Everyone experiences bad days at work. It is normal to feel tired, frustrated, or stressed at certain points in your career. But what happens when those bad days or weeks turn into bad months or years?
Burnout refers to the experience of feeling mentally drained because of work. It affects your work performance and can leave you struggling to feel passionate or motivated about what you do. Burnout can happen to anyone at any job, but it does not have to be permanent. A Licensed Clinical Psychologist can help with workplace burnout by assisting you in navigating symptoms and breaking the patterns of exhaustion. Read on to learn how to recognize burnout and look for the help you need to restore your sense of satisfaction and fulfillment at work.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout comes from chronic stress. Over time, stress, frustration, and other negative feelings—which often stem from the workplace itself—start to affect the way you view yourself and your job. People experiencing burnout might feel undervalued or wonder if the work they do is truly valuable or effective.
Exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy are three core pillars of burnout. Burnout causes overwhelming emotional and physical exhaustion, which makes it difficult to face each workday with a sense of positivity and determination. Cynicism can also create a sense of detachment or negativity toward your work; even a dream job can start to feel meaningless when you experience burnout. Finally, inefficacy affects your work performance. You might feel less productive or produce work that is not up to your usual high standards of quality. It might also be more difficult to handle your workload and day-to-day responsibilities.
Burnout vs. Work Stress
Many people equate burnout with stress, but these are two distinct conditions. Stress causes burnout, but burnout often looks and feels different than stress. Stress is a state of heightened tension and anxiety. When you face work stress, you feel more anxious and more active. Everything seems important, so you feel overwhelmed as you try to accomplish more than you can handle.
Burnout is, in many ways, the opposite of work stress. Your emotions become dull instead of heightened. You feel withdrawn and experience low moods where none of the work you do feels important or meaningful.
Symptoms of Workplace Burnout
Because burnout develops over a period of time, it is not always easy to identify. Many people think their lack of motivation and productivity means there is something wrong with them rather than with their work conditions. However, there are a few symptoms that can serve as indicators that what you are facing is burnout rather than general stress or a Mental Health Disorder like Depression or Anxiety. These symptoms can be emotional, mental, behavioral, or even physical.
Many emotional symptoms of burnout revolve around a lack of motivation or satisfaction at work. You might experience low levels of excitement or struggle to engage with your work or with your colleagues. A decrease in job satisfaction can also lead to feelings of irritability or anger during the workday. You might also feel like your worsening work performance is a personal failing, which can lead to lower self-confidence and feelings of failure, incompetence, or anxiety.
Burnout can cause a wide range of negative thoughts about your job, your colleagues, and yourself. You might find yourself focusing on your own mistakes and shortcomings. Alternatively, you might develop a negative attitude toward your colleagues, clients, customers, or others you work with on a daily basis. It is also common to feel cynical about other people’s intentions at work. For example, you might think your boss is intentionally overlooking you or a client is being purposefully difficult.
Mental symptoms can also present as a sense of detachment or mental distance. Many people with burnout struggle to remember why they once enjoyed the job they no longer care for.
The behavioral symptoms of burnout affect your work performance. Burnout can cause you to lose efficiency and productivity at work. You might procrastinate tasks or struggle to achieve the level of quality you want.
Absenteeism is also a common sign of burnout, which means you might take more time off or start showing up late more often. Alternatively, you might experience presenteeism, where you show up to work physically but are mentally clocked out. This leads to lower productivity, more mistakes with your work, and increased feelings of incompetence or apathy.
Burnout can also come with physical symptoms. The exhaustion you feel mentally can affect your body, too. You might feel fatigued and worn out with consistently low energy levels—even when you are not at work. Burnout can also cause difficulty sleeping, which exacerbates your low energy.
Pain—including headaches, backaches, and sore muscles—is another common symptom of burnout. You might also experience skin problems, digestive issues, or changes in your appetite that lead to unexpected weight fluctuations. Burnout can also weaken your immune system and put you more at risk of catching colds, flus, and other infections.
Burnout Creates a Negative Cycle
One of the most difficult parts of experiencing burnout is that it creates a negative cycle that keeps repeating itself, exacerbating your systems and making it difficult to find any real change. If the circumstances that cause burnout do not change, you will not be able to break out of this harmful cycle.
When Licensed Clinical Psychologists help clients treat burnout, they must first focus on the circumstances that are allowing burnout to continue. For example, if someone feels burnt out because they work in a stressful environment, then they will continue to experience burnout for as long as their workplace stresses them out. Other factors that enforce the cycle of burnout include the inability to step back and truly recharge, feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts about yourself and work, and partaking in maladaptive coping techniques like substance abuse.
Breaking the Cycle With a Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Breaking the cycle of burnout starts by increasing awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Licensed Clinical Psychologists teach greater self-awareness through treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps patients assess their burnout symptoms, analyze the cause of the levels of stress and exhaustion behind burnout, and make effective, lasting changes to overcome burnout and revitalize their professional lives.
With CBT, Licensed Clinical Psychologists help clients build productive thought patterns, emotional regulation and resilience, and other skills that counter negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. A Licensed Clinical Psychologist also helps address comorbid behaviors or conditions like poor stress management, substance abuse, and other issues that exacerbate burnout and its symptoms.
Burnout does not have to take over your career. As a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Irvine, Dr. Blair has years of experience helping professionals navigate burnout, stress, anger management issues, and other problems that can affect professional life. See how a Licensed Clinical Psychologist can treat workplace burnout and help you regain motivation, satisfaction, and success in your career when you reach out to our team today.
Blair Wellness Group does not accept insurance nor accept payments for professional services from any third-party payers