Signs of burnout syndrome and how to prevent it

The term used to be linked to teachers and health professionals, but today it has become a symptom of work stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it an “occupational phenomenon”, and it seems inextricably linked to the psychological burden of modern employment.

It is about work stress or burnout, for the term in English that has become popular.

The international health agency recognized it as a risk factor: “it can lead to dysfunctional behaviors, contribute to poor physical and mental health; cause psychological problems, psychiatric disorders and end up in situations of work absenteeism, ”he declared.

As the American Psychological Association (APA) notes, workplace burnout is at an all-time high in many professions, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the potent combination of personal, professional, and health stress.

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves an absence of a sense of accomplishment and loss of personal identity, warn experts at the Mayo Clinic in the US.

a dangerous fatigue

Also called “burnout syndrome”, it is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that is linked to the workplace, the stress caused by work and the employee’s lifestyle. It can have very serious consequences, both in the physical and psychological sphere.

It is characterized by three factors: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced decision-making capacity or initiative.

The 5 warning signs

  1. Exhaustion
    Feeling psychologically overwhelmed can manifest in physical exhaustion and fatigue. Basic tasks, like taking a shower or preparing a meal, for example, may seem more difficult, while a long day at work seems impossible to accomplish. Feeling more tired than usual is a sign of burnout.
  2. Feelings of fear and lack of motivation
    Burnout often coincides with feelings of anxiety or fear related to work, especially after a couple of days off. If we find that the days are getting harder and harder to get through, the quality of work is plummeting, and the prospect of going back to work after a break leaves us in a state of anxiety, it is likely that burnout has entered our lives.
  3. sleeping difficulties
    Sleep quality is a crucial part of our health. Not getting enough rest can contribute to burnout, while exhaustion itself can affect sleep quality, leading to a vicious cycle of restlessness and insomnia.
    Exhaustion could make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, along with other physical symptoms such as headaches, body tension, and stomach problems.
  4. Unstable appetite.
    Although people react in different ways when it comes to eating, losing your appetite or overeating can be signs that something is wrong. During periods of exhaustion hunger is also affected. People may crave “comfort” foods, find their appetite increases a lot or loses it, especially in the morning before going to work.
  5. Cynicism and irritability
    Mood can be the first thing to take a nosedive in the early stages of burnout. Feeling frustrated or irritated can be a sign that you are nearing burnout. As a result, personal and professional relationships begin to be affected.
    The different levels of burnout
    Burnout or burning syndrome can manifest itself according to four levels:
  • Mild: the person feels tired, has difficulty getting up in the morning, complains vaguely.
  • Moderate: characterized by irritability, isolation, negativism.
  • Serious: slowing down, self-medication with psychotropic drugs, absenteeism, aversion, alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Extreme: very marked isolation, collapse, psychiatric symptoms, suicides.
    What is the treatment for burnout
    When symptoms appear, it is advisable to consult a doctor with a health professional, a specialist in the area of ​​mental health and/or stress medicine.
  • “For the assessment of the syndrome there are various questionnaires, but one of the most used is the MBI. After having the diagnosis that confirms the presence of the syndrome, companies should implement various tools such as talks, workshops, training led by the leaders of the most affected sectors, among others.