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Recognizing the warning signs of burnout

Oct 01, 2005
By dvm360.com staff

The most idealistic, sensitive, and empathetic caregivers tend to be most at risk for burnout. Watch for these warning signs:

• Chronic job dissatisfaction. A good day is one when you’re less dissatisfied rather than happy.

• A constant or frequent sense of urgency. You’re impatient and frustrated with anything that causes delays—even if there’s plenty of time. A few examples: hurrying other people by finishing their sentences; driving irritably; fidgeting, sighing, or looking at your watch while waiting in line; taking over a task when you think you can do it faster; thinking about the next task while doing the one at hand; constantly feeling competitive; or making life a numbers game by basing your self-worth on the money you earn, the number of cases you see each day, and so on.

• New compulsive behaviors or the worsening of mild ones. Done compulsively, even apparently healthy behaviors can be signs of stress or burnout; for example, dieting, exercising, working, or even reading can be compulsive. The more your anxiety increases if you don’t do something, the more compulsive you are about it.

• An escape mentality. This tendency toward absenteeism and inefficiency may show up as long lunches, leaving early, cutting back on work days, or recurrent conversations about changing professions or moving away.

• Tendency to dehumanize clients or easily lose patience with animals. Seeing clients and animals as problems is a red flag for burnout.

• Deep pessimism and self-doubt. You sense that you’re out of control or a victim of life circumstances. You’re possibly even contemplating suicide.

• Troubling physical symptoms, such as severe exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, disturbed eating patterns, headaches, jaw clenching or teeth grinding, or sexual disinterest.

• Relationship problems, especially with your spouse or children.

• Emotional outbursts or withdrawal from others.

• Excessive drug or alcohol use.

• Repeated illness.

• Lack of interest. Do you rarely participate in activities you formerly considered fun and relaxing?