Ece Gürkan / Burn-Out

10 May 2024

Whenever burnout syndrome is mentioned, I can't help but think of the famous scene by Burhan Altıntop. In his robe, Burhan Bey* describes this syndrome while having breakfast at “Iffot’s”, saying, "This is the disease of top-level executives who take on too much responsibility and are under too much stress, burnout syndrome, I'm toast." Is Burhan Bey right? Are only top-level executives affected by this disease? Does it really stem solely from too much stress and responsibility?

The World Health Organization defines it as "a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." They say it's not a disease but a professional phenomenon, yet in many European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, France, and Hungary, it's been recognized as an occupational disease. From this definition, we understand that it encompasses not only top-level executives but everyone. In fact, newer approaches argue that burnout syndrome can also occur in individuals who undertake excessively demanding family caregiving roles. 

Burnout syndrome can have multiple causes:

  • The abundance of situations we feel obligated to do but don't feel a sense of belonging to. For example, working in a profession that we don't enjoy and that doesn't align with our values.
  • Prolonged and intense work periods such as exam seasons. Particularly, healthcare sector workers are at risk.
  • Being constantly exposed to situations where everything is expected to be done urgently. This can disrupt the body's hormonal balance due to prolonged high levels of stress.
  • Providing long-term care for someone, individuals who care for family members who are ill or have a significant disability can also experience burnout.

So, what are the symptoms? Research has listed the common symptoms of diagnosed burnout as follows:

  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Anxiety, inability to relax
  • Apathy, lack of empathy
  • Cognitive issues (lack of concentration and memory impairment)
  • Decreased performance
  • Physical issues (body aches, appetite disturbances)
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal, inability to enjoy social activities

What should one do to recover?

Of course, first, we need to be able to diagnose burnout. The recovery process can vary from person to person and situation to situation, but it can start with focusing on the underlying cause. If burnout came with a heavily worked exam period, it's a temporary condition, and by dedicating more time to ourselves and increasing self-care after the exams, we can recover. However, if it's a result of a continuous situation, you may need longer-term and more radical changes. For example, if you are a caregiver, you might consider increasing your support system and seeking professional help. If you're in a profession where you don't feel a sense of belonging, you might explore ways to transition into a job that better suits you and your values. Conversely, if you're doing a job that you feel a sense of belonging to and pride in, but the high pace of the job is causing you to overlook other needs, you may need to slow down occasionally to recognize, prioritize, and allow yourself to speed up.

In summary, let's think of life as a journey. To walk a long road, we need the right pace, the right shoes, and a load we can carry. When we can't find balance, our energy depletes rapidly, and we need to stop and rest to be able to continue on the journey. The symptoms of burnout remind us that something is not right and that we need to rest. Is our load too heavy, are our shoes too tight, or are we walking too fast? These are the questions our bodies ask us during a burnout-induced break.

*Character from the TV series "Avrupa Yakası"

 **Burnout, Gordon Parker, Okuyanus Yayınları

Ece Gürkan