Professional Burnout: What Is It and How to Recognize It?

Modern people spend most of their time at work. They try as much as possible to have time, fulfill the “plan,” and achieve their goals, sometimes depriving themselves not only of their personal lives but also of the necessary rest. For young professionals who have just graduated from a higher education institution, such actions aren’t uncommon, as they are in dire need of acquiring professional experience. However, often mature people, immersed in the profession, forget about the diversity and variability of life. In this case, there may be a reduction in the areas of professional and personal development, an increase in the number of diseases that are provoked by stress, and a decrease in working capacity with the development of various forms of personal disadvantage (professional deformation, the phenomenon of work alienation, desocialization).

Currently, the syndrome of professional burnout includes the following manifestations:

  • Deterioration of mood, feelings of anxiety and restlessness (as well as their joint manifestation, given the close relationship and similar psychological and biological mechanisms underlying anxious and depressive states).
  • Feeling helpless when trying to cope with difficult life situations.
  • Experiencing a decrease in one’s own success and productivity in everyday tasks and responsibilities.

What Professional Burnout Looks Like

Symptoms of professional burnout can manifest themselves in people of different ages at the psychophysical, socio-psychological and behavioral levels. They are expressed in different forms: reduced receptivity, prolonged lethargy; indifference, passivity, cynicism, increased irritability at minor events. Sometimes professional burnouts manifest themselves as a lack of desire to do the smallest things, be it gambling via a Vave login account or cooking a favorite meal.

There is a high probability of nervous breakdowns and the formation of a general negative attitude to life and professional prospects. In half of the cases of such symptoms, there is a risk of transition to the stage of chronic fatigue.

Who Faces Professional Burnout Most Often

The tendency to the development of professional burnout syndrome is first of all manifested in representatives of professions that involve active communication with the subjects of activity:

  • Employees of the “human-to-human” system who often have to communicate with people: teachers, doctors, employees of social organizations, etc.
  • Employees whose activities take place in conditions of instability and fear of losing their jobs.
  • Employees who are in constant intrapersonal conflict in connection with their work.
  • People who have to constantly demonstrate their professional abilities.
  • Young specialists 2-3 years after the beginning of their professional activity.
  • Professionals caught in working conditions characterized by management’s distance from employees and other factors.
  • People working under conditions of imposed communication.

What Factors Lead to Professional Burnout

Three main factors play a significant role in emotional burnout syndrome.

Personal Factor

It’s primarily related to the assessment of one’s own importance in the work environment, the possibility of professional growth, the degree of independence and control provided by the management. Studies have shown that such factors as age, marital status and length of service don’t influence the development of emotional burnout. If a specialist considers their work important and significant, they become less vulnerable to emotional exhaustion. Otherwise, burnout syndrome may develop faster.

Role Factor

This aspect is related to the autonomy and responsibility assigned to a particular position of the employee. A job requiring equal distribution of responsibility limits the development of burnout syndrome, while vagueness or uneven distribution of responsibilities can greatly aggravate the situation, even if the workload is low.

Situations characterized by uncoordinated actions, constant reminders of competition, imposed guilt for unfulfilled tasks can also contribute to the development of emotional burnout, especially if success depends on the harmonious interaction of the whole team.

Organizational Factor

The development of emotional burnout syndrome is also associated with the presence of:

  • Intense psycho-emotional activity (intense communication, backing it up with emotions, intense perception and responsible decision making).
  • Unclear organization, lack of necessary means, the presence of bureaucratic obstacles, hours of work with difficult to measure content.
  • Conflicts in the “supervisor — subordinate” system, as well as between colleagues, leading to an unfavorable psychological climate in the team.
  • Inability of an employee to show independence (according to the principle “initiative is punishable”), thus depriving them of the sense of responsibility for their work and the realization of the significance and importance of the work performed.

There is one more factor causing the syndrome of emotional burnout. It’s the presence of a psychologically difficult contingent, with which helping specialists often have to deal, like conflict clients, “difficult teenagers”, etc.

How to Realize You Have Professional Burnout

At the “burnout candidate” stage, a person begins to increase their workload, in an attempt to cope with all the “burning” tasks. They spend less time with their family, show no interest in their social life, and all this to meet the demands of the job. At this point, they are unaware of their failures and forget their personal needs such as rest, relaxation, and time with friends. The symptoms of this phase of professional burnout are constant fatigue, a feeling of sleep deprivation and a complete lack of energy. Even on weekends, the person cannot recover; they do only the essentials around the house and try to rest at least a little before the new work week, which causes negative emotions.

Then comes the stage of exhaustion. The person becomes limited not only professionally but also in their emotional, social, and spiritual lives. At this stage of burnout, psychosomatic symptoms also appear: the body becomes vulnerable to illness, sleep is disturbed, headaches occur, and general tension increases. A person may quickly start gaining weight, as they stop monitoring their health and seek solace in food, trying to comfort themselves at least somehow.

The last stage of professional burnout is despair. The feeling of helplessness, which initially may have been caused by external factors, becomes a constant sense of hopelessness. Fortunately, burnout syndrome doesn’t always reach this last stage. However, if it becomes chronic and lasts for years, it becomes extremely difficult to provide help. A person suffering from burnout syndrome often feels all-consuming apathy, skepticism, helplessness, and fear of doing something unaccustomed to themselves so much that their return to active life becomes almost impossible.

Professional Burnout Prevention

By following these recommendations, you can prevent burnout and achieve a reduction in its severity:

  • Set clear goals, both short-term and long-term, to keep you motivated and evaluate your progress.
  • Introduce breaks every hour for physical and mental recovery
  • Develop self-regulation skills to help you reduce stress.
  • Invest in professional development, take courses of interest to you, attend forums to share experiences with colleagues
  • Avoid competitive fields if you feel that they cause you high anxiety and aggression.
  • Maintain emotional communication, share feelings with loved ones, seek new emotional experiences in hobbies and leisure activities.
  • Take care of your physical health, control your nutrition and try to stick to an active lifestyle, as it directly affects your mental state.

Prevention of professional burnout requires both internal efforts of an employee and interest of the management in a number of organizational measures related to improvement of working conditions and interpersonal relations in the team.

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