So what is burnout? Well, according to the World Health Organization; “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” Although WHO describes burnout as specifically related to occupational contexts, I personally felt as though burnout was something that encompassed all aspects of my life. For me, stress was stress- all of the stress in my life (at home, socially, personally and professionally) was pouring into one overflowing cup- and although this stress was predominantly stemming from work, the other stress in my life was further exacerbating the situation.
I wasn’t just affected at work, I was completely exhausted in all areas of my life. I was no longer certain of my skills, I found myself having difficulty sleeping, I wasn’t enjoying my time with my family and friends, and I felt like I’d lost my passion for people and for my work. It also accumulated in other physical symptoms; I was drinking a ridiculous amount of water, my thoughts were racing and headaches had become the new normal. I was beginning to become really worried that something physically was going wrong. And ultimately, it concluded in me leaving the role I was in at the time and returning to the dairy farm that I grew up on.
I share these symptoms and experiences to not only raise a general awareness of burnout, but also in the hope that anyone else who has, or is, going through something will realise that they’re not alone- or perhaps even notice some of the warning signs within themselves, before it gets to the point of no return.
Key tips/takeaways from today
1. Burnout can sneak up on you, you’ll likely be to overwhelmed to realise that’s what you’re experiencing (particularly if you’re not aware of the signs).
2. You may notice that you’re experiencing a range of symptoms (like stress, feeling exhausted and physically unwell) but you may not link these with your emotional wellbeing.
3. Burnout is common. It might not be talked about a lot, but many people have had their own experiences of burnout.
4. Learning the causes of burnout can help you come to terms with your experience.