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How to address emotional burnout and heal

 A sad young girl. 

Adults who work in high-stress jobs are at a high risk of burnout. Although occupational burnout is the most common, burnout can be accompanied by mental, physical, and emotional symptoms too.

Usually, when this happens, we tend to feel out of sorts. As much as skeptics may claim this is just a state of mind, it is a huge problem that affects millions of people.

Not a medical diagnosis, burnout is a syndrome that typically occurs when you feel overwhelmed and can no longer keep up or cope with work demands, usually.

Unlike stress where you have so much to deal with, when you have burnout, you don’t have enough. You don’t have enough time, motivation, or drive and you simply don’t care anymore.

Similar to how stress and depression build up over time, so does burnout. You will find yourself starting that new job or project with so much vigour and optimism until it starts to dwindle and the stress starts to creep in. You will notice that you are less productive and fatigue may start to kick in at this stage.

As the pressure continues to mount from not completing tasks or habitual lateness, the stress becomes persistent and you can no longer function optimally.

You start obsessing over your problems, self-doubt kicks in, your loved ones may notice some behavioural changes and before you know it, it is manifesting physically. You’re at the point where you’re now having chronic headaches, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal problems.

Although the symptoms vary depending on which stage you’re in, Herbert Freudenberger described burnout in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

That alone may trigger an emotional response especially if there is a major stressor like a failed relationship, divorce, chronic illness, or the loss of a loved one.

You will start to realise that you’re having difficulty concentrating and sleeping, you’re more irritable, you want to be left alone and in certain situations, you may feel hopeless leading to a sense of pessimism about the future.

It is important to be self-aware of every change you go through. If you’re currently in a tough season, practice self-reflection and care.

Analyse and own your emotions. Cry if you must. Take that work leave if you need to and pursue activities that bring you pleasure.

To truly heal you must be very honest with yourself and admit you’re not fine. Separate yourself from stressors and if you cannot due to whatever reasons, seek professional help.

The right therapeutic techniques will help you cope and work through negative thought patterns and behaviour.

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