Burnout syndrome: what is it and how to avoid it


In 1974, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger reached a conclusion after visiting a clinic where help was given to drug addicts and homeless people. He had discovered common apathy inside the place. It wasn’t part of the clinic patients, but of the voluntary workers working in it. Freudenberger defined them as demotivated and emotionally exhausted. For the first time ever, the term burnout was coined.

Burnout syndrome is the consequence of a prolonged excess of tasks (normally, it can be the consequence of other factors) that drives employees to a constant overload and, finally, to exhaustion. The emotional impact make those who suffer it in a long period of time to engage with physical and psychological problems.

It’s not just stress, but exhaustion

Stress is, unfortunately, a common sensation. Nevertheless, it becomes chronic when someone suffers from burnout syndrome. It’s systematic and continuous, and one of the first symptoms is the loss of interest and disillusion. Not just in the areas related with work itself, but beyond, as it can affect the personal life of those who endure it.

The World Health Organization higlighted burnout, back in 2019, as a phenomena of great relevance. And they weren’t exaggerating. That same year, the first outbreak of Covid-19 appeared; stats show that sectors like Healthcare saw burnout cases multiply even by 10 when comparing them with levels previous to the pandemic.

Burnout syndrome phases

As almost with every mental health problem, there is a process where symptoms intensify. It doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Thus, it’s important to know how the disease tends to advance until reaching an extreme point. That way, if someone is still in an early stage, they can treat the problem before it gets too complicated.

  1. Previous phase. The worker feels energized, he’s eager to learn, productive and happy at work. This phase can lead, or not, to other symptoms. It is common for those who end up developing burnout to have passed through this ‘happy stage’ at the beginning.
  2. Punctual stress. Optimism is less frequent; some days are better than others, which turn to be difficult. That makes the experience of certain loss of control more common.
  3. Common stress. Apathy starts to be developed, as well as fatigue and anxiety. Both duties and emotions are hard to control. Physical and psychological tiredness becomes constant.
  4. Burnout. Symptoms grow and first physical pain appears; there are also behavior swifts in and out of work. The first doubts about oneself appear, as well as self-esteem loss symptoms.
  5. Chronic burnout. Unluckily, our burnout was not only a phase, as the sensations it caused persist in time. Mental and physical fatigue becomes chronic and many depression cases arise.

Some solutions to end burnout syndrome

If we notice we are in the middle of the process of reaching burnout, or we have simply reached it and want to get out of the loop, we can implement some measures. The most basic thing we can do is to do what we like some time every day, or just to spend time with ourselves and our loved ones.

But if we are suffering from burnout syndrome, there is a big chance of our work occupying so much time of our day that it’s not possible. Then, we could, if it’s possible, ask for some rest. Days of vacation or even a leave of absence can help us to renew our energies and recover part or all of our mental health. And there is an even more difficult option, but probably the most effective one. Changing our function or the sector we work in in our company; or even leaving our job and start to look for other posts. Every little thing in our hand to feel healthier and happier is a worthy effort to make.

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