Under the Hood

The Burnout Checklist: 5 Signs You Are Going Through Emotional Exhaustion

Burnout
To err is human, but pressure not to, can become too much. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

In today’s dog-eat-dog world where no one remembers the guy who came in second, the drive to succeed can be all-consuming. Whether trying to reach that corner office at work, scoring that game-winning touchdown or attempting to have a Hallmark film-worthy personal life — we try to push our self to do more and take on higher demands.

While a desire to succeed is commendable, often enough, we forget to take the time to recuperate and recharge. This eventually creates chronic stress and severely taxes our emotional and mental resources, resulting in a burnout.

Most people stubbornly focused on their goals do not recognize the signs that they are heading towards a burnout — extended hours at the office, sleep deprivation and bad food habits. This is not only typical in the professional arena, but the personal one as well. A homemaker may try to handle too many responsibilities and chores in order to achieve her self-made goal of being a good parent and wife; or a child might try to push himself to extremes to earn the approval of his parents.

“The symptoms of stress can include head and muscle aches, upset stomach, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, lack of focus, over- or under-eating, angry outbursts and social withdrawal,” said Dr. Tiffany Casper, a Mayo Clinic Health System family physician. “No one is superhuman. You need to recognize and then respect your limits.”

The effects of a high-pressured style of living can ultimately lead to intense physical and mental exhaustion along with detachment and demotivation. In most cases, people are unable to identify this silent progression towards a burnout until they are smack dab in the middle of it.

The Burnout Checklist

Most of the symptoms of a burnout can also be attributed to stress but it is the degree of the symptoms that helps distinguish one from the other. The checklist below helps identify if your mind and body are desperate for a time-out.

Anger, Anxiety and Depression

During a burnout, what starts out as general tension and worry, later manifests into intense anxiety over work and personal issues. Hurdles trigger intense feelings of hopelessness and an inability to handle the most basic projects. The person believes he is incapable of making a worthwhile contribution to work and will start to feel useless.

This feeling could trigger bouts of anger, tensions with colleagues, irritability at the office and at home. If unchecked it has the chance of escalating to violence.

Fatigue

A fast-paced, demanding lifestyle combined with inadequate sleep and an unhealthy diet strains the body. Without sufficient daily rest, tiredness develops into chronic fatigue.  It could start with being less energetic and later develop into a feeling of constant weakness.

By this point, it may be harder to sleep because of the stress buildup.

Memory Loss

People under intense psychological pressure suffer from temporary memory problems, difficulty concentrating and loss of focus. As the stress builds up, the person may find it difficult to pay any attention to work.

Physical Ailments

Chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, headaches, fainting and dizziness are symptomatic of a burnout and may accompany a weakened immune system. Without proper nutrition and exercise, the body is open to various infections like the flu and stomach bugs.

A person may also choose to replace a healthy diet with alcohol and drugs.

Cynicism and Detachment

In the early stage, people the individual may start to feel a lack of interest in work. This could escalate to disinterest in activities that they previously enjoyed. They might start spending less time at the office, refuse to go for social events and reduce contact with family and friends.

If unchecked this feeling of detachment will result in isolation. The person could feel that no one else would understand his stress and problems. He may get irritable when anyone attempts to engage in a conversation with him and will try to avoid all interaction with others.

Clinical psychologist Rachel Andrew believes that burnouts have become synonymous with the times considering the all-round stressful environment in which we live. “Alongside cuts to social care, there are cuts to the voluntary sector, projects around domestic violence, for parents, for older people… we have reached a critical point of extremely limited support, and if you’re in that situation, over a period of time, it makes complete sense that your body and mind would shut down. I see strong, capable, independent people who have reached a stage where there is no other option,” she told The Guardian.

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