Burnout: What is it? Who is at risk?
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Burnout can strike anyone with practically no warning. For decades, burnout wasn't even regarded as a real disease or condition; it was nothing more than an office buzzword. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has given it its medical classification and now finds its entry in the International Classification of Diseases, the official handbook used by medical providers to diagnose diseases. Burnout may also result from the mental and emotional distress of the pandemic, adjusting to working online, and living in lockdown. If you suffer from burnout but dream of developing your leadership and career skills, apply to the NextGen Soft Skills Outdoor Bootcamp and start planning your way to the top.

Who is at risk?

According to many reports, burnout strikes perfectionists more than any other personality type. It seems to strike particularly idealistic people who also have strong sympathetic natures, like those working in professions that focus on helping others, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers. Feeling increasingly annoyed without an accompanying support system seems to add significant risk. The indications are that it isn't just stress per se that may trigger an experience of burnout, but rather stress combined with feelings of lack of appreciation and support that may leave one vulnerable.



Signs of burnout may include persistent feelings of fear about going to work, along with chronic stress, fatigue, and sleeping problems. Someone experiencing burnout may find it impossible to leave the house or even the bedroom. They may find themselves irritated by minor things that ordinarily wouldn't need a reaction.


Additionally, the effects can easily trespass into other areas of life. To cope and reach out for some relief, for example, someone might become increasingly at risk of becoming dependent on medication, creating a spiral of self-destruction.



Getting priorities right: A path to recovery 

What is more important to you? Is it the work you do or is it your relationships with loved ones? Avoid letting others make you feel that your priorities have to be the same as theirs. Not everyone is obligated to feel 150 percent devoted to their career. There are other paths to follow that are equally, if not more, rewarding.


In the case of getting your priorities in order, be aware that living in a consumer-driven culture means you have been exposed from a young age to the idea that income and possessions equal success. These messages are powerful and they are strengthened daily, and many people allow themselves to believe these messages with few questions asked.


However, many studies have found happiness and success have a lot less to do with income and possessions than is commonly taught and believed by this highly materialistic culture. Many possessions may contribute to well-being; however, well-being levels don't rise exponentially with an increase in wealth and possessions but tend to level off regardless of what we come to have once we get over the threshold of simply having enough. 


Learn to respectfully say no 

Learning to say no doesn't mean you should never go that extra mile, but when you have a consistent tendency to never say no and find yourself going the extra hundred miles, you could be storing up a large amount of stress just waiting to burn you out in the future. If saying no involves speaking with your boss, you can do so respectfully and assure him or her that this doesn't diminish your commitment, but that you feel you are at risk. You may need to rehearse and think deeply about how you will word what you want to say to make the most impression. 


Of course, you must be realistic about what to expect from your employer. You can't expect the same reward from your employer if you work less, but you must take control and determine how much less you can live on. No one can decide that your health, well-being, and sanity are more important than your income. It is up to you. 


Separate yourself from your job

Move away from the deeply ingrained idea that you are the same as your job. If you've convinced yourself that you are identified with your job, you will struggle to put your work into perspective. 


The idea that we are what we do is extremely deep-seated in many cultures. It manifests itself in the language we use when we say, 'I'm a (insert job title)', or when we innocently ask, 'What do you do?' indicating that your job is what you do and nothing else, whereas, in reality, we do many things. We are and can be infinitely more than what we happen to do for a living. 


Don't limit your perception of what you are by what you do. Don't build your identity around how you make a living. Being aware that you are more than your job makes it easier to control your work rather than it controlling you.


Talk to someone  


If you feel that you might be at risk from burnout, talk to someone who can help you. Take time to think about your priorities and think about where you could cut back if you have to reduce the hours you work. Be prepared to make changes, even your job if it's necessary. 


With the added advantage that burnout has now become a recognized condition, it seems hopeful that support will only improve for those feeling the energy-sapping effects of what has been, up until recently, a largely invisible disease.