Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Burnout is a problem that many people either face or come very close to at some point of their life or career. If your job or some other commitment keeps you completely drained physically or emotionally, and if this situation goes on for years, months, or maybe just weeks, you may finally reach the breaking point and fall a victim of burn out syndrome.
Burnout is a chronic condition that happens when your body or mind can no longer cope with overwhelmingly high demands. You are trapped in a state of emotional exhaustion, and it is hard to get out of that state. You stop caring about what you do, even though you may feel guilty about that fact. Even if you still continue working, it seems to be hard to make progress. You hardly accomplish anything significant, just go through the motions.
Burning out is not just stress, it is much more than that. There are people who may experience high stress at their job time after time. But job stress does not necessarily mean that they are at risk of job burnout.
Certain categories of people and professions are particularly susceptible to job burnout. Most often these are people who are highly committed and motivated, who have high standards and idealistic dedication to their jobs. This condition more commonly occurs for such professions as entrepreneurs, managers (in business, education, health care, and many other field), teachers and social workers, athletes.
There are many different situations that could lead to burning out. Common burnout causes include:
An overwhelming workload. Could be due to insufficient time management skills, especially lack of planning, prioritizing, or delegation skills.
Hard work with no clear goals. You work hard and hard, but no matter how long you keep at it, you cannot see any progress. But how could you see that you have got closer if you don't know your destination?
Powerlessness to change something important to you. Something that you are very much emotionally attached too, but that is at the same time beyond your control.
Forcing yourself to make the impossible happen. For example, solving problems without having the necessary resources.
A conflict between your personal values and the values of the company your working for. You don't believe in or disagree with what your are doing, but you feel the circumstances force you to keep doing it anyway.
Hitting the invisible ceiling. No matter how good or competent you become, there is hardly any chance of recognition or promotional opportunities.
For all of those burnout causes what is important is not as much the external factors that fall on you, but how you interpret them, what you say to yourself, and what actions you take in response.
Finally, it is important to understand the risks of burnout in your personal or job situations. Once you are its victim, it may not be easy to get things back on track. That condition does not go away in a day. You may not be able to recover by yourself, and you may need to have drastic changes in your attitudes and life style. You are much better off preventing it now than putting your life back together later.
Being aware of commonly observed burnout symptoms could help you notice the problem at an earlier stage, hopefully before it gets really bad.