Mental health at work - Burnout Syndrome pt.1

Written by Katarina Milova
24. 03. 2021 ·

We all know a unique energy the spring brings. Setting the new goals, saying “yes” to each opportunity, working harder than the previous year. However, things don’t always go the way we expect. Great motivation and passion can be followed by great exhaustion, apathy, and loss of purpose. Especially in these “online” days when remote work is more demanding and intruding into your personal life, it is essential to take care of your mental health.

At Sygic, we decided to focus on mental health more this year. One of the actions taken is to start talking about burnout syndrome, a “viral” but very serious topic. We organized series of webinars on burnout and they instantly became very popular. We want to share few important facts with you in two blogs. This is the first one - lets learn about symptoms and risk of burnout!

What does the burnout mean?

Being described among health care workers and volunteers for the very first time (by a psychiatrist Freudenberg in 1974), it can be observed among almost any professions (however, today, during pandemics, health care professionals and doctors face the risk more than ever).

International Classification of Diseases, clasifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon and the state of total physical, mental energy depletion, feelings of negativism and cynism towards one job, and reduced professional efficacy.

How to tell you are burning out

Burnout happens gradually, and fortunatelly you can recognise warning signs before it suddenly reaches its final phase. The paradox is, you need to feel being "on fire" in order to burn out. Therefore, the burnout is preceeded by the state of high engagement and motivation, sometimes called a hoenymoon phase. One may be compulsively trying to prove themselves and neglecting their own needs.

However, as the stress increases, the enthusiasm is replaced by cynism, and eventually negativism. It these go on neglected, physical symptoms occure, such as headaches, back pain, disturbed sleep or digestion. No wonder they often result into decreased performance at work.

Final stages become very difficult to cope with, as the feelings of depersonalisation and meaninglessnes often develop, along with apathy, loss of interest in social contact. If left without intervention, it can end up in a hospital.
Sometimes burnout can be mistaken with depression. Even though depression and burnout have simmilar symptoms, burnout is related solely to one´s career. Also, symptoms of burnout may dissaper when on vacation or holiday, however, depressive symptoms will remain .

Are you at risk?

It has been found some personality traits and external factors correlate with the incidence of burnout. At higher risk are individuals, who are very engaged and ambitious, set themselves very high expectations about what they do, however have lower self-esteem, tendency to please others. Very often, they consider work the one and only meaningful activity in their lives.
Interestingly, women burn out more often.

When talking about burnout we should not forget about company culture, that poses as a higher risk for some people - such as high demands, time pressure, lack of information, lack of recognition, little room for autonomy, limited resources or even administrative constraints. It is good to focus on these when choosing a new job especially, if you think you may be prone burnout.

How to prevent burnout and handle it before its too late? Stay tuned for the next blog, and stay sane!