It’s getting towards the time of the year when you might feel more overwhelmed than usual. There are work projects to finish and perhaps exams in the family. Not to mention the pressures of organising holidays or gifts. Burnout is a real possibility.
Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having three main symptoms – exhaustion, loss of empathy and reduced performance at work.
Australian research argues for a broader model, particularly as the WHO’s third symptom may simply be a consequence of the first two.
So what is burnout really? And how can you avoid it before the holidays hit?
More than being really tired.
The Australian research model endorsed exhaustion as the primary burnout symptom but emphasised burnout should not be simply equated with exhaustion.
The second symptom is loss of empathy (or “compassion fatigue”), which can also be experienced as uncharacteristic cynicism or a general loss of feeling. Nothing much provides pleasure and joie de vivre is only a memory.
The third symptom (cognitive impairment) means sufferers find it difficult to focus and retain information when reading. They tend to scan material – with some women reporting it as akin to "baby brain".
Research suggests a fourth symptom: insularity. When someone is burnt out, they tend to keep to themselves, not only socialising less but also obtaining little pleasure from interactions.
A potential fifth key feature is an unsettled mood.