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Age or Exhaustion? Unraveling the Complexities of Burnout in Midlife

As we navigate the fast-paced demands of our workaholic culture, it's essential to pay attention to our well-being and recognize when stress and exhaustion will take a toll on us.

So, what is burnout? Burnout occurs when we try our best to keep ourselves together, but then one thing after another piles up emotionally, mentally, and physically, making it hard to cope until we just don’t have the strength to continue - we are on the verge of a breakdown.

Woman sitting on sofa feeling frustrated
“Relaxing brings weakness, when done by a muscle; but brings strength, when done by a person.”― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

When we experience fatigue and reduced performance, it can be challenging to distinguish between signs of burnout and signs of aging. Here are three easy points to help you out, whether you are an employer or an employee!

According to WHO, there are three main characteristics of occupational burnout: being fatigued and exhausted, cynical, negative, and disinterested at work, and experiencing boredom, loss of joy, and enjoyment.

  1. Fatigued and Exhausted: Some workdays can be physically draining, especially when coupled with hot flashes and lethargy due to perimenopause, leaving a woman completely drained of energy and feeling exhausted.

  2. Cynical, Negative, and Disinterested at Work: Workplace issues can result in a complete loss of interest. Unrealistic expectations from managers, frequent disagreements, and constant arguments with colleagues can leave individuals feeling disheartened, prompting a desire to distance themselves from the workplace and its people for a while.

  3. Bored, Loss of Joy and Enjoyment: Another scenario is when work is no longer enjoyable, and a woman feels useless at work with no motivating reason to continue. This can occur when she is not doing the job she desires, cannot find meaning in her work, or when the dream job fails to live up to expectations, leading to a sense of stagnation.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Burnout

Fatigue is a vasomotor symptom which is often confused with burnout experienced by working women in their 40s. This is one among the many symptoms that women face. However, a menopause tracker is able to confirm whether the symptoms experienced by a woman are indeed those of vasomotor symptoms.

Both burnout and aging can manifest in various physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. These symptoms may overlap, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Aging may lead to similar effects as burnout, which includes memory lapses, reduced energy levels, and irritability due to physical discomforts, decreased concentration, and disrupted sleep patterns. However, burnout can also reach a point where a person begins to feel a lack of empathy towards others and a sense of indifference. It may seem as if accomplishing anything is impossible. These feelings can exacerbate physical issues such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle soreness, eating disorders, and even reliance on alcohol for solace and loss of motivation.

It is crucial to recognize that burnout can affect individuals of any age, while aging is a natural process that everyone experiences. We have to get better at identifying symptoms and patterns, which can then help in understanding the root cause.

Analyzing the Triggers

So, how do we distinguish the two? It is essential to assess the triggers leading to the above symptoms! Burnout is often a result of prolonged stress, excessive workload, or a lack of work-life balance.

On the other hand, aging-related declines may occur gradually over time due to changes in hormonal levels, metabolism, and body functioning.

It is, therefore, important to reflect on recent life events and work conditions, as it can provide insight into whether the challenges you face are related to work-related stress or part of our natural aging process!

Seeking Support

Whether the root cause is burnout or aging, the most important thing is still to seek social support from family and friends.

For burnout, here are some DOs: consider talking to your supervisor or HR department about workload management, flexible work options, or access to counseling services. And what better way to reduce stress than through easy and fun activities like exercise, meditation, gardening, personal hobbies, and journaling.

What's next...?

Both burnout and aging are normal parts of life, but with proper attention to self-care and well-being, we can all thrive while aging and strive to achieve a healthy work-life balance that benefits our overall health and happiness!


Important Notes:This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for specific advice on your health. This article has not been reviewed by any medical professionals or legal bodies.



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