Burnout is subtle. It creeps up on you slowly. How do you know if you are burning out?
I know well the face of burnout. I found myself questioning my motives, feeling guilty, and being greatly misunderstood. Sometimes I was shamed for not “working enough!” I found very few helpful resources. I discovered that most people did not understand the causes and signs of burnout.
What are the signs of burnout?
As a professional counselor I have researched burnout. According to the best research available on the subject there are three aspects of burnout:
1. Perception of Inequity/Unfairness/Injustice
When you start to feel like you are getting the short end of the deal, being mistreated, under-appreciated… You may be burning out. Equity means that you get at least enough “payment” that compensates for the effort, work, and pain you put into a relationship or project. When a person is burning out they experience feeling cheated, under-paid, not appreciated enough, trashed, abused, taken for granted, etc.
2. Emotional Exhaustion
When you start to run out of emotional gas you know something is wrong! Some signs might be that you cry for no apparent reason. Your energy and motivation is low. You feel wasted. It may be hard to get out of bed. This may be a depression coming over you. In many cases a depression is a form of passive anger. This kind of anger is related to abuse and/or violations of personal boundaries.
When you start to resent or feel bitter towards those you serve and/or love relationally or professionally, then something is wrong. When you see them with fangs like vampires ready to suck your blood instead of individuals that you care for, then you are burning out. This may be a sign of being a co-dependent person who needs to be needed. Persons with poor personal boundaries are susceptible to being taken advantage of by needy opportunists. Like a vacuum cleaner, they suck the life out of you and then leave an empty shell behind as they look for another host to attach themselves to.
These are the three basic signs of burnout. Don’t wait to get help. Don’t wait until your work becomes a “scorched earth” where you cannot return ever again. Get help from those who understand burnout and it causes.
Watch a video by the author on the subject:
Are You Burning Out?
Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in private practice and teaches at the Miami Dade College. He can be contacted via his web site at http://www.DrSam.tv