- A new book is suggesting a new approach to diagnosing and coping with burnout.
- The authors say we need to move away from just treating the symptoms of burnout and focus on the underlying causes and how to resolve them.
- Experts say burnout can lead to depression as well as declining performance in a person’s job.
- They say self-care is an important part of coping with burnout.
As the calendar changes from 2022 to 2023, an age-old pattern repeats itself.
People return to their lives and careers after the holiday break, often with an ambitious set of New Year’s resolutions.
While it’s important to set goals for oneself, a combination of factors including seasonal illnesses, short days, and stress in general can lead to burnout.
A newly released book – Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery – seeks to create a new model for dealing with burnout.
It’s one, they say, that’s easier to diagnose and treat as well as giving people a set of tools to help themselves along the way.
Most people have an intuitive understanding of what it means to feel burnt out, but the clinical diagnosis is more confusing.
Gordon Parker, PhD, a co-author of the new book and a professor of psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told Healthline that he looked at 40 years of clinical research on burnout, most of which was based around the triadic, or “3D” model.
This model looks at three symptoms: exhaustion, loss of empathy, and decreased work performance.
Parker details in the book a new model, one which looks at underlying causes and how to resolve them.
“First, we complete a valid measure or consult an expert to confirm the diagnosis and thus exclude other psychological states such as depression or physical ones such as anemia,” he explained. “Then, identify the triggers – [the book has] an appendix that people can complete capturing recognized drivers such as work stress, role conflict, and so on, and design constructive strategies. Discuss it with relevant people such as one’s partner or work superior. Then, apply de-stressing strategies – the best seem to be mindfulness and meditation. Then, modify any predisposing personality style.”
While Parker emphasizes that it’s possible for anyone to return to normal after a period of burnout, significant changes may be necessary for some.
“A break and tweaks to life/work ratio may suffice,” he said. “If one is burned out, they may need a dramatically different career. Our key finding is that whether one is burning out or being burnt out, a return to normal functioning is achievable.”
Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist, professor, and writer in New York, told Healthline about some of the warning signs of impending burnout.
“Psychomotor symptoms, including stomach pains, headaches, and body pain all speak to the way in which stress is stored in the body,” Romanoff explained. “Because burnout is related to perception, the way in which the person views their job will be affected. Someone who is burned out will likely feel more cynical about the work and the people they are surrounded by. In turn, they may dissociate from work to cope and become more distant. Burnout can drain emotional energy, leaving individuals tired.”
All of this adds up to reduced performance on the job – not because the person has become less competent, says Romanoff, but because their perception of their tasks and their work has become negative.
It’s a feeling familiar to many people and may lead to a change of career if things persist. But what steps can be taken beforehand?
Romanoff says that it’s important to look at individual areas of one’s life and career to determine areas where effort is leading to intended results – and likewise, areas where effort doesn’t seem to be paying off.
“The key is to consider the impact of one’s perception and ways to celebrate oneself when others are not about to do it for you,” she said.
Another helpful piece of advice is to consider the effects of delayed gratification versus instant gratification.
“Burnout can generalize to other areas of your life, as the general negative mindset can be applied to any area of life that requires effort and lacks immediate gratification,” she explained. “When it comes to things like fitness and healthy eating, remind yourself of the delayed gratification and external motivation factors. Also, find ways to focus on healthy sources of instant gratification, like spending time with friends, taking a walk, or getting a runner’s high.”