As we mentioned before, Burnout manifests itself in different ways for different people. But one thing is for sure: burnout doesn’t happen overnight, but it creeps up on you. To prevent burnout effectively, you need to notice the symptoms early on and address them as soon as possible.
There are many things that can raise red flags that should point you towards burnout detection, or at the very least, prevention. If not addressed, burnout can lead to additional health issues, including insomnia, depression, substance abuse, and coronary heart disease.
4 dimensions of burnout: Emotional and Mental Signs
There are four scientifically backed dimensions of burnout that can help you have a head start to get this under control before it’s too late and your physical and mental health are compromised.
Personal exhaustion may be the first and perhaps most acknowledged symptom of burnout. Though it can sometimes be brushed off as being “just tired, exhaustion is the fatigue produced by the excessive effort–mainly psychological (cognitive and emotional)– that you’re making when completing your tasks. Remember, your cognitive and emotional energy is limited. A few symptoms that can surround exhaustion are lack of motivation, fatigue, insomnia, memory issues, nervousness, irritability, among others.
Consequences of Exhaustion: This one is a no-brainer. There are no health benefits when your exhaustion levels remain high over time. This is not sustainable without some sort of problem arising, related to either work or health. If the stressors (the causes of exhaustion) remain present during a period of time, you might even develop mental health problems such as anxiety, distress, and depression.
That sense of failure and self-doubt. You don’t feel confident in your own skills and resources to execute the tasks that your current role entails. This does not mean that you’re not capable of doing them, you’re just lacking faith in yourself. This can make you engage in negative self-talk, minimize personal accomplishments and think that you are not good enough for this job, or even consider switching your career.
If it’s a new position, it’s quite normal, and it actually helps you to maintain high levels of attention and focus in order to avoid mistakes. However, if this is sustained over time, you need to work on your confidence regarding your professional skills, otherwise, this will lead to being extra hard on yourself.
Consequences of Self-inefficacy: Having high perceived self-inefficacy does not mean you’re incompetent, but that you feel that way, and having to perform tasks that you feel unequipped for is heightening your emotional discomfort. A lot of people tend to procrastinate when faced with demanding or difficult tasks, and then they end up being highly pressured by deadlines. This isn’t healthy because it increases your levels of anxiety, worry, and brings unnecessary interpersonal conflict by not meeting deadlines. This also reduces your rest time.
Cynicism is the most present dimension of all. Within a work context, cynicism is a distant attitude that people adopt towards tasks and processes when it has been some time since they received any payoff as a response to their efforts. Let’s say you open your code editor but don’t feel like coding because what's the point and it’s happening continuously for weeks.
This way, people feel like they are not adding value to their work or that work doesn’t add value to them. People start withholding their effort because work no longer gives them satisfaction nor pleasure. Their levels of quality and productivity drop in a causal spiral along with their levels of positive emotions.
Consequences of Cynicism: When your cynicism levels are high your work loses quality, productivity, and creativity. Also, your well-being suffers because of your diminished emotional connectivity with work.
Big word, uh? It’s when you feel detached or even callous towards your colleagues and other people (i.e. clients, vendors, authority figures, collaborators, etc.) when they (or some of them) seem to be the root source of the emotional wear.
When the depersonalization levels are high it’s because the person activated emotional defense mechanisms. These are visible through the distant attitude one has towards others (colleagues, clients, authority); and due to these people (or one of them) being a source of negative emotions, and the stress that comes from the frustrating relationship the person currently has with them.
Consequences of Depersonalization: The main consequence is that this state increases the chances of interpersonal conflict and emotional disconnect, which complicates matters when working in a team. It’s possible that the person enters an emotional process that leads to a lack of empathy towards others, or feeling that others are not empathetic towards them regarding their needs.
Physical and behavioral clues
These 4 dimensions can portrait themselves of physical and behavioral signs as well, after all our minds and bodies are more connected than most people think. Here are a few:
Physical fatigue: Sitting at the desk in front of a computer for 8+ hours per day is bad for your health: it causes body pain, headache, eye strain, and more. If you don’t get enough physical activity, fatigue and lethargy become the norm.
Mental fatigue: Programming is a cognitively demanding job that requires you to solve complex problems. If you don’t take breaks, the fatigue accumulates. If you don’t switch activities and let your brains rest, the fatigue will eventually take its toll.
Procrastination: When drained and in doubt of your skills, you are most likely to withdraw from responsibilities to avoid possible failure.
Change in appetite or sleep habits: A lack of proper sleep, use of stimulants, accumulated stress, and anxiety are most likely to influence your eating or sleep habits. For example, you may try to eat away your anxiety by having more snacks throughout the day, which may lead to overeating and weight gain, or sleep for 10-12 hours a day and still feel tired.
Frequent body aches: Body tensions, joint and muscle pain may appear not only due to low physical activity but also be caused by exhaustion – one of the key symptoms of burnout.
Isolating yourself from others: You may no longer want to talk to friends or coworkers, decline invitations, become angry when someone speaks to you, or even come in early or leave late to avoid interactions. When you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by your job, it seems like you no longer have energy for socializing, which translates social isolation into loneliness and aggravates burnout.