Take steps to recognize, alleviate symptoms of burnout

Illustration of candle

Illustration by Mark Fantonial

By Amaya Travis

During these frantic and uncertain times, people across the globe are under extraordinary amounts of stress. Many people are likely on the verge of becoming or already are burnt out.

But what is burnout? By definition, burnout is “a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”
One of the most commonly known symptoms of burnout is elevated exhaustion. In a Forbes article by Lisa M. Gerry, she states, “Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.”

Professor Thomas Kerr, a psychology instructor at Rochester Community and Technical College, had this to say when asked about some of burnouts warning signs and symptoms: “Are you feeling hopeless and helpless about your ability to complete schoolwork? Do you feel significantly more negative about school, yourself, and life in general? Do you constantly feel exhausted even though you’ve been getting adequate sleep? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes,’ you may be suffering from burnout.”

Professor Kerr said that should burnout not be alleviated, it can increase one’s risk to a number of health issues, including depression and high blood pressure. Insomnia, anxiety, decreased memory ability and headaches/migraines are a couple of other things that can occur as a result of prolonged burnout.

If you feel you may be suffering from burnout, it is important to talk with a medical professional who can point you in the right direction and identify some of the unknowns with burnout. Medical professionals can help you distinguish between burnout and depression.

Professor Kerr mentioned that while depression has been around for a long time, burnout has only been studied for a couple of decades. We’re still learning more about it and its symptoms.

But what can you do to prevent it or heal yourself if you find yourself in this situation? Professor Kerr suggests eating healthy and getting exercise as a couple of ways to help alleviate burnout.

He also suggests saving some time each day to spend on yourself. Even if it’s only 10 minutes. Do something you enjoy, something that makes you happy, without worrying about your daily workloads.

Better time management and organization are two factors that Professor Kerr says can help prevent burnout. Splitting large projects into smaller manageable chunks, rewarding yourself for each chunk you complete, is another thing he recommends.

Vanessa Mason, a paralegal on the product integrity team of a Twin Cities Law firm, says burnout is very common in the legal field. She says breathing exercises and reminding herself to relax are some of things that have helped ease her burnout symptoms.

“It is not just a physical reaction, but it is also a mental and emotional reaction to the stress of our daily lives,” Mason said. “Because burnout can have such an effect on a person, it needs to be taken seriously.”