If I Have the Symptoms of a Burnout, What Should I Do?
Our society seems to value work above all else. That makes it very important to be able to identify the symptoms of a burnout, and to respond appropriately.
As someone whose focus is Jungian, I will be emphasizing an inner perspective on burnout. What goes on inside of us, consciously and unconsciously, when we have the symptoms of a burnout?
It’s common to approach burnout by looking at the external factors, and scrutinizing the workplace environment of an individual who is experiencing burnout, and that ‘s perfectly valid. However, it’s also important to take seriously what is going on inside an individual and what is unfolding in their personal life, as a very important perspective on the story of burnout.
The Symptoms of a Burnout
The Mayo Clinic provides a good summary of the actual symptoms of a burnout:
- Increased cynicism or criticality at work;
- Increased difficulty getting to work and/or getting started working;
- Irritability or impatience with co-workers, customers or clients;
- Sense of lacking the energy to be consistently productive;
- Difficulty in concentrating;
- Lack of satisfaction from achievements;
- Sense of disillusionment about your job;
- Use of food, drugs or alcohol to self-medicate; or,
- Changes in sleep habits.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, they may indicate that you are suffering from a burnout (or, also that you might be suffering from depression). However, if you are suffering from burnout, the question still remains to be answered: why?
Inner Causes of Burnout
As I mentioned above, there are a wealth of sources addressing the external factors that might cause a burnout. As a primarily extroverted society with a “fix it” mindset, there’s a strong tendency for us to approach the symptoms of a burnout in this particular way. We find it easy to look at management, workflow, relationships with co-workers commute times and many other external factors as giving the key to understanding burnout. Not that looking at these factors is wrong! An individual may need to change elements in their work life or workplace, or, indeed change workplaces to address their burnout. Yet, it can be very important to realize that this is often not the whole story.
So, what is the “inner” story of burnout? If we look at this issue from an internal, more psychological perspective, the root causes of burnout may be seen to vary greatly from individual to individual. They are associated with a wealth of important questions that require individual answers. To list just a few:
- Does the type of work I’m doing fit with my personality type?
- How much space should work occupy in my individual waking life?
- What are the things I want in my life besides work?
- What is really important to me? What things in life carry real meaning for me?
- Do I have an addiction to self-abusive overwork?
- Has my family and life experience taught me to neglect myself?
- What aspects of myself are trying to emerge and be acknowledged by my conscious mind? How do those aspects relate to my work life?
- And last, but certainly not least: Who am I, really?
If an individual doesn’t explore these inner factors related to symptoms of a burnout, it will tend to make him or her focus solely on external solutions. He or she may well miss important dimensions of his or her life journey that are trying to come into focus, and that underlie “the symptoms of a burnout”.
What Burnout May be Asking of Us
It’s very important to consider that, in addition to external factors that need an external fix, the symptoms of a burnout may be a manifestation of something that is trying to emerge in our lives. This may be something that has the potential to contribute greatly to our overall consciousness of ourselves and our journey towards wholeness.
In the midst of burnout, there may be great value in working with a supportive and insightful Jungian. It can be essential to look at what is emerging for us at a time like this, on both the conscious and unconscious levels, and to hear the voice of the greater Self in the midst of our particular struggles.
With best wishes for your personal journey,
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario