Yesterday I stumbled across the notes from John Sturt (a well-known counsellor here in NZ) about the difference between stress and burnout. Here they are...
Burnout is characterised by disengagement;
Stress is characterised by over-engagement.
With burnout emotions tend to be blunted;
with stress emotions tend to be over-active.
Burnout leads to a loss of motivation and drive;
Stress leads to a loss of physical energy.
With burnout there is a demoralisation;
with stress there is a dis-integration.
Burnout leads to a loss of ideals and hope;
Stress leads to a loss of energy.
With burnout there can be this sense of helplessness;
with stress there can be this sense of hyperactivity.
Burnout leads to depersonalisation and detachment;
Stress produces panic and anxiety disorders.
With burnout people will say 'it is not worth it';
with stress people will say 'there is not enough time.'
Burnout leads to emotional damage;
Stress leads to physical damage.
I wasn't in a good space at the time and had gone along to his seminar. This distinction which he made was revelatory for me. I (and others) assumed that I was stressed in my job as a Principal. The discovery I made that day was that actually I am rarely 'stressed' in the job - but I do have this propensity to live close to the clutches of burnout. Now I am sure they can't be just split apart so easily ... but I do wonder how many people make the wrong diagnosis of the problem and then tend to seek the solutions in the wrong place as a result?!