The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been properly managed. It is characterised by three key dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or negative feelings towards it and reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout is a state of complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Those experiencing burnout may struggle to engage in activities that once brought them joy and meaning. They may also lose interest in things that once mattered to them and feel a growing sense of hopelessness. Recognising the signs of burnout is critical to taking action to manage and prevent it.

Physical symptoms of burnout include headaches, stomach or intestinal issues, fatigue, frequent illness, high blood pressure, and changes in appetite or sleep.

Emotional symptoms of burnout include feelings of helplessness, cynicism, self-doubt, anger & frustration, decreased satisfaction, detachment, and loss of motivation.

Behavioural signs of burnout include difficulty concentrating, reduced performance in everyday tasks, reluctance to get out of bed, withdrawal or isolation, procrastination, outbursts, and loss of interest or pleasure.

How to Prevent Burnout
1. Early recognition
It is crucial to be honest with yourself and recognise the symptoms as soon as possible. Identify your stressors and pay attention to what causes you the most stress and cultivate the ability to self-reflect. Attend to your own needs and reduce or eliminate unnecessary stressors.

2. Manage time effectively
Effective time management helps reduce stress and increases productivity. Prioritise tasks, delegate work where possible, and learn to say no to non-essential commitments. This will reduce workload and prevent burnout.

3. Practice mindfulness and self-care
Take care of your mental health and well-being by practising mindfulness and self-care. This can include activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises or journaling. These activities help to reduce stress, increase awareness and improve overall health.

4. Develop healthy responses to stress
Nervous system regulation is crucial to managing stress and heavy emotions. By building a strong nervous system and recognising our responses to stress, we increase our resilience to cope with anything that life brings to our doorstep.

5. Exercise
Physical activity reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.

6. Boundaries
If your needs are consistently unmet or your rights are violated, you are likely to experience burnout. It is imperative to establish healthy boundaries and be aware of when enough is enough. Boundaries are limits that we set to communicate how we want to be treated and what we’re willing to do. They are critical because they protect us from being mistreated. At work, boundaries are a way to assert our needs and rights. These include a need for fair compensation, time off, and to be given credit for our work. They also include our right to work in safe conditions, to be treated with respect, and paid for time worked.

7. Seek support
If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek support from a trusted friend, family member or professional. Talking about your feelings and experiences can be a significant relief and help you to find new ways to manage stress.

8. Create a positive work environment
Finally, reach out to your employer/manager. By doing so, you are giving them the opportunity to appropriately support you; ultimately, they can only help with issues they know about. Creating a positive work environment can also help prevent burnout. Encourage open communication, provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, and foster a supportive and inclusive culture.

In conclusion, it is vital for individuals and organisations to be proactive in preventing burnout. By recognising the symptoms early, reducing stressors and practising self-care and stress management techniques, you can prevent burnout and improve overall health and wellbeing.