What is burnout and how to prevent it?

It is normal for stress to be present in some work processes: complete a project, a presentation, the launch of a campaign, etc. In fact, a little stress helps us to be alert to unusual situations and to act quickly. However, when there is too much stress and this is coupled with a bad work environment, the burnout syndrome appears.


The burnout syndrome refers to the suffering of chronic work stress and generalized exhaustion caused by certain situations in the workplace. We'll provide you with all the information to be able to identify, prevent and treat it.


Professional burnout

Burnout can be defined as a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that directly affects the employee and, consequently, their performance. This syndrome is linked to the workplace and is caused by different factors; In addition, it can have very serious consequences on the physical and mental state of the person.

Burnout syndrome occurs as the result of overwhelming demands, chronic stress, and dissatisfaction.

In 2019, burnout was recognized as a disease by the WHO (World Health Organization), so it will be included in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.


In short, this disease lives up to its name: professional (caused by work) burnout (physical, mental and emotional). It should be noted that “being burnedout” from work can develop due to a hostile work environment or unhealthy employee behaviors.


Possible causes

There are many causes associated with this syndrome, but, in most cases, those affected are people who have chosen their profession in a vocational way (health professionals, teachers, etc.). However, anyone can be a victim of burnout syndrome; and the main trigger is working conditions.

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Among the main causes, the most frequent are:

  • High levels of stress.

  • Excessive workload.

  • Little autonomy or control over the projects to be carried out.

  • Bad interpersonal relationships with the work team.

  • Lack of training or onboarding.

  • Suffer from chronic stress

  • Bad organization on the part of the employee or the company.

It is important to avoid confusing burnout with stress. Stress is not always negative, on the other hand, burnout is a disease, so it is always negative. All this according to Iván Fernández Suárez, consultant on Occupational Risk Prevention for Fraternidad-Muprespa.


Symptoms of Burnout Syndrome - How to Identify It

Now, how do I know if I have developed burnout syndrome? Ideally, this disease is diagnosed by a health professional, it can be a doctor or a psychologist. However, it is also possible to identify some factors and be able to take action on the matter.


Note that you do not necessarily have to comply with all the symptoms listed below; but, if you feel identified, it is best to go to a professional.


Mental exhaustion

Mental exhaustion is one of the first symptoms to appear, it is the first sign. This exhaustion manifests itself in the form of stress and anxiety, even depression and / or insomnia.


In addition to the above, burnout also causes you to lose energy almost immediately, not to mention the distress that is triggered by hearing a work-related topic.


Physical exhaustion

Feeling physically exhausted is almost a by-product of mental exhaustion. Some signs of physical exhaustion are : fatigue, weight gain or loss, muscle aches, migraines, gastrointestinal problems or alterations in the menstrual cycle.


It is important that you bear in mind that some symptoms of work burnout also coincide with symptoms of other pathologies, so if you have any, don't hesitate to go to a doctor before making a diagnosis on your own.

Indifference and detachment from your work

From here on, the following symptoms are almost a chain reaction. When you identify that the cause of a discomfort is your job, the indifference and detachment from performing your tasks also begin.


While it is true that we must stay away from the things that make us wrong, indifference directly affects performance, so your work and earnings are affected as well. At this point, the lack of motivation also appears, and it is essential to take action to solve the issue.

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Productivity decline

This is a consequence of all the above symptoms; it is considered almost inevitable. Although work will always be a responsibility, a bad work environment or unhealthy attitudes can lead to us avoiding our workplace at all costs, resulting in unfinished projects and low productivity.


However, there are situations where the opposite happens. In these cases, the person feels a level of stress that does not allow them to focus on anything other than their work, so there is no decrease in productivity, but they have a completely unhealthy lifestyle. Here, mental and physical health are also affected.


How to avoid burnout? - Prevention

Burnout can come from two factors: work (relationship with colleagues and superiors, exploitation, poor organization, etc.) or by the employee (self-demand, depression, unrealistic goals, others). In that sense, we will explain how to prevent it from these two points:

  • From work : the main thing is to provide a good organization of the defects, that is, that an employee does not perform tasks corresponding to various positions (which is considered exploitation). Also, it is important to provide the correct tools, induction, constant training and schedules that do not exceed 40 hours a week.

  • From the employee: ambition is not a bad thing, but when we are too demanding with our job expectations, burnout appears. It is essential to know how to recognize that work is only a portion of life, to establish limits, adequate schedules and priorities.


Treatment for professional burnout

Burnout must be tackled directly and globally. On the part of the worker, it is essential to recognize if you are in a toxic or unhealthy work environment and, in the worst case, to leave it.

To perform a position properly, you need mental health and being in an environment that provides you with the right tools.

In the best of cases, the company will take relevant actions for the health of its employees. These actions range from changes in the organization, to psychological treatments and healthy initiatives.


In addition to the above, it is also advisable to follow the following:

  • Knowledge. Know burnout, identify it, and be determined to do something about it.

  • Practice meditation techniques to assertively cope with stress.

  • See a psychologist.

  • Adjust your expectations to reality.

  • Create healthy habits : sleep at least 7 hours, healthy eating, physical activity and avoid excessive recreational drugs.

Do not hesitate to go to a professional at the first symptoms, even if you consider that everything is normal. Exhaustion, anxiety, excess stress and migraines are not normal and your work should not cause these symptoms.

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