How to Avoid Emotional Burnout

We’re exposed to constant stress nowadays, whether it is at work, bringing up a family, dealing with isolation or worrying about social situations. This constant bombardment of everyday stressors can have a detrimental effect on our mental and physical health.

Emotional burnout, where we can no longer cope with the world around us, is on the increase. A recent Gallup poll found that 23% of us feel burnt out at work regularly, either because we can’t cope with the workload or are in a job we don’t enjoy.

It often affects individuals in some professions compared to others. For example, a study in the Netherlands found that those in the medical profession are more likely to show signs of burnout than those in other jobs.

Man suffering from emotional burnout

What is Emotional Burnout?

When an individual reaches a state of physical and mental exhaustion, they are said to be suffering from emotional burnout. It was a term that was first coined back in the 1970s by Herbert Freudenberge.

It usually follows a period of prolonged or sustained stress but can have a variety of different causes depending on the individual’s characteristics and what happens to them.

Emotional burnout leaves us unable to cope even with minor challenges and lowers our productivity creating many negative effects that can seep into every aspect of our lives.

Not dealing with emotional burnout when it occurs may lead to a range of physical and mental health issues:

  • The release of stress hormones works to raise blood pressure and increase blood sugar levels.
  • Burnout can lead to unhealthy eating habits, physical ailments such as headaches and an increased risk of illness or disease.
  • It can also mean we are more anxious or depressed which can have an impact on mental health.

What Causes Emotional Burnout?

Certain things are more likely to trigger emotional burnout. It often happens after a major event such as a divorce or a loved one dying. It can happen after the birth of a child or when someone is struggling financially and can’t see a way out.

Any stress event can contribute to developing a negative view of the world, draining our emotional batteries. We are exposed to stressful work lives, for instance, having to achieve results for demanding bosses.

It can often be caused by a combination of life events – perhaps someone is working long hours but also trying to bring up a family at the same time. Maybe they have a chronic illness or are looking after someone with cancer or heart disease.

What are the Symptoms of Emotional Exhaustion?

It can often be difficult to pinpoint the warning signs of emotional exhaustion, especially in the early stages leading up to the condition.

  • There will be changes in personality with someone becoming angry or irritable more often. They may lack motivation and be generally apathetic.
  • An individual’s thinking might appear erratic and confused or there could be difficulty concentrating and problems with memory.
  • Emotional exhaustion is sometimes accompanied by sleeping problems, with people feeling extremely fatigued but unable to get a good night’s rest.
  • There may be physical changes such as weight loss, loss of appetite and heart palpitations.

Individuals could find it more difficult to build relationships or take part in social activities.

Who is at Risk for Emotional Burnout?

Emotional exhaustion affects anyone but some groups of people are at higher risk. These include those who have demanding jobs which means they work long hours. Others may be in the wrong job or feel they have no control over their career.

Lonely people are also at risk of emotional exhaustion, as are those who always strive for perfection but can’t achieve it. Someone caring for an elderly relative can find themselves suffering from emotional burnout if they are unable to take some time out.

How to Avoid Emotional Burnout

There are several things we can do to lower the risk of emotional burnout. For example, if a situation is stressful, removing that stressor can make a difference. Practices like yoga and meditation can also help us to handle stress better if we are unable to avoid it.

It’s important to lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible. That means undertaking regular exercise and eating the right types of food. Individuals should limit their alcohol intake and promote good sleeping practices so they get enough rest.

How to Treat Emotional Exhaustion

It may seem easier to soldier on and try to ignore the problem. That’s why it’s so important for someone to acknowledge that they are suffering from emotional burnout.

It’s critical to identify the cause and do something about that specifically. For many people, there can be several different factors that contribute to their exhaustion. It is a good idea to talk through the issues with a trusted friend or family member.

Once someone understands what is causing their emotional burnout, they can come up with solutions. Taking a break is generally a good idea as it can help the individual to look at their world with more focus.

Finally, it’s essential to switch to a healthy lifestyle while those emotional batteries are recharging. Better food choices and exercise can have a profound effect on our sense of wellbeing and do so in a very short time.