According to New York psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, Ph.D.,
who coined the term, burned is a state of fatigue or frustration brought
about by a devotion to a cause, a way of life, or a relationship that
failed to produce the expected reward.
Burnout is a problem born of good intentions, because it happens when
people try to reach unrealistic goals and end up depleting their energy
and losing touch with themselves and others.
The onset is slow. The early symptoms include a feeling of emotional
and physical exhaustion; a sense of alienation, cynicism, impatience,
negativism and feelings of detachment to the point that the individual
begins to resent work involved and the people who are a part of that
work. In extreme cases, the individual who once cared very deeply
about a project or a group will insulate himself to the point that
he/she no longer cares at all.
The irony of burnout is that it happens to the same person who previously
was enthusiastic and brimming over with energy and new ideas when
first involved in a job or a new situation. This type of person generally
has a very high expectation of what can be accomplished. As time goes
by and all of the goals aren't achieved, the enthusiasm dies and a
sort of listlessness sets in. Instead of lowering objectives or accepting
reality, frustration is bottled up and the individual tries even harder.
The result is burnout.
Three Things Are Associated With Burnout:
Role conflict: A person who has conflicting responsibilities
will begin to feel pulled in many directions and will try to do everything
equally well without setting priorities. The result will be the feelings
of fatigue or exhaustion associated with burnout.
Role ambiguity: The individual does not know what is
expected of him/her. The individual knows he/she is expected to be
a good career person but is not quite sure how to accomplish this
because he/she has no role model or guidelines to follow. The result
is that the individual never feels that he/she has accomplished anything
Role overload: The individual can't say no and keeps
on taking on more responsibility than he/she can handle until he/she
finally burns out.
What To Do If You're Burned Out:
Most experts agree that when you recognize burnout, you have to ask
yourself some questions. Try to remember when it was that you began
feeling so tired and unable to relax. Were you always under such pressure
to succeed? When did this one area of your life become disproportionately
important? At what point did you lose your sense of humor and the
personal side of your relationships with friends and co-workers? Are
you identifying so closely with your responsibilities that you've
come to believe that if this project falls apart you have failed?
The answers to these questions will help you reestablish
your values and priorities.
The next step is to make some changes in your life. When your work
begins to lose its appeal, it's time for a change or to have your
duties changed, or maybe it's time to take a break.
Other Solutions To The Problem Of Burnout:
Establish some long and short term goals that are realistic.
Write them down.
If you have been neglecting your health, change your eating
habits and begin to exercise more.
Set aside some time each day for relaxation exercises and allow
yourself time to "just let it happen".
Renew your friendships with other people. Talk to them about
your feelings. Don't keep your frustrations and anger bottled up.
Analyze how you spend your time. Try to incorporate some time
management techniques into your life.
Learn to say no when you're asked to do more than you can handle.
Learn to delegate responsibility to others. You are not indispensable.
Find the sense of humor you've probably lost. Learn to laugh
at yourself and at the situation.
Most of all, get in touch with yourself, your values and what
you want out of life.
Learn to recognize when you are driving yourself too hard and
when you are depleting your inner resources.