Being in the military can be very hard on service members and their families. The daily lifestyle is not for everyone and not many last. On top of the everyday stuff like field rotations and the wonderful “hurry up and wait,” many also deal with deployments that can put a heavy strain on even the strongest of individuals, families and couples. Deployments can feel like they are never ending until you get that long-awaited news of an accurate and solid return date. The excitement can be wonderful and even being back home can be great until “real life” and what you brought back from deployment starts to show its ugly face.
You may start to notice upon your return that things aren’t the same. You may be fighting Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms or just extreme stress. Your family may be going through their own set of issues as well. Families and friends left behind have been taking care of things during your absence and often they have reached the end of their rope too. We call this burnout for your family and for you. Burnout is very difficult to define because the definition is very broad. Burnout means that the “total psychic energy of the person has been consumed in trying to fuel the fires of existence.” Simplify that and it’s “you are mentally and physically exhausted by just trying to meet all the challenges of life.” Symptoms of burnout occur after being exposed to long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situations. Here is what you may feel:
* Physical depletion
* Feelings of helplessness
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Negative self-concept
* Negative attitude towards work, people and life itself
* Loss of energy
* Physical exhaustion
* Mental exhaustion
* Emotional exhaustion
Many vets state that they don’t have PTSD, but for some reason they feel utterly exhausted, and even with sleep, they never feel as though they are rested. This is a prime example of a person experiencing burnout and being totally unaware of it. You may start to notice that even with sleeping aids you still aren’t getting a good night’s rest and regular tasks at work that used to be easy are becoming very demanding and are exceeding your ability. Unlike PTSD burnout does not occur with one single event. Its onset is slow and insidious. Any accumulation of stress can lead to burnout, and deployments are stressful. Being able to identify burnout can be helpful for yourself and as a battle buddy. Recognizing that your battle is in one of these burnout stages can help in minimizing symptoms.
Stage 1- Enthusiasm – The person throws himself into work with high hopes and unrealistic expectations
Stage 2- Stagnation – The worker starts to feel that personal, financial, and career needs are not being met
Stage 3- Frustration – He starts to question effectiveness, values, and efforts
Stage 4- Apathy – He’s now displaying full burnout and chronic indifference to the situation
Another symptom of burnout is when you start seeing within yourself that you are acting differently than you used to, or family and friends are commenting that you are not acting the way you used to. Other signs are abusing alcohol or drugs, chronic absenteeism, increased risk taking, complaining, loss of enjoyment, tardiness, and being accident prone. Recognizing these behavioral changes can be helpful in alerting yourself and those around you. Here at Battle in Distress we want you to be able to recognize and acknowledge these signs and symptoms of burnout, and ask for help before things get out of hand. Please reach out if you need help. We will be discussing treatment options in future blogs.