“I think that burnout happens because of resentment. That notion that, ‘Wow, I worked 100 hours last week, and I couldn’t even have this thing that I really wanted.”
Marissa Mayer, Businesswoman
Burnout: Causes, Effects & Solutions
Burnout can be defined as a state of mental, emotional or physical exhaustion which is caused by excessive stress levels.
This stress often comes from stressful work, but may also be due to private issues. Burnout has become a big problem over the past decades.
An increasing number of people is no longer able to deal with their stress level and therefore suffer from several adverse health effects.
The causes, effects, symptoms and solutions concerning burn-out are examined in this article.
Causes for Burnout
- Stress at work
- Lack of a clear cut between work and private life
- Leisure stress
- Family stress
- Psychological instability
- High expectations
- Social pressure
- Information overload
- Insufficient sleep
- Insufficient vacation time
- Time speeds up
Stress at work
A stressful job can be a significant cause for the development of burnout symptoms. Many people in our society, especially people who are working in mentally demanding jobs, suffer from burnout since they are simply not able to deal with the floods of information and the constant stress level due to time pressure at their work.
Moreover, apart from the workload itself, there is a quite bad working atmosphere in some firms which may further increase the chance for burnout since if you are working in such a company, you will also suffer from attacks from your colleagues which likely exacerbates your stress level even more.
Lack of a clear cut between work and private life
Especially in the past decade, an increasing number of people are available for work issues even when they actually left their office and are at home with their families. People often feel that they have to be available all the time since they fear losing their jobs if they are not.
However, being available all day long will lead to enormous stress levels, since the brain is not able to disconnect from the work state and will remain half-way at work.
This will increase the likelihood of burnout since under these conditions, people will not be able to fully recover in their leisure time.
Apart from stress at work, many people also suffer from stress at home. There are so many events you could attend every day of your life. People often fear to miss out if they do not show up for invitations.
The fear of missing out is such a big thing in our nowadays society that the term FOMO (fear of missing out) developed over the last decade and became quite popular.
FOMO can lead to high levels of stress since everyone only has a limited time that is available for leisure every day. Therefore, people who have high levels of FOMO are also more likely to suffer from burnout.
Since many people center their life around their family, family stress is a big part of the equation when it comes to burnout. It is quite hard to manage your family while also having a demanding job. Therefore, many people will not be able to deal with all this in a mentally healthy manner.
Instead of relaxing after a hard workday, children may want to play or want help from you when it comes to doing their homework. Thus, you actually have too demanding jobs instead of just one. If you do not have a relaxed attitude towards life, this family stress may lead to burnout symptoms sooner or later.
If you do not have a stable mindset, you will be more likely to suffer from mental conditions like burnout since you will not be able to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
The less psychologically stable you are, the more likely it is that you crack under the pressure that comes across life which may lead to burnout symptoms and other related effects.
Our expectations vastly determine our level of happiness. Due to social media where everyone is posting their best pictures of their best times, people live in kind of a bubble and do not fully recognize what is going on in average real life.
Consequently, many people have too high expectations and also feel the pressure to meet high expectations from others. This mindset is quite unhealthy since it often leads to high stress levels and may therefore also increase the chances for burnout.
Social pressure may be another cause of burnout. Since humans are social creatures, many of us need the valuation of others in order to be happy. To get this valuation, people often feel the need to fit in the cultural systems of a society.
However, fitting in in a system at all costs will not make you happy, you will rather feel unhappy and also stressed since you are denying your actual self which can lead to mental issues and also burnout symptoms.
Even though, especially men, act quite tough on the outside, many of them are actually quite insecure. Many people see life as a source of bad things that could happen to them, instead of looking at the opportunities and nice things in life.
This one-sided perspective of life on the negative things will often translate in high levels of fear and may therefore lead to burnout symptoms due to the stress implied by that fear.
Over the past decades, the amount of information that our brain has to process skyrocketed. Everyone is able to get the latest news on their smartphone on a real-time basis.
Moreover, through social media, we are fed with plenty of information every second. Thus, if you are not able to unplug and take your time off from these channels, you may suffer from information overload which can translate into burnout.
Sleep is crucial for a healthy mental state since in our sleep, our brain can process the things that happened to us while we have been awake which will lower our stress level so that we can start more relaxed the next morning.
In turn, if people get insufficient sleep, they are more likely to develop mental issues and also burnout since their stress levels will be higher and their quality of life will be significantly lower due to that.
Insufficient vacation time
Even if you love your jobs, it is necessary to take time off and go on vacation from time to time to recharge your mental batteries in order to stay mentally healthy. Seeing different countries will often enlarge your horizon and will give you a different look at the world.
After seeing many different things, especially when you travel to poor countries, you will put your own problems into perspective and will be able to deal with them more easily.
On the other hand, if you always stay in your comfort zone and therefore in your bubble, chances are that you will burn out at one point in your life since your life will likely feel quite unfulfilling.
Time speeds up
Due to the invention of the internet, our behavioral patterns changed dramatically. Although the internet can be regarded as one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind, it also implies some dangers.
Since more and more is happening in a given period of time, “time is speeding up”, meaning that our brain has to process an increasing level of information every single day.
This can lead to an increased stress level if you are not able to deal with this cultural development in a mentally healthy way and may therefore lead to burnout symptoms.
Effects and Signs of Burnout
- Sleeping problems
- Chronic exhaustion
- Mental issues
- Physical health issues
- Difficulty to focus
- Decrease in sex drive
- High blood pressure
- Loss of joy
Burnout can lead to severe sleeping issues and insomnia. If you are burned out and are not able to deal with your emotional state properly, chances are that this also affects your sleeping quality.
You might lie in your bed awake instead of sleeping since many thoughts are going through your mind which prevents you from falling asleep and recharge your batteries.
Another symptom of burnout may be chronic fatigue. If you always feel exhausted and actually are not motivated at all to do things you liked in the past, you may suffer from burnout.
Burnout can lead to negative feelings of exhaustion even though your life might actually quite good and you may have many things that you could look forward to. Thus, chronic exhaustion can be regarded as a warning signal for burnout.
Burnouts may also lead to forgetfulness. Since your brain is usually not able to deal with the flood of information and stress anymore when you are suffering from burnout, you might also suffer from a high level of forgetfulness since you simply may not have capacities left to remember things properly.
You may also suffer from mental health issues related to burnout. Excessive stress levels and the resulting burnout symptoms can also lead to severe mental health conditions like depressions or other mental states that may impact your life in an adverse manner.
You may also develop paranoia or other serious mental conditions due to burnout since your brain will simply be overwhelmed by all the things happening to you.
Physical health issues
Apart from mental health issues, there are also physical issues related to burnout. Since your body and soul are connected to a significant degree, mental issues often translate into physical issues in the long run. For instance, you could suffer from heart conditions due to high levels of stress.
Moreover, you might be at greater risk of accidents if you are burned out since you will make more mistakes when navigating through traffic or other things of daily life that could potentially be dangerous.
Burnout can also lead to significant levels of frustration. This is especially true when you have family members or friends who seem to be able to deal with all the pressure quite easily while you are burned out and exhausted at the same time. You might envy their ability to deal with stress compared to your mentally fragile state.
Another effect and symptom of burnout may be that people become quite pessimistic. This is especially apparent if family members or friends have been quite happy in the past, but are quite miserable now, even if nothing bad happened to them in the recent past. This is a big sign that people suffer from mental health issues that may be due to burnout.
People suffering from burnout may also seem to be quite detached and numb when you talk to them or when they are engaging in activities. Information overload often does not allow people to deal with their daily life in a healthy manner and these people may get numb to additional information since they are simply overwhelmed by all of what is going on in their life.
Difficulty to focus
It may also be hard to focus on things for people suffering from burnouts. These people may have several thoughts in their mind, jumping from one thought to the other in a quite short period of time without being able to solve a single problem.
Our brain may also show signals of burnout in the form of headaches. If you suffer from headaches, chances are that you got too much going on in your life and your brain simply needs relief from the flood of information.
Decrease in sex drive
A decrease in the need for sexual activity may be an additional sign that you suffer from burnout. People who have quite demanding jobs often have their thoughts spinning around their work all the time, which makes them less willing to engage in sexual activities.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure may also be a warning signal for burnout. Although high blood pressure can be due to several reasons, including food consumption and also genetics, it may also be due to stress which in turn can translate into burnout symptoms in later stages.
People who are suffering from burnout may also stop taking part in social events since they are no longer able to deal with all what is going on in their life and may not have the power to attend social events anymore. Instead, they might just lay in bed since they have no energy to get up and actually do stuff.
Loss of joy
Another common effect of burnout is the loss of joy in your life. This can be a big sign of burnout, especially when you have been quite happy in your life before and suddenly are not able to bring this happiness back in your life.
This is especially true when you actually are successful and should have the framework for a happy life, yet you are not able to enjoy it since your mind is not ready to do so.
Solutions for Burnout
- Take more time off
- Reduce your working hours
- Change your job
- Decrease your private life stress level
- Improve your time management
- Sleep more
- Do not care about social norms
- Put your life into perspective
- Change consumption behavior
- Know your limit
- Say “No!” more often
- Physical activity
- Support of a psychologist
Take more time off
In order to avoid burnout, you should take more time off when you feel like you are exhausted and overwhelmed by all the tasks you should carry out. Instead of working all day long, try to take more vacation time.
Reduce your working hours
Since too much work is a main cause of burnout, you should try to reduce your working hours, especially if you are currently working 50 hours a week or more.
A reduction of working hours can greatly reduce the chances of burnout since you will be able to sleep longer and also have more leisure time to spend on activities you like instead of spending it on a stressful job.
Change your job
If you do not like your job at all, try to find an alternative. Working in a job you do not like is just a huge waste of time and also increases the probability of burnout significantly.
Depending on your qualification, there should be many jobs in your area to which you could switch to if your current job just doesn’t bring value to you anymore.
Decrease your private life stress level
Burnout is not a problem that is solely related to work, it can also be caused by excessive levels of private stress. Therefore, it is crucial to reduce your private stress whenever possible.
You do not have to take part in every event you are invited, just listen to your stress level and decide if you want to attend these events or not.
Improve your time management
Time management is one of the most important tools when it comes to fighting burnout. If you are able to coordinate a variety of tasks in a structured manner, you can vastly decrease your stress level, which in turn translates into lower chances for burnout. This is especially important when you have a stressful job but also have to provide for your family.
Enough sleep is crucial in order to stay physically and also mentally healthy. You should prioritize your sleep more, meaning that there is not much that could be more important to you than a minimum hours of sleep every day. If you “have no time” to sleep longer, you should cancel some stuff from your to-do list and sleep more instead.
Do not care about social norms
Many people in our society feel that they have to fit in the social paradigm since they fear being excluded from our society if they don’t.
However, the process of fitting in causes many mental issues since people have to pretend what type of person they are instead of living their truth.
Thus, just do not care about social norms at all! You will see how much better and less stressed you will feel by doing so.
Put your life into perspective
People often don’t realize how lucky they actually are. Especially if you are born in the Western world, you have so much opportunity and are at the top of the worldwide “opportunity pyramid”.
Many children wished that they were able to attend school but have been too poor to do so. Now, these children are stuck in poverty due to their lack of education and do not see a way out of their misery.
On the other hand, many people in our Western society are just complaining about the dumbest things without realizing how good they actually have it.
Thus, you should try to put your life into perspective and be grateful for what you got. This will help you in stressful situations and therefore will also decrease the chances of burnout.
Meditation could also help to save you from burnout issues. Although meditation requires plenty of practice until it fully shows its positive effects, it can be a helpful tool for people to reduce their overall stress level.
Change consumption behavior
For many people, the stress they have in their daily life can be mainly attributed to their consumption behavior. Since people always want to have the newest stuff and the fanciest cars, they have to work in stressful jobs in order to be able to afford all this.
By reducing your consumption level and avoid fancy things, you could vastly increase your level of happiness by switching to a job that pays less but is much more relaxed and more fun.
Know your limit
To be able to avoid burnout symptoms, it is crucial that you know yourself and also know your limit. If your body or your brain tells you to stop, listen to them! Otherwise, you will burn out quite quickly and lose much more time than if you just slowed down a little bit.
Say “No!” more often
“No” is a very powerful word which you should use much more often if you suffer from a constant high stress level. There is nothing wrong with saying no.
Instead, it is even quite important to make yourself happy first before you can make other people happy. Thus, if you feel that there is too much stuff going on in your life, you should cancel some requests and relax instead to avoid health issues.
It has been shown by many studies that physical activity can also lower your stress level. Thus, if you are a person who can reduce your stress level with sports or other kinds of physical activities, go for it!
Support of a psychologist
All the measures for preventing burnout mentioned above could help you to significantly reduce your stress level. However, if all these measures are not enough or if you are not capable or willing to execute them, you can also contact a psychologist to get support in order to fight burnout if you currently feel to be at great risk.
Burnout is a big problem that has become quite severe over the past decades. An increasing number of people complain about burnout symptoms.
This may be due to the fact that the type of work changed significantly in the direction of office jobs which often implies mentally demanding work.
This mentally challenging work in conjunction with a low physical activity can lead to high stress levels for people, which in turn may eventually result in burnout. The chances for burnout can be reduced by applying a variety of measures.
It is crucial for you to know your body and your psyche quite well and to reduce your workload and your stress level before it is too late.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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