Are You a Candidate for Burnout? This Test Will Let You Know


Burnout -- blahs that drag people down for months -- strikes male and female workers, students, homemakers.

'Women are at greater risk for burnout than men and, among women, homemakers are at greatest risk,' says Dr. Rosalind Forbes, psychologist and expert on stress management.


Those at least risk? The self-employed. People who own and run their own businesses.

Marks of burnout include futility, exhaustion, loss of control, boredom, frustration, loss of motivation, anger, depression, lack of feeling, inability to make decisions and more.

What causes burnout?

'Prolonged negative stress,' said Dr. Forbes. 'The victim is exhausted psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually.'

Dr. Forbes, founder of Forbes Associates Stress Consultants of New York City, for eight years has worked with executives from over 50 corporations, all 'Fortune 500' firms, and wives of executives - showing how to channel stress into positive management force.

She also has counseled numerous executive and management level men and women on how to recognize, prevent and deal with burnout.


Be you male or female, single or married, making your living running your own business or working for someone else, or working for no pay running a family and home, you can size yourself up as a possible candidate for burnout.

Dr. Forbes has devised a test titled: 'Are You a Candidate for Burnout?'

It carries a 'Copyright 1981, Forbes Associates' but Dr. Forbes, who preaches about burnout with missionary zeal, gave United Press International permission to put the test in this dispatch on burnout.

There are 20 questons on the test and the instructions go like this:

-Check those questions which apply to you, on a scale of from 1 to 4.

-Put down a 4, if you strongly agree; a 3, if you agree; a 2, if you mildly disagree; a 1, if you strongly disagree. Put the numbers on the blank, or blank space, in front of the question.

-When finished, add the numbers.

The test:

Are You a Candidate for Burnout

1. Do you find yourself frequently upset or irritable?

2. Are you performing your job carelessly or mechanically?

3. Do activities you once enjoyed no longer interest you?

4. Are you withdrawing from key relationships in your life?


5. Are you less communicative with close friends or loved ones?

6. Have you overextended or overcommitted yourself in terms of time or energy?

7. Are you tired of it all, feeling mentally or physically drained?

8. Do you find there is no time for relaxation or recreation?

9. Have you lost your sense of perspective,catastrophizing minor setbacks?

10. Are you suffering more physical complaints: headaches, insomnia, frequent colds, fatigue?

11. Do you have a hostile or cynical attiltude towards others?

12. Have you unrealistic standards of behavior or performance for yourself?

13. Is your general feeling one of depression or sadness?

14. Are you working harder but accomplishing less?

15. Do you dread going to work in the morning?

16. Do you try to do everything equally well?

17. Is your day filled with constant frustration and dissatisfaction?

18. Do you feel you are inadequately compensated for the work you do?

19. Are you unable to laugh at yourself?

20. Do you feel you are more forgetful than usual? Example: appointments.

(Copyright,1981, Forbes Associates.)

Add the numbers. Then figure the good or bad news according to the following key from Dr. Forbes.

-71 to 80. You have burnout.


-61 to 70. Mild burnout.

-51 to 60. Some warning signs you are a candidate for burnout.

-41 to 50. Good balance.

-20 to 40. No indication of burnout potential. ('You may be in a job of underutilization,' said Dr. Forbes. 'You may be static or even moving backwards. You may be apathetic, bored and without motivation.' Hibernating on the job? 'That's one way of putting it,' Dr. Forbes said.

Forbes Associates copyrighted definition of burnout:

'Burnout occurs in a situation where prolonged emotional stress mentally and physically exhausts an individual so that they no longer care about their work, key emotional relationships or activities which once interested them.

'It develops when negative, frustrating experiences become the norm in a person's life.'

The person in the throes of burnout might try to block feelings by overindulgence in food, drink or tranquilizers, Dr. Forbes said.

Here are some things the psychologist said happen, in varying degrees, to a burnout victim or on the brink of burnout.

-Physical: Prolonged loss of pep, spanning months. Minor complaints last longer. Fatigue, insomnia. Day in and day out, you are drained.

-Psychological: Feeling of not being appreciated. Feel situation, events and people are out to get you. Magnify problems. A general sense of boredom. Not intellectually alert all the time.


-Emotional: Social withdrawal. Withdrawal from meaningful relationships. Bottle up emotions. Withdraw into self.

-Spiritual: Self-esteem and sense of confidence deteriorate. Question self worth, values, life commitments. Spiritual energies sapped by feelings of futility.

So what if the test shows you are a candidate for burnout?

'Back off,' Dr. Forbes said.

And make yourself some safety islands. Take a night out. Make time for yourself. Take walks. Get into a sport.

For homemakers this could mean turning one's back on a sink full of dishes or even the week's cleaning chores.

If you don't take the responsibility to make time for yourself, no one will do it for you and you will be the loser, Dr. Forbes contends, speaking of the homemakers at risk.

'Eliminate what is draining you and try to put some balance into your work or your schedule,' she said.

By that Dr. Forbes said she means even if you have a big project that is very unenjoyable, put it on 'hold' now and then. At that point, tackle some job that is enjoyable and one that you can carry to completion in a relatively short time.

Burnout is hard on the person going through it but it is hard, too, on people around them -- fellow workers, family and other loved ones, Dr. Forbes contends.


'What compounds the problem is that the person going through it does not recognize what is going on,' she said.

The treatment for burnout?

It depends on the individual. A long vacation -- even a year's leave of absence may be the prescription in one case. For another, putting safety islands into the daily, weekly or monthly routine might be what works.

'You need to make trade-offs,' Dr. Forbes said.

For homemakers and all others whose days are filled with great stress, the psychologist said survival without burnout 'rests on self-responsiblity.'

'You must make people around you aware that you need time for youself and then you must take the time,' she said.

How can anyone at risk prevent burnout?

'Set aside time for you,' she said. 'Not a pill or a few days off. You must do it on a regular basis. And you must try to reverse what is not working. Above all, stop dwelling on the negative and failures.'

When negative thoughts fill your mind, she suggested, just say to yourself, 'Stop.' Say it emphatically.

Then, switch to the positive at once. Replace the negative thoughts with good pictures of yourself.

'Focus on achievement and other positive aspects of your life.'


Dr. Forbes received her stress management training at the University of Colorado Medical Center's biofeedback laboratories and earned her doctorate in humanistic psychology and human devleopment from the University of Northern Colorado.

She has recently completed two books on managing stress, 'Corporate Stress' and 'Life Stress' -- both published by Doubleday. She has been a guest lecturer at the Wharton Graduate School of Business, Harvard, Management Center of Europe, American Management Association -- among others.

'Know yourself,' Dr. Forbes said. 'You have limited time and energy.

'Remember you have only one life to live and try to live it to the fullest.'

A saying of old, way before the era of biofeedback and psychologists and such, might have been right on target, in fact -- 'All work and no play makes Jack (or Jacqueline) a dull boy (or girl).'

P.S. A high pressure job is no certain route to burnout. And neither are long hours. Dr. Forbes has found only those who don't enjoy their high pressure work or long hours are likely to become burnout victims.

adv for fri dec.

Latest Headlines