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Burnout is more than just stress


Burnout occurs when someone is in a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Understanding burnout

In life’s ups and downs most humans experience occasional stress when feeling the pressure that comes with daily life. Stress is a natural response to perceived, or real threats, and not necessarily a sign of disease. Burnout, however, is more than just stress. It occurs when someone is in a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Just as a battery burns out when it is so depleted it can’t be recharged, burnout is a state of “vital exhaustion” and identified as a problem related to “life management” difficulty. It is becoming increasingly common, with pandemic-induced burnout a pressing issue as people experience ever-increasing pressure in their daily lives, particularly at the workplace. (1)

American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first used the burnout metaphor in the 1970s to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in the helping professions, such as doctors and nurses. (2) At the time the term was an expression used in the illicit drug scene and “colloquially referred to the devastating effect of chronic drug abuse”. (3)

Even though burnout is one of the most widely discussed mental health problems in today’s society, there is no consensus among the experts about its diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosing someone with burnout is problematic because it is not recognised as a mental disorder. While experts don’t always agree on what burnout is one common characteristic is that most of the problems are work-related. Rather than family or financial stress, burnout is a psychological syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. So a picture emerges of a frazzled worker burning the candle at both ends. (4)

Many herbs are suitable for self-care. However if a health condition does not resolve with home remedies we recommend using the information in Herbal Reality along with your health advisors, especially herbal practitioners from the professional associations listed in our Resources page (‘If you want to find a herbalist”). When buying any herbal products, you should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and sustainability practices. Check the label carefully for the appropriate safety and sustainability information.

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