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The Symptoms of Burnout We Don't Talk About

In today's world, "burnout" has become somewhat of a buzzword term, often thrown around in discussions about modern work and life. The commonly given advice is to combat burnout with self-care strategies, acknowledging the more conventional signs such as fatigue and cynicism. However, amidst the widespread conversation about burnout, some symptoms like shame, resentment, irritability, and detachment tend to be overlooked or outright ignored. These symptoms, which play a significant role in the burnout experience, are often left out of the mainstream discourse on well-being and mental health.


So why don't we hear more about these symptoms? The answer lies in their complexity and their association with shame. Admitting to feelings of anger or resentment towards clients, acknowledging instances of dropping the ball several times in a month – these admissions can be uncomfortable and carry a stigma. In a culture that often values productivity and success, revealing these less polished aspects of burnout can be challenging. However, it is crucial to discuss these symptoms openly because normalizing even the uncomfortable parts of burnout is what leads to people being open and seeking the help they need. By acknowledging the complexity of burnout and the various emotions it encompasses, we create a more compassionate and supportive environment for those grappling with these challenges.


So in an attempt to normalize the not so often talked about aspects of burnout. Here are just some of the symptoms you (or people you know) might be experiencing.


Cognitive Decline: The Fog of Burnout


Burnout doesn't just affect the body; it takes a toll on our cognitive functions as well. Individuals experiencing burnout may notice a decline in concentration, memory lapses, and a general sense of mental fog. This cognitive decline can impact not only job performance but also personal relationships and overall quality of life.


Emotional Detachment: Numbing Out Feelings


Burnout can lead to emotional detachment. Those experiencing burnout may find themselves emotionally numb, unable to connect with their own feelings or the feelings of others. This detachment can strain personal and professional relationships and contribute to a sense of isolation. The feeling of emotional numbness can be particularily difficult to manage for those working in the helping fields (those who are often impacted by burnout the most). Those who work with emotions day in and day out may struggle to identify or admit they themselves are struggling with emotional numbness. This can result in further isolation, shame and guilt, symptoms that can exaccerbate the burnout.


Anger and Resentment: Unmasking Hidden Struggles


A less discussed but equally significant symptom of burnout is the emergence of anger and resentment. Individuals experiencing burnout may find themselves irrationally angry, harboring resentment towards colleagues, superiors, clients, or even the work itself. This emotional response often stems from feelings of overwhelm, unmet expectations, and a sense of injustice that can further contribute to the cycle of burnout. No one wants to feel angry towards the profession they sought. No one wants to feel anger towards their clients. While this experience is shockingly normal for those who experience burnout, many people experience guilt for feeling this way.


Lack of Passion: The Silent Erosion of Purpose


One of the less conspicuous signs of burnout is the gradual erosion of passion for one's work. A person experiencing burnout may find that the activities they once enjoyed now feel burdensome, and the enthusiasm that once fueled their endeavors and work has waned. This lack of passion can be insidious, leading to a sense of emptiness and detachment from one's professional and personal pursuits. This lack of purpose and passion is what fuels individuals journies out of their chosen profession.


Feelings of Failure: Personal Responsibility


Among the often overlooked symptoms of burnout is the profound sense of failure or personal responsibility that individuals may experience. As burnout progresses, there is a tendency to internalize work-related challenges and setbacks, attributing them to personal shortcomings. People start asking themselves 'Why can't I handle this?', or 'How come this impacts me so much more than others?'. This burden of perceived failure can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, eroding self-esteem and amplifying the overall impact of burnout. Recognizing and addressing these feelings of failure is crucial in breaking the cycle and fostering a healthier mindset towards work and self-worth.


In closing, it's essential to bring these symptoms into the light, destigmatize the conversation around burnout, and foster a culture that encourages open discussions about mental health. Our response to burnout should not be simply to tell people to have a rest. Burnout is not just exhaustion, it is the cumulation of these symptoms and many others. By normalizing the less comfortable aspects of burnout, we empower individuals to seek help without fear of judgment, ultimately promoting a healthier and more supportive environments for everyone.


If you're struggling to recover from burnout, counselling can help. Sessions can be booked at scenicpsychology.com


A woman holding her head in her hands.

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