Burnout

We can’t have a stress response all day, no rest in between, repeat in infinity and expect to thrive. That’s modern life bonkers.

Man with perspective

Burnout, occupational burnout, exhaustion disorder or once in a while even chronic fatigue syndrome seems to be used quite interchangeably. As long as everyone knows what we’re talking about that’s just fine – and the point is that it’s caused by stress without sufficient recovery for a longer duration, generally months, and can make people extremely disabled and totally unrecognizable compared to how they used to be. It seems as if it’s almost exclusively a phenomena of society today – a consequence of the stress of modern life. Where stress have turned into one of the most common reasons for sick leave today with all its long term consequences. But are the usual treatment methods really effective? How are you cared for? Is it working?

Exhaustion and burn out in its real form will lead to plenty of issues. The ones below are some of the really common ones. Recognize any of them? They are at least some of the most debilitating.

Fatigue. Energy levels that once made you productive for eighteen hours a day are now depleting practically instantly when doing something – or more or less nothing – and they barely ever recharge.
Not to mention the extreme lack of energy in the BODY – not just the MIND.

Physical pain – everywhere, or in places without any good reason what so ever. Except… there might be a reason here. Psychosomatic pain from a brain signalling for help and doing everything in its power to try to pull the emergency break for a chance to rest and recover. Some common examples are headaches, back pain and spasms, trouble with the forearms/legs and hands/feet, making the hands and feet mostly painful and dysfunctional, rather than lovely tools you’d like to use. Perhaps some chest pain?

Stress intolerance. Stress you earlier thought of as nothing suddenly seems like the whole world is coming down over you – and you break. You can’t take it. All this pressure!? Was it always like this?!

Worse memory, brain fog and actually feeling stupid because the brain simply won’t cooperate as it used to. Perhaps as a consequence from the long term stress, that gave plenty of cortisol, which practically acts like a toxin for the nerves and, according to some, could even produce brain damage.

Emotions. Did you always have all of those? Did you usually get annoyed and irritated by such minor things – or cry for such minor details?

Sleep, this once lovely thing – where are you now? Nowadays it’s exhausting even to sleep. Or try to anyway. If you get any at all, in between the episodes of sleeplessness. Do you sleep anything or are you rather just rolling around in bed all night?

Depression sneaks in; helplessness, general tragedy and misery starts to be the new common theme of life.

Anxiety might creep up on you in one way or another. A new, but kinda blurry, discomfort around doing a simple thing like shopping for groceries or walk through town. Perhaps you planned something fun like going to a restaurant, travel somewhere or just go to the movies – and suddenly you stumble upon your first panic attack?
Does your heart usually race?

Gastrointestinal issues you’ve never had before suddenly start showing up?

Sensitive to stimuli like sound and lights?

Dizziness for no apparent reason along side a bunch of the other symptoms?

Perhaps you don’t suffer from all of them. If you don’t, I’m glad. But these are all common – and they are quite horrible in and of themselves. They are some really relevant things to tend to; they are far from the whole situation, but parts that are ordinary to relate to in case you are exhausted. The lovely part is that they ARE without a doubt possible to influence, change and affect without medications. I can be your guide and help you. If so, we will start out by mapping out a far bigger picture of life than just the above and then work on pinpointing what’s causing trouble – and change it.

Stress is a very general wear and tear. It’s wide and a little here and there – which might be why it varies what people get bothered by once they really do get bothered enough to care. Once the weakest link of the chain really breaks – and that weakest link varies – it might get serious. Some get depressed, some get panic attacks, some get CVD, some get pains aches and/or fibromyalgia.

Some get burned out – or “exhaustion syndrome” and bothered by plenty of symptoms, of which some might persist for quite some time. The exhaustion syndrome, which is a diagnosis in some countries come with certain criteria.

  • Physical and psychological symptoms of exhaustion under at least 14 days as a consequence of one or several identifiable stress factors which have been there for at least six months.
  • Notably declined mental energy dominates the picture. Less productive, less stamina or longer recovery time after mental work.

At least four of the following have been present practically daily for the 14 days:

  • Hard to focus [suddenly incapable of doing more than one thing at at time, keeping track of a conversation] or remember [names, places, dates, where you put things, parked car, find words]
  • Notably harder to handle stress and pressure, such as doing something timed. Intolerance to stress; trying gives anxiety, and increase the dysfunction of focus and memory.
  • More emotional, unstable and irritable. Bad mood, easily provoked.
  • Physical fatigue and weakness.
  • Physical symptoms such as pain, heart racing, upset stomach, dizziness or sensitivity to stimuli.
  • Sleep disruption, sleeping more or less than before.

For a diagnosis the patient “should suffer from the problem” or have a decreased function in social- or work related situations where it can’t be as a result from drugs, medication or other illness such as depression, panic syndrome or GAD.

It usually consists of a few phases, where it’s a decently long process to get it. It won’t happen over night.

Build up

– Work consists of handling stress, challenges and demands. Speed, perhaps an unsafe environment and things are unfair. Conflicts and you lack control.
– At home there’s something else, if you do have any free time to spend at home. Perhaps people to take care of, illness, conflict or bothering economics?

Once one do crash and burn the situation often get obvious. You’ve been way too busy and it just went over your head for months, years or perhaps even “practically always”. But you kept going bravely. Ambitious and thorough, that’s who you are – and perform – that’s what you do! You’re a doer, you help and you achieve. At any cost. You rest and sleep less, ruminations and brooding start, cognitive symptoms appear or perhaps it starts with weird pains and aches.

Acute phase

Sudden and often something you really notice. Practically a break down of some sort, so it’s common to really know when and where. Some break down in the office and cry under their desk, some drive to their old work place they haven’t been at for years – and once there they have no idea how to get in “because the key doesn’t work?!” – and once they get what they’re doing they have no idea how they got there or why. Some just don’t get out of bed one day. They can’t. The body just won’t do it. There’s nothing you can do about it.
The cognitive symptoms and fatigue suddenly hits. You might get some sort of black out, confusion, or disorientation.

Recovery

Symptoms regress and capacity increase. But if it’s done without decent control and competence it’s often confusing, irregular, slow and sometimes completely incomprehensible without any pattern what so ever. Unless there’s a dramatic change in relation to what you did in the build up-phase, this might take years (if it ever gets done – there are those who’ve kept going for 15+ years and don’t have the capacity to work to this day).

People often hope for a week off – and then they’re back at it, but the going back is never sudden. If you got here you worked hard to get here. It wasn’t achieved easily and there’s a journey back. You can’t force getting better, but you can create the conditions necessary for recovery.

Memory, concentration, stress intolerance and a hard time with pressure are usually the most persistent symptoms. If you really did do something about it early enough the recovery time might be weeks, if you didn’t – years.