STRESSED OUT: Physical and emotional exhaustion are some of the symptoms of work burnout.Picture: Pixabay

Are you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, having trouble sleeping, finding it difficult to focus, forgetting things often, and prone to illnesses?

You could be suffering from a work burnout. 

According to experts this time of the year (approaching third quarter) is the worst time of the year as far as work stress is concerned, with many experiencing depletion of energy, particularly those who haven’t taken any leave throughout the year.

Melany Hendricks, principal clinical psychologist at Stikland Hospital, said burnout was a psychological syndrome, which manifested as a sustained reaction to enduring interpersonal stressors within the work environment.

The fundamental defining symptoms of burnout are extreme exhaustion, fatigue, detachment, cynicism about the value of your occupation and a decrease in the experience of personal achievements.

She said the latest research on burnout and depression showed a significant overlap and interrelation between these two conditions.

Dr Anthony Koller, a specialist psychiatrist at the Akeso Psychiatric Clinic Group, said: “Although there may be multiple factors that lead to burnout, it seems the workplace environment can be key in the development of burnout.

“We know that individuals who work ‘on the frontline’ insofar as their job entails interacting with other people continually on a daily basis are at higher risk. This may be because interpersonal relationships are often intense and expose individuals to high levels of emotional stressors.”

Other causes of burnout include working long hours, having large workloads, and strained relationships with colleagues.

But just as the work environment was absolutely key to the development of burnout, “so too are the personal characteristics of the employee, the nature of the personal relationships and so much more”, said Koller.

There was no prescribed amount of time that one should take leave, he said, but it was important to take “enough break” from work, and people should be mindful of one’s own physical and mental health, and take note of exhaustion symptoms to avoid a fully-blown burnout.

“Most intervention strategies to avoid burnout focus on the individual and the importance of self-care.

“At work, change the pattern of working, take more breaks and achieve a better balance between work and life outside of the workplace. The latter means that one must avoid working too much and sometimes working overtime should also be scaled down or avoided completely.”

Take breaks during working hours such as tea and lunch breaks as prescribed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Koller said it was best to have your lunch away from your workstation so you could “shut down” for a while and rejuvenate before tackling more tasks.

It is also advisable to spend some lunch breaks with colleagues who can provide support when things get tough at work.

On an individual level, one should aim to improve coping skills. This includes conflict and time management skills as well as changing the way in which you handle work stressors. Social support from family members, friends and colleagues, are important in managing works stress, as well as improving one’s level of fitness and physical health.