Recently, I experienced burnout, and it wasn’t pretty. 

There was a lot going on, working part time with fast approaching deadlines, in the depths of a fulltime university semester, competitive Rugby training through the week and games on the weekend as well as attempting to maintain my social commitments with friends and family. I was colour coding my week and scheduling myself down to the minute, because there never seemed to be enough time for it all. Something had to give..   

The Balancing Act

For a long time, I was stressed about not fulfilling work commitments, not achieving the marks I wanted at Uni, not making the cut to play with the team and feeling like I was falling short as a friend and partner.   

It all just got too much. I wasn’t as passionate about the work I was doing and didn’t believe I could deliver to the clients in a way that was satisfactory. Going to training was something I had previously enjoyed and used as a release, but it became another chore. I avoided studying and left assessments until the deadline, and as a result, had to cancel plans with friends and family, because I didn’t “have the time”. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted in other words I was burnt out.   

Luckily, I knew what burnout is, I knew what tools to use and how to help and support myself. Most importantly, I had a workplace, friends and family who supported me. But the reality is, a lot of us are burnt out, don’t realise and don’t have the mechanisms to support us through.   

What is Burnout?

The official definition of burnout “is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by:  

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;  
  1. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 
  1. Reduced professional efficacy.”   

It’s feeling exhausted, not being able to participate in activities that are normally meaningful, losing interest in what is important to you or feeling hopeless. But what gets us to this point?   

What Causes Burnout?

Whilst work stressors largely contribute to burnout, they are often not the only factor. Anyone with prolonged levels of stress and pressure from any environment, whether it be the workplace, home environment, team pressure or a mixture, this stress contributes to the experience of burnout.   

Work related causes such as having little control over your work, lack of recognition or poor communication can cause tension in teams. Monotonous, unchallenging work or chaotic and high-pressure environments can cause a lack of motivation or drive to complete tasks.   

Lifestyle causes such as overworking, without socialising or relaxing and a lack of supportive networks can isolate individuals. An excessive number of responsibilities, coupled with a lack of sleep can also exacerbate stress, leading to burnout.   

These work and lifestyle factors with personality traits such as perfectionism, pessimistic thoughts, a need to be in control or being a high achiever can increase these feeling of dissatisfaction and lead to burnout.   

There are three types of signs we need to look out for in ourselves and our peers or friends, to be proactive in preventing burnout. They are physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, or behavioural signs.  

Prevention is better than a cure, and the definition discusses managing stress, before it becomes burnout. Exercising, healthy eating, good quality and quantity of sleep, using support networks, finding balance, re-evaluating what is important and having hobbies and creative outlets can help to both reduce the risk of and cope with burnout.    

An image diagram that reads 'coping strategies' in the centre. There are 6 arrows pointing outwards from the centre with text at the end of each arrow.

Often, when we are burnt out, we don’t deal with it. This puts us at a serious risk of developing other health concerns such as poor mental health, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.   

Corporate Wellbeing Programs can significantly improve employee satisfaction and create more cohesive teams, providing a foundation of support and therefore reducing the risk of employee burn out.