What is “burnout”? Recognize, neutralize, warn!

professional burnout, business automation, productivity, business psychology

“Burnout” is a state of exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Like “The imposter syndrome” or “Loss of profit syndrome”, this is not a disease, rather a complex of psychological and physiological problems. The term “professional burnout” was introduced by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the mid-1970s.

At the time he had a private practice in the Upper East Side – one of the most prestigious areas of New York. Many of his clients were successful in business, but at the same time they suffered from indifference and even hatred for their work. Their stories were included in Freudenberg’s book “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement” – a bestseller first published in 1980.

The main signs of professional burnout are feeling of exhaustion, a decline in productivity and, finally, professional cynicism – a cold, detached attitude towards one’s job, clients and colleagues. However, some psychiatrists add another, exactly opposite, reaction – a manic obsession with work.


Who is more at risk of “burning out” at work?

The quality of tasks at work and personal relations inside the team are the main source of occupational burnout. More than one third of employees lose at least one hour per day in productivity, while almost one third misses between three to six days per year due to stress and burnout symptoms.

A Statista survey from 2017  found that 14% of Americans aged 18 to 29 years was diagnosed with burnout.  The same survey found that 23% of respondents said their company provides a burnout prevention programs and 13% offered reintegration programs. However, burnout syndrome still lacks a proper attention. One of the main factors to pay attention to is workplace discrimination. Those who have experienced discrimination at work report higher levels of stress and are more inclined to burnout syndrome.

Lastly, there are occupational groups who are at especially high risks of developing burnout. There are several sensitive risk groups:

  • professionals who work with people daily: teachers, doctors, journalists, PR people, customer service managers, recruiters, salesmen, etc.
  • introverts, who hold all their experiences to themselves. Once in a stressful or uncomfortable situation such a person will not express discontent for a long time, accumulating negative emotions and stress.
  • perfectionists, who always strive to do their job better than anyone else. Several years of work without a day off often turn into a syndrome of professional burnout.


Why entrepreneurs are more prone to professional burnout?

Some researchers argue that the risk of burnout for entrepreneurs is higher than among hired personnel. Entrepreneurs often work in conditions of uncertainty and high responsibility. Researchers at the Harvard Business School identified several factors that help diagnose burnout among entrepreneurs: enthusiasm for their business, compatibility of the entrepreneur and his business, confidence in success.

Despite the fact that entrepreneurs are much more autonomous in their work than, say, hired employees, the degree of burnout among them is different. In the control group of entrepreneurs, the majority stated that they periodically burn out: 25% in medium degree, 3% – in a high degree. The researchers also found that the majority of entrepreneurs have a high compatibility rate (4.26 out of 5 points), harmonious enthusiasm (3.9 points), average obsession (2.58 points) and fatalistic attitudes (2.79 points). “The Obsessed ones” burn out more often. They argued that work “sucks” them emotionally. Some entrepreneurs complained that the work rises their stress and anxiety levels.


Psychologists distinguish 12 stages of “burnout syndrome”

  1. Passion for the idea – you are unsuccessfully trying to prove something to yourself, and this depletes your strength.

What to do: Decide what motivates you in life. Concentrate not on the outcome, but on the process.

  1. Working maniacs – you are ready to work on wear and choose the “do or die” approach.

What to do: Evaluate your status on a scale of 1 to 10. If you are “worked out” up to 7-8 points, do anything except work. If you do not take care of yourself, your business will suffer.

  1. Ignoring Your Needs – A rather dangerous stage when a person is ready to endure physical pain and does not pay attention to the signals of an exhausted organism.

What to do: Assess your state from 1 to 10, asking yourself: “Do I get pleasure from life?” Visit dance or drawing classes. After a couple of months, try again to assess your ability to enjoy life.

  1. The state of apathy – Everything is falling from your hands, and you are looking for the culprit of the situation.

What to do: Maybe you should leave town for a weekend, take a short vacation and be alone with yourself.

  1. Death of values ​​- you dedicate every minute to work, and it absorbs your whole life.

What to do: What gave you joy during childhood? A visit to the cinema? A game of pull? Promise yourself to spend at least some time during the workweek the way you did, when you did during your school years.

  1. Frustration, aggression and cynicism – There is an uncontrollable irritability and eternal discontent with others.

What to do: Use energy more rationally. Identify three situations for which you are wasting energy, and think of three ways to use your time more effectively.

  1. Emotional exhaustion and unwillingness to fulfill one’s obligations – In such a state, you deliberately isolate yourself from everyone and start delaying or skipping work.

What to do: Tell about your condition to a loved one, friend, husband or wife, your psychotherapist, the main thing – do not fence yourself off from society.

  1. “Who am I turning into?” – The surrounding people try to reach you, but you are not able to take care of them and do not admit you are responsible for the situation of which you are.

What to do: Get rid of what is causing you discomfort. Give up additional work, even if you lose some of the earnings. The reward will be free time and lack of hassle.

  1. “Leave me alone!” – This stage is called depersonalization, when a person loses faith in himself and believes that he can not make any change in his life.

What to do: Learn to feel sorry for yourself and show the same feelings towards people around you, close ones, strangers and even enemies.

  1. Internal devastation – At this stage, a person abandons his hopes and his dreams, everything that he once loved, becomes unnecessary and uninteresting.

What to do: Start with a diet. Pamper yourself with some unexpected dish, try something new at least once a week. It will give you a taste for life.

  1. “Who cares?”– the stage of depression, accompanied by physical and mental exhaustion.

What to do: Yoga and acupuncture can help, but it is better to find an expert, psychologist or psychotherapist who knows what “burnout syndrome” is.

  1. Physical and mental collapse – This stage threatens with suicidal inclinations

What to do: Here you will definitely need medical attention. But you can also make a list of everything that represents the greatest value in life: children, relationships etc. It is extremely important to learn not to give up these values.



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