Developed by Richard L. Roberts, PhD.
Copy, print out and complete offline.
The following items are typical symptoms of stress exhaustion or burnout recognized by leading authorities. These symptoms are broken down by category. Review your work and personal life over the past six months and check any symptoms that you’ve experienced on a regular basis.
Indicate your rating of the degree to which you experience each symptom in the blank next to that symptom using the following numbers:
1 = occasionally on and off; 2 = regular at least a few times a week or more over the last 6 months; 3 = most of the time over a period of a year or more.
_____ tension in body
_____ weight change
_____ frequent or lingering colds
_____ stiff neck/neck pain
_____ digestive upsets
_____ muscle aches
_____ back ache
_____ grinding teeth
_____ skin problems
_____ frequent illness
_____ fatigue & low energy
_____ lack feelings of wellness
_____ heart/organ problems
_____ free-floating anxiety
_____ feeling stuck
_____ mood swings
_____ bad temper
_____ frequent worry
_____ feel worthless
_____ lack of joy
_____ dissatisfaction with life
_____ dull senses
_____ distracted easily
_____ overly analytical
_____ negative attitude
_____ spacing out
_____ negative self-talk
_____ more rigid in outlook
_____ debilitating doubt
_____ feel isolated
_____ intolerant of others
_____ feel lonely
_____ being critical
_____ avoid social situations
_____ lack of spontaneity
____ nagging others
_____ lowered sex drive
_____ less intimate w. friends
_____ bad relationship choices
_____ need to ‘prove’ self
_____ loss of caring
_____ frequent arguments
____ accident prone
____ lashing out
____ lack sense of humor
____ frequent TV watching
____ avoiding responsibilities
____ increased alcohol, drug or tobacco use
____ crying spells
____ low frustration tolerance
____ covert hostility
____ more suspicious
____ act aggressively
____ frequent escapism
____ extremely busy
____ regular outbursts
Add the numbers together for each category and mark down the total score below. Then add all the category scores together to get your total overall score.
Physical score ________
Emotional score ________
Mental score ________
Social score ________
Behavioral score ________
Total Score (add all the subtotals together) ___________
View your overall responses to the checklist. Do you have numbers in all or most of the categories? One of the signs of burnout is that it affects you in all or at least most categories above.
Now review your totals for each category. Obviously, the higher total means you are more affected by stress and burnout in that particular category. Stress affects people in different ways. The main thing to look at is your particular trigger, when you are burning out, so you can stop and change things.
Determine your level of burnout by using the scale below:
0-30 – Low chance of burnout, more likely it is stress unless your individual ratings were all or mostly 3’s. If that is true, place your self in the next level down.
31-90 – Definitely affected by stress and depending on the length of time you experience these symptoms, could be transitioning into burnout.
91-150 – High chance of burnout, particularly if many of these symptoms persist more than a year. This score indicates potential difficulty in recognizing your joys, your truths and expressing your deeper self in your life and work.
151-240 – High burnout candidate. This requires immediate attention, especially if it is affecting your physical health. More immediate remedies should be considered to reduce your stress level as soon as possible.
If your scores were in the higher ranges between 90 and 240, then it is recommended that you explore this further.
The important thing to remember about burnout is that the primary determining factor for burnout is that it encompasses all or most categories. If you have more than a few “3” ratings in each category, you may already be experiencing the long-range effects of burnout. Keep in mind that this is merely an approximation of where you are in terms of stress and burnout.
Don’t let your responses to the above checklist alarm you. Burnout is reversible. It does however mean that it’s time to pay attention to your life and take a serious look at what you are doing to yourself. You are not alone. Many people in our society experience these symptoms on a regular basis as they are indicators of ‘the general neurosis of our time” or what Abraham Maslow called “metapathology”.
While information regarding stress overload and burnout is essential to living a healthy life, in terms of your life’s work, it is essential to know that these symptoms represent a natural outcome of cultural conditioning, the mindsets that have programmed you from early childhood to ignore your inner urges to self-actualize and express your creative capacities. As well, these symptoms indicate the habitual patterns you have formed that cause you to deal with life in pre-conditioned ways. You must be aware of these vulnerabilities and habit patterns or they can also creep into your life’s work. Yes, it is possible to stress out and even burn out doing what you love for a living because of old personality habits. Don’t let this happen. It is essential that you are aware of what is happening and then take steps to remedy it.
Looking at burnout from the perspective of your Life’s Work, burnout represents a state of resistance, resistance of your true being and what you really want to be doing. Something has to give eventually. If in burnout, you will probably have difficulty knowing what you really want in life, for currently nothing may look all that interesting to you. You could say you are simply stagnant.
Burnout can be defined as “excessive physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, usually due mainly to pressures from work”. Burnout is chronic as is consensus trance (cultural conditioning). Resisting your own inner nature, your True Calling causes stress. Burnout is what you get when you prolong stress for an extended period of time. To understand burnout, it is important to understand its precursor – stress.
What is stress? Stress formally defined is simply a demand placed on you that exceeds your ability to adapt. When the particular challenging situation requires you to respond in a way above and beyond your typical everyday responses to life, stress occurs.
What causes stress? What is interesting here is that the reaction of the physiology to stress is the same, no matter whether the situation is real or imagined, pleasant or unpleasant. As the level of intensity of demand goes up, so does the stress level. Common sources of stress documented by the American Psychiatric Association are:
No growth opportunities
Work no longer offers challenge
No tangible sense of making a difference
Feelings of lack of real accomplishment
Lack of balanced life
Poor ability to manage stress
Discrepancy between what you have and what you want
Difficulty w. decisions
Resistance to your present career
Sound familiar? Not doing what you love for a living is the fundamental source of these problems. You were born with a unique purpose and if you are not living that purpose, you will be stressed out, most likely burned out because deep down you know you are wasting your talents and potential. To sell out is to prolong the battle within. Resisting and denying your passion does not make the urge go away however.
How you react to these stressful situations as a human being follows certain stages. As you encounter a stressful situation, whether real or imagined, your physiology reacts to the increased demand on the system. The first stage, the alarm stage, is accompanied by certain physiological changes such as increased heart beat, increased volume of sugar entering the bloodstream, increased respiration, and blood being redistributed from the digestive system to the muscular tissue. The purpose of these changes is to prepare you to manage and confront the stressful situation.
You are faced with a choice: muster the will and fight or avoid the stressor by fleeing physically, emotionally or psychologically. This ‘fight or flight’ response is referred to as the General Adaptation Syndrome. Once triggered, the physiological response during the alarm stage is quite automatic and generally out of your control. Keep in mind that this first stage can serve as a warning that you are in some way going against your inner nature, your Truth.
In the next stage, the resistance stage, the body begins to repair the damage caused by these physiological changes and attempts to rebound to normal levels of functioning again. If the stressor is removed then you go back to normal functioning, however, if not removed, you continue to move to the last stage in the general adaptation syndrome.
The final stage, the exhaustion stage, occurs as a result of prolonged periods of exposure to the stressful stimuli. Bodily resources are depleted with consequent changes occurring such as prolonged fatigue, weakening of the immune system and the development of ‘stress related’ diseases such as ulcers, heart problems, etc.
Psychosomatic symptoms such as neck tension, headaches, ulcers, weight gain and heart problems are commonplace with the exhaustion stage. As individuals are confronted with these continual demands resulting from resisting their own growth, bodily resources become depleted. The exhaustion stage, which remains for a period of time, gets reclassified into burnout, becoming more pervasive and resulting in “excessive physical, mental and emotional exhaustion”.
What is interesting to note here is that each of the Stress Vulnerable types are prone to burnout, yet at the core, each of these Type stress patterns can be directly related to resistance, resistance to your calling and living your life to the absolute fullest. It comes in handy to know your type, so you can begin to notice when your particular patterns are getting ignited and what you are doing to sabotage your actualization. Knowing your tendency towards stress and burnout will help to reveal the particular ways you may be resisting your higher good.
What you can do about burnout?
It is important to realize that burnout has taken some time to occur, so it may also take some time for it to subside. Burnout is not just something that goes away if you continue to ignore it or try to medicate it away however. It is a symptom of a deeper dis-ease. This dis-ease was created by pushing and forcing yourself to do things that you do not really want to be doing, or doing them in a way that is creating anxiety rather than inner peace.
What burnout teaches you is to break the old habits of the personality. It teaches you that you are not living your truth. As we have examined earlier, our creative energy is divided and redirected towards our existing cultural paradigms. Staying busy fulfilling the demands of the ‘business of living’ and convincing yourself that you are making progress in life when you really aren’t moving towards what matters most is stressful. Prolonged exposure to stress leads to burnout.
The starting place, the remedy, is to recognize your truth. Get back in touch with the real you and stop forcing yourself to stay in situations that are burning you out and requiring you to “fit in” like a square peg in a round hole. In essence, burnout occurs when you thwart your own growth and your own yearning to live in alignment with your life’s work. You have a fundamental need to grow, expand, and succeed. Giving up on this fundamental need creates and prolongs burnout. In contrast, recognizing your truth means awakening to what brings you joy.
JOY TRANSFORMS BURNOUT.
It is the most direct and simplest method to relieve burnout. Do what brings you joy. This means right now, start doing what brings you joy, whatever it is. As burnout starts to subside, then follow through on clarifying and expressing your life’s work, which will help to eliminate the possibility of burnout long term.
While the literature offers many immediate and long-term remedies for burnout, such as time management, relaxation techniques, conflict management skills, etc., the most powerful remedy for reversing burnout is simply doing what you love. If you purchase the seminar workbook and work through the process of self-transformation, pay particular attention to the Moments of Joy and pick some things to do that you can start doing today. As you do this, you will reawaken your authentic self and your deeper passions.
You may also want to seek professional advice on this matter. Be gentle with yourself and when the symptoms of burnout begin to subside, you can return to this process of discovering your life’s work with a greater openness, energy and joy.