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  • Burnout: The Three Types and How to Cope

  • Exhaustion, inefficiency, and cynicism are the three main elements of burnout. When we feel burned out, we do not have the emotional energy to invest ourselves into work.

    However, everyone responds differently to burnout. Why do people's experiences with burnout vary so much? A team at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Zaragoza in Spain delved into this topic:

    Burnout is considered a uniform condition with relatively consistent symptoms resulting from prolonged exposure to chronic stressors in the workplace. […] Clinical experience, however, shows that burnout is manifested in different ways that can be classified depending on the level of dedication with which individuals cope with work-related tasks.

    The Subtypes

    The researchers who studied burnout defined three types.

    1. The worn-out worker. This person is emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. When things do not turn out as well as they expected, they stop trying. Thus, they become unmotivated and passive.
    2. The under-challenged worker. This is the person who feels like their work does not offer the opportunities to develop their abilities. The conditions around them are not stimulating, which results in boredom and a lack of personal development.
    3. The frantic worker. This is the opposite of number two. This person keeps working even though they feel overwhelmed and overloaded with work. They work incredibly hard in search of success but to the point of exhaustion.

    So, how can we deal with burnout?

    Coping Strategies

    Interestingly, the researchers found that the key factor for developing burnout is the "degree of passivity that the subject acquires." In their paper, the team listed 15 different coping strategies used by people experiencing burnout. You may notice that some coping mechanisms are healthier than others.

    1. Cognitive avoidance
    2. Distracting activities
    3. Positive reinterpretation
    4. Personal growth
    5. Focus on solving situations
    6. Restraint
    7. Denial
    8. Acceptance
    9. Venting of emotions
    10. Behavioral disengagement
    11. Planning
    12. Substance use
    13. Humor
    14. Religion
    15. Social support

    Seeking social support, using humor, planning the workload, accepting the psychological struggle, focusing on solving the problem, and reinterpreting our challenges are constructive coping mechanisms.

    However, the earlier you can identify the signs of burnout, the better. Burnout can inhibit creativity and impact your mental health. Instead of trying to "push through it," get support and take a break.

    What type(s) of burnout have you experienced? Let me know in the comments below!