Have you ever felt emotionally drained, overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands that are placed on you? Does every task seem daunting and exhausting? You may be suffering from burnout. There is a difference between being stressed and burnout, although the latter is a result of prolonged stress. Stress is a result of too many physical and mental demands, however a stressed person can imagine getting things in order and feeling better. A person suffering from burnout feels not enough, empty, mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation and caring. People in this situation often don’t see any hope of positive changes.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion brought on by excessive amounts of stress over a long period of time. The negative effects of burnout spill over into every aspect of your life, including work life, home life and social life. It can even cause changes in your body, making you more vulnerable to illness, so it is important to deal with burnout promptly.
Signs and Symptoms
Almost everyone experiences days where they feel helpless, overwhelmed, overloaded and underappreciated, days I like to call “head under the covers”. However if more of your days are like this than not, you may be on your way to burnout or already there. Symptoms can be subtle at first, but can get worse quite quickly.
-feeling tired and drained most of the time
-headaches and muscle pain
-change in appetite and sleep
-sense of failure and self doubt
-feeling helpless, defeated, trapped
-decreased sense of accomplishment
-loss of motivation
-using food, drugs, alcohol as coping mechanisms
-withdrawing from responsibilities
-taking out frustrations on others
Causes of Burnout
Burnout often stems from your job or too many responsibilities, but it can be a variety of factors right down to your personality traits, for example perfectionists and type A personalities will be more prone to burnout. What you do in your downtime to your outlook on life can all contribute to how susceptible you will be to burnout.
Whether you recognize the warning signs or you’re already in full blown burnout mode, trying to keep going and not addressing the problem is the worst thing you can do, leading to further physical and emotional damage. Dealing with burnout requires the three R approach.
RECOGNIZE- watch for signs and symptoms
REVERSE- Undo damage by asking for help and support, manage your stress
RESILIENCE- Take care of your physical and emotional health
Reach out to people you care about, talk to someone you trust and who can listen without judgement to what is going on in your life. Developing and working on friendships in the workplace can assist in job burnout. Limiting contact with negative people can be an effective tool in managing your outlook. Practicing self care which has been discussed in a previous blog, is so important for balancing your life and focusing on something other than what drains and stresses you out. Working to find value in yourself and your work is an important step to maintain health and happiness.
Reevaluate your priorities
Burnout is a sign that cannot be ignored that something in your life is not working. Take a break and really think about your goals, hopes and dreams. You may not realize that you have been ignoring something that is really important to you. Discover what brings you true happiness, and if you are repetitively doing something that does not, let it go. Reflection and time to rest and heal is very valuable.
Learn to say no, and don’t overextend yourself. Saying no to things your heart isn’t fully into will allow time for commitments that really speak to you.
Taking a break from technology and tapping into your creative side can redirect your brain and activate your body’s relaxation response.
Last but not least, getting sleep, exercise and eating a well balanced diet will help you to manage and avoid any future episodes of burnout. We hear it time and time again, but making yourself a priority is key to be able to be your best for others without dread or the “head under the covers” feeling creeping in.