Many of us have heard of burnout and may at times, when feeling exhausted, question whether we may in fact be "burned out". However, few of us really know what the term "burnout" means and exactly which symptoms, besides always feeling tired, might indicate burnout.

Burnout is a physical, emotional and psychological response to constant, extreme stress over an extended period of time. Burnout occurs when "the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/04/01/10-signs-youre-burning-...). People with burnout will feel that they have little energy and motivation to do anything, their productivity is reduced. You may have heard someone say that they go to bed exhausted but then drag themselves from their beds in the morning with the same feeling of exhaustion - a possible sign of burnout. It leaves one with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, some may even feel cynical about life and resentful of anyone who has an expectation of them. 

The following can be indicators or symptoms of burnout (some of these symptoms may overlap with what we know depression to be) :

(Quoting from an article by Lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/5884439/burnout-is-real-how-to-identify-the-proble...)

  • A generally negative attitude, often paired with the feeling that nothing is going to work out.

  • Inability to concentrate.

  • General apathy towards your work, chores, and other tasks.

  • Feelings of stagnation.

  • A lack of interest in social activities and being with others.

  • Difficulty with healthy habits like exercise, diet, and regular sleep.

  • Feeling like you're never doing enough.

  • Neglecting your own needs (and putting the needs of others ahead of your own).

  • Personal values and beliefs lose their importance.

  • Short temper.

  • Constant exhaustion.

  • Feelings of inefficacy.

  • Feelings of detachment from people and things you care about.

  • Frequent boredom.

  • Psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, lingering colds, and other issues with a cause that's difficult to identify.

  • Denial of the above feelings.

  • Other less commonly acknowledged symptoms may be feelings of guilt  and increased drinking (alcohol).

In some cases we may be able to identify why we are burned out but it is also useful to get the opinion of others, who are close to us, and ask them why they think we are burned out. Their objective opinions may help us see the problem or situation, which has lead us to this negative state, more clearly. We may get answers like; we work long hours and that they don't get to see much of us. That when we are around we are disconnected and we don't seem to have fun or be fun. We are most likely to learn that the behaviours that have contributed to our burn out have occupied most of our thinking, energy and time. It is suggested that there are three factors which primarily contribute to burnout: Work, lifestyle and personality traits.

Work can cause burnout when it is demanding or when a person feels that they do not have control over the work they do. It can occur in a situation where there is little or no recognition or reward for the work a person does. The environment in which one works can contribute particularly if it is chaotic or a high-pressure environment, and the opposite also applies - a working environment which is monotonous and unchallenging.

Working long hours with little rest is a lifestyle issue. Other lifestyle issues would be spreading oneself thin by making too many commitments to other people, taking on too many responsibilities, not getting enough sleep, and not having built supportive relationships.

High achieving, perfectionistic personalities stand a high likelihood of being burned out. If you have a need to always be in control and seldom delegate, this too will drain your energies.

In understanding how we become burned out, we can begin to choose different behaviours and make decisions that will take us to a place of health where burnout is not an end result. We need to learn to add relaxing rituals to our day - learning to breath properly and taking time to be present.  Adopting a holistic approach to health which includes healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.  Establishing boundaries is important, especially regulating our time spent working. We may need to learning to say "no" to things which are not priorities to us and "yes" to those which are. Technology needs to be placed within boundaries too and we need to be able take time away from it.  Explore your creative side and learn to recognise and manage stress.

If you do feel you are burned out please contact your general practitioner for a thorough diagnosis and counselling can assist with stress management and other work and lifestyle issues related to burnout.