time thinking about how you’ll practice self-care moving forward. Some proven strategies to help with emotional resilience are:

– Meditation
– Exercise
– Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
– Cutting out alcohol
– Practising gratitude

If there are problems at work that need to be addressed, raise these with human resources. If you feel you’re also experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, make an appointment to discuss these with your GP.

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