The professional most at risk for burnout, is the one who thinks they are immune to it. As burnout scorches more ground, now claiming as many as 2 out of 3 professionals, every worker is effected, either directly or indirectly.
Look to your left and to your right: two of you is likely to suffer from burnout. Given the insidious nature of burnout, deftly turning up the heat without its victim’s awareness until it’s too late, isn’t it possible one of the 2 out of 3 is YOU?
Burnout is a medically diagnosable syndrome. In 2019, the World Health Organization updated its definition. Their diagnostic manual refers to burnout as “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Symptoms listed are:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings negative towards one’s career
- reduced professional productivity
Since none of these symptoms would trigger a visit to the doctor, how can a professional know when they, or a colleague, are on the slippery slope of burnout?
Here’s a simple litmus test. Regularly check in with yourself at the transition point between home-life and work-life. For many professionals this is that Sunday-evening-to-Monday-morning timeframe.
More than any other time of the week, this critical tide change between home-self and work-self is when your undeniable true-self screams its reality. If you answer “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, week-after-week, you may be in danger of burnout. As you shift into the work week, do you…
- …regularly suffer physical symptoms such as upset stomach, headache, gastro-intestinal problems, or racing heart?
- …withdraw into a funk?
- …become agitated, antsy, possibly even angry?
- …engage more in numbing practices, such as alcohol, drugs or t.v.?
- …have difficulty falling or staying asleep?
I missed these signals when my life was sliding toward burnout. Or, I saw them and doubled down with willfulness and hard work, thinking I could ignore them. Truth wins out. Needs will not be ignored. Eventually, I lost everything I was holding so tightly to—marriage, career, health—a d had to rebuild from scratch. This was a costly way to make the course correction my soul longed for. Had I heeded the signs, I could have redirected my efforts in a more strategic and gradual way. While the end result was inevitable—I found my way to meaningful work—I could have chosen an easier, less costly, path.
If you’re seeing the signs of burnout, it’s not too late for you. In fact, it’s wonderful! Something inside you is calling for expression, and now’s the time to respond. Listen to that inner wisdom. Trust its guidance. Better options are opening up for you. Begin to make small changes now.