Most of us have periods in our careers and jobs where we feel stressed, or exhausted, and perhaps wished for something different. But when these feelings escalate over time, burnout may result. We define burnout as a state of complete emotional and physical exhaustion, caused by chronic anxiety, unrelenting stress, or a prolonged lack of returned gratification. The term "professional burnout" really means "emotional burnout" over our jobs and careers. When someone puts so much of their time, sweat, and tears into their work, only to receive back stress, emptiness, and little satisfaction in return, over time this can lead to overwhelming exhaustion. The individual suffering from professional burnout loathes the notion of "going to work", no longer has motivation, and desperately wishes there could be a way out....something better...anything.
While prolonged stress may cause burnout, it is not the same thing as burnout. When we are stressed, we feel overwhelmed as if too much has been "piled" on us. We feel life and the world "pressing down" on us and unable to keep up or cope. Stress is usually about too much, while burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Someone burned out has no motivation, is apathetic, doesn't care anymore, has feelings of hopelessness and emptiness. Stress often translates into physical problems, such as heart issues, while burnout translates into emotional problems such as depression and apathy. Stress on the job means we may be over-engaged, or have too much to do, or are over-involved. We are stressed because we want to get everything done, but our resources may be stretched too thin. Career burnout, on the other hand, means we don't care anymore, we simply lack desire, drive, and motivation to work hard in our jobs anymore, and yet may feel completely trapped in them with no where else to go. The work becomes meaningless and our "wells" are dried up, there is nothing left in the emotional reserves any longer to put back into our professional careers.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
Common signals of burnout include apathy, lack of desire for things we once cared about, lack of motivation, emptiness, hopelessness, feeling of being trapped, frustration, and emotional exhaustion. We dread the thought of going into work each day, yet what can we do? We have to go to work. "I am trapped!" Even the thought of wasting our time in a room with four white walls is more appealing than going back to our jobs. If left unchecked, professional burnout spills over into our daily and family life, affecting relationships and our own individual health. I once heard someone tell me "I am an unhappy man, living in an unhappy house, in an unhappy town, working in an unhappy job, for an unhappy boss." Now there is someone who was utterly burned out.
There are several possible causes for burnout. You may relate to one or more conditions below. The more of them you can relate to, the higher the risk you will suffer professional burnout in your future, if not already.
A values counselor is an excellent resource to help you prevent or treat burnout. Counseling will identify the causes of your burnout and walk you through restoring your life back. A counselor will help you with stress, or even help you find a new career. Maybe you want to change careers but are uncertain what you want to do? There are many standardized tests that help identify your talents and skills and match them to new potential careers. Counseling can also help you financially acheive an extended vacation or trip from work through budget planning and preparation.
For those who do not want to change jobs or careers, counseling can deal with communication and personality issues that contributed to the burnout, along with helping you best approach individuals such as your boss, coworkers, or managers in dealing with your difficulties on the job.
If you need a therapist to help you, we have a large selection of online therapists who are professional and licensed counselors, able to help you right where you are over the phone, via email, or webcam/messenger. If you prefer face to face counseling, please use our therapist directory and find a city close to you with a therapist who can meet your needs.
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