What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. This occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. This can spiral out of control when the triggers are not accepted and addressed. In other words, ‘ignored’. As the stress gradually continues and increases, you begin to lose interest, motivation and clarity that led you to take on a certain role or path in the first place.
Research shows that burnout reduces productivity, effectiveness and can sap the energy out of you, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. Does this sound familiar?
The negative effects of burnout can over-spill into every area of your life—your home, work, and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away. Don’t brush it aside. Stop and think about what is going on…become more self-aware of your thoughts and emotions and how this may be also affecting you physically.
Are you on the Road to Burnout?
If so, You may be feeling that:
- You’re exhausted all the time.
- You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
- Every single day is a bad day.
- Caring about your work or home life is a total waste of time and energy.
- The majority of your day is spent procrastinating or on tasks that you find dull or overwhelming.
What is the difference between stress and burnout?
Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.
Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.
Stress vs Burnout
|Characterized by over-engagement.||Characterized by disengagement.|
|Emotions are over-reactive.||Emotions are blunted.|
|Produces urgency and hyperactivity.||Produces helplessness and hopelessness.|
|Loss of energy.||Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope.|
|Leads to anxiety disorders.||Leads to detachment and depression.|
|Primary damage is physical.||Primary damage is emotional.|
|May kill you prematurely.||May make life seem not worth living.|
The causes of burnout
Burnout often stems from your job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout, from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation in years, to the frazzled stay-at-home mom tending to kids, housework, and an aging parent.
But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home demands.
Work-related causes of burnout
- Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
- Lack of recognition or reward for good work.
- Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
- Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenged.
- Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment.
Lifestyle causes of burnout
- Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing.
- Lack of close, supportive relationships.
- Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others.
- Not getting enough sleep.
Personality traits can contribute to burnout
- Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough.
- Pessimistic view of yourself and the world.
- The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.
- High-achieving, Type A personality.
What signs and symptoms should you look out for in burnout?
It’s normal to sometimes have days when we feel helpless, overloaded, or unappreciated—when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of a superhero. However, if you feel like this constantly and most days, then you may be on the road to burnout or already burned out.
Burnout is a gradual process and often we take this for granted and ignore the signs and symptoms due to fear, ego, or from being judged by others. Remember that it doesn’t happen overnight, and it can creep up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. If you pay attention and begin to actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out. I know this from my own personal experiences.
What are the physical signs and symptoms of burnout?
What are the emotional signs and symptoms of burnout?
What are the behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout
How do you deal with burnout?
Whether you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout or you’re already past the breaking point, trying to push through the exhaustion and continuing as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage. Now is the time to pause and change direction by learning how you can help yourself overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again.
Dealing with burnout using the “Three R” approach:
Recognize. Watch for the warning signs of burnout.
Reverse. Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress.
Resilience. Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
The following tips for preventing or dealing with burnout can help you cope with symptoms and regain your energy, focus, and sense of well-being.
Tip 1: Ask for help/ Talk to people
When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone take action to help yourself. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and get your life back into balance. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.
Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress and talking face to face with a good listener is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors; they just have to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without becoming distracted or expressing judgment.
Reach out to those closest to you, such as your partner, family, and friends. Opening up won’t make you a burden to others.
In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship.
Limit or Remove contact with negative people. Hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain will only drag down your mood and outlook. If you have to work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend together.
The power of giving. Being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure and can help to significantly reduce stress as well as broaden your social circle. Even small things like a kind word or friendly smile can make you feel better and help lower stress both for you and the other person.
Socialise more with your colleagues and/or find a new circle of friends. Developing friendships with people you work with can help buffer you from job burnout. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smartphone, try engaging your colleagues. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.
Connect with a cause or a community group that is personally meaningful to you. Joining a religious, social, or support group can give you a place to talk to like-minded people about how to deal with daily stress—and make new friends. You may find and come across meetings and interact with others coping with similar workplace demands.
Tip 2: Reframe your thinking
Whether you have a job that leaves you rushed off your feet or one that is monotonous and unfulfilling, the most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit and find a job Of course, for many this may be far from being a practical solution. Whatever your situation, though, there are still steps you can take to improve your state of mind.
Reflect and evaluate to find some value in your work. Even in some mundane jobs, you can often focus on how your role helps others, for example, or provides a much-needed product or service. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy, even if it’s just chatting with your colleagues. By changing your attitude towards your job can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.
Find balance in your life. If you hate your job, look for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life: in your family, friends, hobbies, or voluntary work. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, make a conscious effort to take a complete break from work. Go on a short break, use your sick days, request for a temporary leave-of-absence/ sabbatical- anything to remove yourself from the unhelpful situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and pursue other methods of recovery and self-growth.
Tip 3: Re-evaluate your priorities
Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your visions, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? Are you truly aligned with what you are doing? Does, what you are doing bring you purpose and fulfillment in your life? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal. Do not be afraid to ask yourself those hard questions.
Setting boundaries and expectations. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say the magic word ‘No’ (to requests on your time). This feeling of saying ‘No’ can truly be empowering. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying ‘No’ allows you to say ‘Yes’ to the commitments you want to make on your terms.
Take a daily digital detox. Set a scheduled time each day when you can completely disconnect from any technology- put laptops away, switch off phones, stop browsing social media and checking emails.
Nourish your creativity. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Do something new, or something you love that you haven’t done for a while due to life stresses and commitments taking over. Choose activities and projects that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.
Self-care time. Look at and explore arrange of relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing that activate the body’s relaxation response- a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. Find what works for you where it also allows you to become more mindful of your present moment and state.
Better your sleep pattern. Lack of sleep can lead to feeling tired and can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally and feel much more irritated. A good night’s sleep greatly reduces these symptoms and keeps you more level-headed.
Boost your ability
- Learn how to reduce stress at the moment.
- Manage troublesome thoughts and feelings.
- Motivate yourself to take the steps that can relieve stress and burnout.
- Improve your relationships at work and home.
- Rediscover joy and meaning that make work and life worthwhile.
- Increase your overall health and happiness.
Tip 4: Make exercise a priority
Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out, exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. You do not have to be a gym bunny. It is about movement- a movement that gently raises the heart rate for a period of time.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. Did you know that a 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours?
Think about how you can move both your arms and legs, as this hugely affects the uplifting of your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body.
Remember, in order to ensure stress relief happens, you need to focus away from your thoughts but focus more on your body and how it feels as you move: the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, or the feeling of the wind on your face.
Tip 5: Support your mood and energy levels with a healthy eating
I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying, ‘You are what you eat!’ What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol temporarily reduces concerns, however, too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.
Reduce/ avoid smoking when you’re feeling stressed. This may seem to give an initial calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Reduce sugar and refined carbs. Cravings for sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries can be so inviting but are temporary uplifts the mood. Eventually, these high-carbohydrate foods can quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
Reduce or avoid high intakes of foods that can adversely affect your moods; such as caffeine, unhealthy fats, and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones. Instead, eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost. The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Final words: I hope that this article has given you some deeper insights into how you can begin to avoid a full-blown Burnout! Keep the stresses at bay and address them before the fire begins and becomes out of control.
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