Do you suffer from burnout? I can't tell you how many people I've seen in my clinic over the years who were, a few thousand or more. Here's how to recognise burnout and what to do about it.
Hotels and restaurants, and education lead the field in burn-out. One in ten workers suffers from burn-out. In the hotel and restaurant sector, the proportion of people suffering from burn-out has increased substantially. Burn-out symptoms are most common among people working in education and those working in the hospitality industry, it seems. In both sectors, around one in seven workers suffer from burn-out. Pressure of work, no control over their own work and a bad work atmosphere all increase the chance of a worker suffering from burn-out.
We do not relate the actual physical burden of work to burn out. High pressure of work increases the risk of workers suffering from burn-out threefold, compared with workers who have little or no pressure of work. Workers who have no say in their own work have a three and a half times greater chance of suffering from burn-out than people who have a say in their work. Working in an indifferent or unfriendly atmosphere doubles the chance of burn-out
These symptoms are sometimes called emotional exhaustion. Below in this article you’ll read about the “disillusionment phase” of stress, serious burnouts. The NL Times: In 2020, four million people in the Netherlands are at risk of burning out within six months if no action is taken, according to a survey by the national center for stress and burnout NCPSB among 427 professionals. This number increased significantly because of the coronavirus crisis, NCPSB chairman Theo Immers said.
Regardless of the fact that they conduct the survey in the Netherlands, it might as well be London, New York, Paris, Auckland or Sydney, the stress of life in this crazy 21st century globally is virtually the same, if not worse.
All too many patients I’ve seen the past few years are showing signs of burn-out, and many are so busy with life that they aren’t even aware themselves! Burn out is a stage of stress that many of us potentially go through at different stages of our lives, and it can happen to a university student, a mother with young or teenage children, a schoolteacher, a business owner, in fact any busy person can slide into a burn out phase during a busy period of their lives.
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Here is the scene of a lady I recently saw as a patient who emigrated from America to New Zealand to start a new life with her husband and their three children. Jill and her husband work almost full time and trying to raise a family. They bought a house cleaning franchise to build sufficient income to support a growing family, and Jill does some cleaning as well as all the bookkeeping, besides the household chores.
It is 3 in the morning and Jill is tossing and turning in bed, fighting with her pillow. She has had sleeping problems for the past nine months, ever since moving to NZ from California. She has been pacing the kitchen and dining room, and having imaginary conversations with her husband, even drafting an imaginary letter of resignation from her job, fighting a sense of outrage and inadequacy and worrying about your lack of interest in your allotted tasks and lack of care for your children.
Jill has recently been arguing a lot with her husband because of his desires, yet her complete lack of interest in sex, as well as concerns about her husband’s increase in alcohol consumption. Her friends recommended Jill try an anti-depressant by her doctor and was also recommended a sleeping pill. By the time Jill had seen me as a patient, she was on the verge of marital separation and extremely tired and well and truly burnt-out. Do you recognise any of the above? You could suffer from a case of serious burnout like Jill, and you will need to take action before it ends in heart failure, cancer, a stroke or even murder…
Unless you have been living under a rock the past ten years, you will have noticed that many people seem to be “flipping” out these past few years. It is incredible how many violent altercations are happening on our highways, in our schools, in our families. It is called stress. Can you imaging the stress and burnout regarding our fine law enforcement officers worldwide? Stress does funny things to people. Some react unpredictably, others just “clam up” whereas others become hostile, aggressive and extremely violent.
• I often feel sad, not much seems to interest me anymore.
• My friends are all having fun, but my relationships seem worthless.
• I feel tired even when I have had my normal eight hours of sleep, and can wake up exhausted.
• I am bored with my work and have difficulty concentrating. My memory is “shot”.
• I carry too much responsibility. I am finding it hard to cope with my job.
• I have got to a point where other people’s needs don’t concern me. My fuse is getting shorter.
• I feel emotionally empty at the end of a normal working day.
• My workload is far too heavy to do properly.
• I do not feel as sensitive as I used to feel. I am more snappy and critical.
• Sex is the last thing on my mind. My partner says yes and I say no.
• I often worry about my ability to do my job after hours.
• I get headaches or tight muscles in my neck, shoulders or upper back.
• My boss has completely unrealistic expectations of me.
• I often drink or eat too much. I love chocolate, sweet foods or salty snacks like chips.
• I am often ill and always seem to be “coming down” with the latest germs doing the rounds
• I wake up in the morning dreading the thought of going to work. At times, I even “hate” my life.
• I am no longer interested in social activities and rarely go out.
• I have problems if I miss a meal or don’t eat on time.
• I stay up to late and work or play games on the computer.
• I am drinking more alcohol than I used to, or drinking several nights a week.
• I am often depressed on Sunday evenings.
• Life seems pointless to me.
• There is not much in life I look forward to.
• I take less care of my appearance than I used to. I seem to age so fast lately!
• My family constantly complains about not seeing enough of me.
• I spend a lot of time watching TV when I am not at work.
If you have answered ‘yes’ to even just five, you could be on the way to burnout. Take action before it is too late.
During this phase, your new job, relationship or life seems to be the answer to everything! You are extremely happy and fulfilled and your enthusiasm knows almost no bounds. No task is too demanding and you are never loathe to walk the extra mile. You feel fulfilled and stimulated. You say “yes” to everybody and want to please. Your energy levels are great and you can take on the world. Life is good, you think after you come back from that wonderful holiday?
Your rose-tinted glasses are coming off and you realise that your partner, life or boss is not the perfect after all. You also realise that woman talks about you behind your back at work, or your husband stays out late at night, or you are put out because the boss has not agreed to pay you overtime. Your kids or partner take you for granted and you are always “picking up after everybody”. The occasional sore neck or headaches result from you getting annoyed at people. You may drink wine a few times a week and perhaps have between one to three coffees a day. You may take pills for period pain or a headache once or twice a month. When you come home later and later in the evenings, you are experiencing disillusionment, as you realise that your job or relationship does not satisfy all your social and/or financial needs. You haven’t been on holiday for ages, it seems, and things are looking stale. You work even harder, but this does not seem to be the answer and you become tired, disillusioned, dispirited, and frustrated. But you tell yourself that “tomorrow it will be all better”.
You now no longer feel enthusiastic and energetic, but constantly exhausted and irritated. Losing or gaining weight causes your sleeping patterns to change. You hate the thought of sex and haven’t kissed, cuddled, or had intimacy for ages. He or she may even feel somewhat like a stranger. You seem to fight a lot lately, and communication seems pointless because he or she is criticising every little thing you say or do with even the smallest things start off new arguments. You may sleep in different beds and haven’t said “I love you” for ages. Watch out, this is how a lot of separations happen, and stress is often to blame. Some folk in the “disillusionment phase” may even start exhibiting compulsive behaviour patterns with regarding casual sex, drinking or drugs, partying or shopping. You felt furious and blaming others for things that go wrong in your life. Your work and home life deteriorate and you may become openly critical of your superiors and colleagues at work or your family and friends. Anxiety and depression become a part of your everyday existence and you often feel ill, tired and just plain “worn out”. You may visit the doctor who says that you are suffering from depression and anxiety.
This final stage is serious and unless someone intervenes or you take control of your life, it could end in serious chronic illness, or even death. You may have heard of the term “a nervous breakdown”. We are dealing with the disillusionment or red alert phase here. At this stage, life seems pretty pointless and you feel constant despair. You are completely exhausted and feel as if your mental and physical reserves are depleted. An overwhelming sense of failure and a loss of self-esteem are what you experience. You feel unable to take charge or make any changes. Your family is falling or has fallen apart, and in extreme cases one or more family members may exhibit behaviours which could even land them in the courts or in prison. They have charged you with drink-driving. This is road rage for some. This can be the beginning of the initiation for cancer in some. I can remember talking to a doctor involved in a residential cancer program involving over 30,000 cancer patients spanning many years in Australia. His views on cancer were that almost without exception, most cancer patients he has seen during his many years of practice had “one or more severe emotional events occur in their lives about twelve to eighteen months before their cancer diagnosis”. Do you have to wait until you get to the “red alert” phase before you wake up to the fact that stress can kill?
Beverly Bramble said,
April 17, 2009 @ 9:38 am
Thanks for your column. I suffered for four years before finding a doctor nearly two hours away who recognised and defined adrenal fatigue for me. I am still VERY ill, but at least I can give what I feel a name and can begin the healing process.
I was a success at every stage of my life, and this has been devastating. Knowing I’m not alone in this helps. Thanks again.
Iara Hillebrand said,
April 18, 2009 @ 3:55 am
All the advices are very suitable to me. If I knew more about myself in the past I´d never had become a teacher. Trying to help students all the time and doing more than I was asked to to full fill their needs related to culture, information and so on for long years contributed enormously to make me feel the way I do. It´s my way of feeling responsible for a society that needs to improve a lot in terms of education and development as a whole.I´ve tried to change my lifestyle in the last few years but there is pressure everywhere anyway. I still take anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants but I managed to look at your website and I am reading it. I do hope to learn more and more about all that and get better as soon as possible. Thank you for all. Yiara
Eric Bakker ND said,
April 18, 2009 @ 9:55 am
Here are just two of the many comments I received on this article. Are you in a “caring” profession like health-care or education? Then you will know exactly what I mean about burn-out. Don’t let it happen to you, and try to recognise what burn-out is all about. We are human beings, not machines, you are not programmed to “work until you drop”. You may be heading for adrenal fatigue, which could result in anyone of a host of diseases which your doctor has conveniently given a name in order to prescribe a drug which will hopefully “cure” the disease. By identifying the stress syndrome early enough and taking measures (like saying NO to people or changing jobs or careers) you may be well and truly saving your life. And do you have to keep this level of stress up in spite of recognising how it is affecting your body? Then talk to your practitioner who understands stress, who works with fatigue and burnout and make sure you take the necessary steps to change your diet, modify your lifestyle and take the right nutritional supplementation to help you through.
Eric Bakker ND
Marie Brooks said,
May 5, 2009 @ 12:45 pm ·
Finally we can put a name to what has been hindering my life for years. It is so refreshing reading about other people who are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue. I have spent years thinking all my problems were either in my head or that it was because of overloading without taking any breaks, and that all I needed was a good rest. Trouble is, even with rest I never picked up. Yippee – I’m not going nuts!!!