Stress from workplace responsibilities causes nearly 1 million employees to call out of work every day. This is not a long-term plan for handling stress, especially if one is a physician. Workplace stress is not a foreign feeling to anyone who has ever held a job, but there are stressful jobs that experience burnout symptoms in far greater numbers than the average job. For example, 44% of physicians under the age of 35 experience burnout. Job burnout symptoms are actually fairly predictable no matter what position a person holds or for how long, as they follow five progressive stages.
Burnout Symptoms: What Keeps Dragging You Down?
Burnout is when a person experiences either, or both, physical or mental collapse as a direct result of stress. This stress is most often a result of overwork at one’s workplace, but can also come about due to a problem with balancing other life responsibilities as well. An imbalance occurs not because a person’s time is unevenly split amongst responsibilities and leisure, but as a result of unrelenting tension.
The Stages of Burnout: Recognizing the Signs.
Burnout symptoms present in five stages. While there is a noticeable difference between stage one the lowest level of stress, and stage five the highest, each stage bleeds into the next. It is often difficult to notice one has slipped into a new level of stress until their current stress level is compared to before the current job. These five stages are outlined in a 1981 report by professors Veninga and Spradley.
Stage 1: The Honeymoon. In this stage, the worker is happy at their job. The stress associated with the position does not faze them yet. If the employee does not have a clear plan in place for how to deal with stress, then they will surely slip into stage two when their responsibilities begin to overwhelm them.
Stage 2: Balancing Act. The next stage is the beginning of an outward show of stress. The person will begin to engage in behaviors that attempt to alleviate the stress, mostly escapist tendencies such as drinking, drug use, binge eating, or watching too much television. The person will feel more fatigued than usual.
Stage 3: Chronic Symptoms. Stage three means that people generally experience all the problems of stage 2, but more intensely. The days that they feel good will become less and less frequent. Some people may develop a weakened immune system, and a portion of this group will begin to experience a chronic illness. This stage also sees the appearance of workplace anger.
Stage 4: Crisis. Work problems become an obsession that take over other areas of a person’s life. A predominance toward pessimistic thought becomes prevalent. Physical symptoms of distress such as chronic illness, fatigue, and compromised mental functioning are more frequent than feeling of wellness.
Stage 5: Enmeshment. The final stage shows a level of burnout symptoms so severe that all of the “bad” behaviors are a part of the person’s everyday life. This is significant because many people seek help from a physician at this point. They are likely experiencing an inordinate amount of stress, fatigue, problems sleeping, and possibly a chronic illness. This stage is called enmeshment because the burnout symptoms are completely enmeshed into the person’s life. The danger is that the physician might diagnosis the person with an anxiety disorder or such, instead of the real culprit: workplace burnout.
What to Do to Avoid Reaching Stage 5.
The key to avoiding burnout is found in stage one, not stage three or four, or even in stage two. If a person does not practice good self-care at the first stage when they are feeling great, then they will certainly slip into the next stage of burnout. The best plan to avoid burnout is create sustainable practices that will allow you to relieve stress in a healthy way. This plan should include a steady exercise program; a plan for socializing while still meeting workplace obligations; and regular wellness checkups with your doctor.
Burnout is more than simply a bad day. It is a problem that can become severe if ignored. But it is also a problem that can be avoided with the right preparations.