Recognizing the warning signs of burnout
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 delayseven 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?