Updated: Nov 22
Author: Ludovica Rinaldi
Date of Publication: 15/02/2023
What is burnout? Burnout syndrome is a set of symptoms related to work-related stress. As you can imagine this can have multiple effects on us. For example, there might be exhaustion of mental and physical resources. Also, it can bring the manifestation of negative psychological symptoms, which may be associated with physical problems. Apart from that, it is a syndrome recognized as a "phenomenon or occupational" by OMS in May 2019, but not yet as a medical condition. In particular, burnout has three dimensions. Let's look at them together:
This is when the person feels exhausted, unable to rest and unable to plan and tackle new projects.
Cynicism happens when the person perceives work as stressful and frustrating. Therefore, they take a cold and detached attitude toward work activity and colleagues.
When the person begins to have thoughts of inadequacy and oppression we call it efficiency. Also, they may have a low sense of self-efficacy and everything seems insignificant to them.
Who is at risk?
Who are the people most at risk? The "helping professions" such as: doctors, nurses, managers, teachers, psychologists are at high risk to experience burnout syndrome. In fact, some believe that advanced age is a risk factor while others believe the opposite. Apart from these, not being in a stable relationship would also seem to be a risk factor, and especially the most exposed gender would be women.
Causes of the burnout syndrome
Let’s look at the possible causes… in psychology now:
• Environmental factors (for example: poor work organization).
• The relational problems with colleagues.
• Individual factors, related to personality and the ability to activate resources to cope with problems.
Actually, burnout is a syndrome with a multi-factorial origin, usually a mix of factors triggers it.
Moreover, mobbing and burnout can be linked because the stress caused can result in a discouraged condition that leads to a loss of motivation, energy, and goals.
It is important to recognize burnout and promote work well-being. So, here are four stages, which manifest gradually:
1. Enthusiasm: the job is invested with unrealistic expectations. The person seems to have an addiction to work, going so far as to sacrifice even their free time. They expect to be able to make big changes and achieve success and recognition in a short time.
2. Stagnation: this is the stage immediately following the disappointment of expectations. The worker realizes that their efforts haven’t yielded the desired results and they begin to adopt a passive, renunciatory attitude.
3. Frustration: they feel useless, unable to do his work. Feelings of anger begin to appear.
4. Disengagement: apathy and cynicism during work days. The person feels completely drained, often experiencing guilt and feelings of worthlessness. Everything that used to excite them about their work, seems to have lost meaning.
What to do
Someone must first recognize the difficult situation. Apart from that, it’s important for the person to get used to creating boundaries between their personal and work life. In particular, they need to change their lifestyle and the way they view work. One can start by taking time off from work to devote to exercise, a hobby or social relationships. Sometimes it may be helpful to use relaxation techniques too. It is also essential to improve relationships with colleagues. However, if symptoms don’t improve, you should seek support from a psychologist.
Addressing burnout can be done at the company level. For example, the psychologist in the company can perform an analysis of organizational factors that put workers at risk and propose interventions to:
• Strengthen management skills, including for the purpose of raising awareness toward the phenomenon.
• Improve employees' soft skills (e.g., the ability to work in teams and resolve conflicts).
• Change the general organization of work (division and rotation of tasks, participation in decisions...).
Here is how to prevent burnout:
• Respect one's own needs (sleep, food...).
• Set reasonable goals.
• Set priorities and delegate tasks when they are too strenuous.
• Avoid conflicts with one's colleagues and have a proactive attitude.
• Lead a healthy lifestyle.