Burnout is a response specific to work situations. This phenomenon is nothing new, but the term itself is identified as being most prevalent when there is a lack of social support, when we feel we are not valued in the workplace, or when the workload itself is difficult or unsustainable. 

When there is a lack of social support or we do not feel appreciated for our contributions, burnout feels inevitable. It leads to detachment and depression where it spreads gradually and continuously over time that puts us in a downward spiral from which it is hard to recover. Burnout affects our physical health, impacts our ability to perform optimally at work, and influences our sense of morale.

Symptoms of burnout include:

  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Difficulty with focus
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Feeling undervalued
  • Self-doubt
  • Loss of motivation
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and/or defeated
  • Blaming others
  • Isolation from others
  • Absenteeism (skipping work or leaving early/coming in late often)

What is important to know is that the symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout are comparable to PTSD. However, there are specific ways to manage the symptoms and feel like ourselves again. There are self-care strategies that make this possible such as setting and maintaining boundaries, mindfulness exercises, and daily tasks that can help us feel better. 

One of the keys in preventing and recovering from burnout and compassion fatigue is knowledge and awareness of the concept. While burnout is the result of not feeling supported or valued in the workplace, the very nature of therapy is about feeling supported and the goal is to diffuse the stressors that comprise the cumulative effects of both compassion fatigue and burnout. 

The focus for recovery is based on structured, meaningful ways to prevent CF and burnout in the future through empowerment and acknowledging strengths that help us maintain identity and increase our efficacy. In other words, we focus on the things that make us strong, that help us meet daily challenges, and we change the negative statements we often tell ourselves so that our worth is better defined by us; not by others. 

Making ourselves a priority means shedding some of the notions that have been ingrained in us from a social and cultural perspective. We can learn to set boundaries without feeling the guilt or shame that often comes with it by redefining and reprioritizing how we see and love ourselves.