For several years, the concept of burnout has been widely discussed among counseling professionals as an occupational hazard, with recent studies indicating that this phenomenon continues to be a major concern. In a survey among counselors, those experiencing burnout not only reported giving less than satisfactory services to their clients, they also reported a loss of quality in nearly all areas of life (relational, social, occupational, etc.).
What is Burnout?
Burnout has been described as many things throughout the years, but the most consistent definition is a chronic state of exhaustion and stress — significantly reducing emotional, physical, and cognitive functioning. This reduction of functioning leads to a loss of motivation, increases fatigue, and creates feelings of hopelessness and cynicism.
These negative effects not only impact the occupational setting, but also significant relationships, social engagement, physical health, and overall well-being. Due to the chronic nature of burnout, it is imperative to deal with it before it gets out of control.
How Burnt Out Am I?
Imagine it’s Friday evening — you’ve gotten through ALL of you clients and gotten that huge ‘to-do’ list completed. You’re tired, slightly unmotivated, and just want to get out of the office. Sure, you may be a little burnt out, but it’s nothing the weekend can’t fix (this is considered normal “wear and tear”). Come Monday morning, you’re refreshed and ready to get to it!!
Now, if the opposite is true, there may be a bigger problem. If Monday comes along and you wake up dreading the work day, angry at clients for no reason, feeling like you’re stuck with no way out, and generally irritable then it’s time to seek help and get back on track.
So, the question to ask is “how burnt out am I today” and not “Am I burnt out” — because we all fluctuate emotionally and physically during the week.
Burnout is a gradual process and does not happen over night. Let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of burnout/ Keep in mind that these are subtle at first, easy to get rid of but them become too overwhelming to work over.
- Headaches/muscle aches
- Appetite disturbances (eating too much or too little)
- Stomach issues
- Changes in sleeping
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Loss of motivation
- Irritability and anger
- Feelings of being detached
- Decreased motivation
- Anger outbursts
- Calling out of work/coming in late or leaving early
- Using drugs or alcohol more frequently
What Can I Do?
If the burnout if mild to moderate, you can typically work to reduce the stress in your life. Take breaks, enjoy good a healthy lunch, and turn to friend and people you trust. Being sociable, talking to coworkers about the stresses, and finding balance in your life go a long way when dealing with burnout. Maybe even take off a couple days for an extended weekend 🙂
If the burnout is severe enough, it may be time to seek professional help and reframe the way you are looking at your work. As counselors, there is no harm is getting our own counseling. The work we do is TOUGH and we deserve to be healthy too. Just because we’re in the helping profession, does not make us immune to the hazards of occupational burnout.
If you are needing help with work related burnout, please reach out to one of the great counselors we have here at WCC! We would be happy to help get back to being the wonderful counselor we know you can be!