Are you suffering from 'burn out'?

Do you feel tired, fed-up or irritable? Have you lost interest in work, hobbies or sex?

If the answer is YES then you could be suffering from "stress burn-out".

For years doctors have recognised that stress is the biggest killer around. It causes - or makes worse - a staggering nine out of ten illnesses.

But stress doesn't just cause physical symptoms and diseases such as asthma, eczema, heart disease, high blood pressure and indigestion.

Stress - too much worry - can also cause a type of exhaustion known as "burn-out".

Burn-out is more than just tiredness.

People who suffer from "burn-out" have lost their fight and their will to go on.

They struggle through each day with no clear idea of what they're doing - or why!

To help you find out if you're suffering from burn-out take time off to answer these simple quiz questions.

If you have difficulty finding time to do the quiz then you're almost certainly burnt-out!

Answer each of these ten questions as honestly as you can.

1. Do you wish you could just run away from everything?
score 0 for "no"
score 1 for "very occasionally"
score 2 for "regularly"
score 3 for "all the time"

2. Do you suffer from any of these physical symptoms:
poor appetite
difficulty in getting to sleep
score 1 point for each "yes" answer

3. Do you feel - inexplicably - that you're under the weather (as though you're recovering from the flu):
score 0 for "no"
score 1 "yes for several weeks"
score 2 "yes for several months"
score 3 "yes for over a year"

4. Have you lost interest in sex:
score 0 for "no"
score 1 for "yes a bit"
score 2 for "yes quite a lot"

5. Are you irritable, picky and bad-tempered:
score 0 for "never"
score 1 for "occasionally"
score 2 for "quite a lot"
score 3 for "all the time"

6. To get you through the day do you need:
lots of coffee
tranquillisers or other prescribed drugs
any illegal drugs
score 1 for each "yes" answer

7. Has your interest in work or hobbies declined:
score 0 for "no, not at all"
score 1 for "yes, a bit"
score 2 for "yes, quite a lot"
score 3 for "yes, a tremendous amount"

8. Do you feel miserable:
score 0 for "hardly ever"
score 1 for "yes, a bit"
score 2 for "yes, quite a lot"
score 3 for "yes, nearly all the time"

9. Do you worry about taking time off or going away on holiday because no one else can do your job:
score 0 for "no"
score 1 for "yes, a bit"
score 2 for "yes, quite a lot"
score 3 for "yes, every time I think about having time off"

10. Do you feel bored and uninterested in your life:
score 0 for "no"
score 1 for "yes, a bit"
score 2 for "yes, quite a lot"
score 3 for "yes, all the time"

Now - if you've still got the energy - add up your score.

If you scored 20 or more then you're suffering from a severe case of "burn-out". First you need a break - a good holiday. At the moment you're not only damaging your health but you're also working way below your best. "Burn-out" damages creativity and effectiveness. When you get back from your holiday make sure that you allocate more time to rest and relaxation. Remember - all work and no play can burn you into a cinder.

If you scored between 10 and 19 then you're still at risk - though things aren't yet quite as bad as they will be if you don't do something fast! Make sure that you allocate more time for "fun" things. Spend time on yourself. And try to plan a holiday away from the daily grind.

If you scored 9 or less then you'd still be sensible to take care - unless you scored 0! "Burn-out" can creep up on you quickly and unannounced. And it can ruin your health and your life. The more conscientious you are, the harder you work, the more responsible you are - the more you're likely to suffer from it!

Ten ways to save yourself if you are suffering from burn-out:

1. Be prepared to admit when you're feeling tired. Accept that if you keep on trying to work when you're exhausted you'll not only make yourself worse but you'll also let yourself - and the people around you - down. You can't do your best work when you're suffering from burn-out.

2. Learn to manage your time as efficiently as possible. Plan your day. Keep a diary so that important engagements and commitments don't suddenly creep up on you.

3. Beware of stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco or alcohol. You may think that they help you get through the day but all can damage your health and make you MORE not less susceptible to stress and pressure. 4. If you feel ill take time off. Don't think that you're indispensable and must carry on. the cemeteries are full of people who thought they were indispensable. Life goes on without them. If you feel ill your body is telling you that it needs to rest. Remember that regular holidays are important - and make sure that the holiday you choose is relaxing!

5. If your life is full of battles and arguments make sure that you take time out to relax and enjoy yourself.

6. Physical exercise is a great way to get rid of frustrations, angers and disappointments. But if you haven't done any physical exercise for a long time get yourself back into the swing gently.

7. Make sure that you get enough sleep. If you have difficulty in relaxing at night try having a hot bath before you go to bed. Don't do any work for at least an hour before you try to get to sleep. Watch a relaxing video or read an amusing or entertaining book. Poor sleep is a symptom of burn-out - and it makes things steadily worse.>

8. Learn to say "NO". Don't let yourself be tricked into taking on too many responsibilities by people who know how to make you feel guilty! Get your priorities sorted out and remember that you - and your family and friends - need some of your life.

9. Try to forget when things go wrong. Remember that you can't get anywhere in life without taking risks or without making mistakes. Try not to brood but try to learn from your mistakes. Otherwise your bad days will smoulder and add to your burn-out.

10. Stand up for yourself when it's important but be prepared to walk away from arguments when it isn't important. People who never stick up for themselves often burn up with indignation. But people who are always complaining burn themselves out with anger. Think carefully before allowing yourself to get heated up. If it's important then do what you think is right. If it isn't important then try to shrug your shoulders and walk away.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2003