How to Recognize Burnout Before You’re Burned Out

Where once the term burnout was applied exclusively to health care workers, police officers, firefighters, paramedics or social workers who deal with trauma and human services — think Graham Greene’s novel “A Burnt-Out Case,” about a doctor in the Belgian Congo, a book that gave rise to the term colloquially — the term has since expanded to workers who are now part of a more connected, hyperactive and overcompensating work force.

But occupational burnout goes beyond needing a simple vacation or a family retreat, and many experts, psychologists and institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight long-term and unresolvable burnout as not a symptom but rather a major health concern. (Though it does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which outlines psychiatric disorders, it does appear in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a classification used by the World Health Organization.)

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Ms. Seppala told me. “Biologically we are not meant to be in that high-stress mode all the time. We got lost in this idea that the only way to be productive is to be on the go-go-go mode.”

It is difficult to identify burnout, which often feels like surrender or failure rather than what it really is: a chronic disease.

Common Work Stressors

• Overcoming challenges associated with new software, changing atmospheres or different processes

• Unrealistic deadlines

• Frequent scheduling conflicts or interruptions

• Unpredictable schedules

• Physical demands like exposure to weather or heavy lifting

• Added responsibility beyond the initial scope of one’s role while not being compensated for the supervision

• Interpersonal demands such as interactions with colleagues or customers

These stressors can manifest in outbursts against co-workers, violence or anger toward loved ones at home, loss of appetite and passion for things once loved, or being unable to find motivation for things that you were able to accomplish with ease.

The pioneering researcher behind the study of burnout since the 1970s, Christina Maslach, professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a study that concluded there are three major signs of workplace burnout.

Signs of Burnout to Watch For

According to Dr….

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