From @BlessTheMessy Instagram
Burnout is a very real thing that affects a lot of people.
The problem is that it can be kind of challenging to tell whether the way you feel is because of the normal stress of day-to-day life or if it’s something more serious.
It can also be hard to know what to do to put an end to burnout once you’ve identified it.
In this article, we’ll talk about what burnout is, how to tell if you’re burned out (or heading in that direction), and what to do about it.
What is burnout?
First things first, let’s talk about what burnout is.
It’s more than just a sign of “working hard” and, even though it’s a popular topic these days, it’s not a NEW thing. In fact, the phrase was coined back in 1974 by psychologist, Herbert Freudenberger. A Holocaust survivor, Freudenberger was what people would describe as extremely driven and a bit of a workaholic. He worked as a therapist by day, usually working 12-hour shifts. Then, at night, he would treat drug addicts at his clinic. Over time, his nonstop work schedule started to get to him. In addition to chronic fatigue, he was also highly irritable, prone to angry outbursts, and was generally not a good person to be around, according to his family (NPR, 2016).
One day, all of the chronic stress and lack of sleep finally caught up with him when he was physically unable to get out of bed. That’s when he started self-diagnosing himself. He felt like what was happening to him wasn’t just depression or exhaustion. But he didn’t know the right word for it. So, he came up with his own: burnout. He came up with the term when he thought about the blank look on his drug addict patient's faces as they would watch cigarettes until they burned out.
Burnout is a state of overall exhaustion. It’s when you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted in the face of excessive and prolonged stress —especially when you feel like you can’t keep up with the demands that are being placed on you.
Burnout is very common in the workplace, but it’s also a big problem for people who do things where they are constantly “on the job”, rarely getting time off. And it’s only worsened when they feel unappreciated or underappreciated on top of being overworked. Some examples are moms (whether they stay at home or work outside the home) and caregivers who are constantly taking care of everyone and everything, but don’t normally get days off or shows of gratitude for their dedication.
Burnout can also be the result of:
Feeling like you have no say in your work or life
Being expected to do more than is reasonable
Doing work that feels meaningless or monotonous
Being in an environment that places a lot of pressure on you
Being in an environment that feels chaotic
Taking on too much
Trying to do the work of multiple people by yourself
Not getting a healthy amount of sleep
There are also certain personality types that are more prone to burnout than others. They include high achievers, Type A’s, perfectionists, pessimists, and “control freaks”.
How do you know if you’re burned out?
Burnout has a really significant impact on your overall health. It’s more than just feeling like you need a break or a vacation. When you’re burned out, it can impact every single area of your life.
Some of the effects or symptoms of burnout include:
Lack of (or lessened) productivity
Lack of interest in things you normally enjoyed
Lack of motivation to get things done
Low to no energy
Feeling tired all the time
Waking up feeling like you need a nap
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Feeling resentful of people, your job, your to-do list, etc.
Feeling like you’ve given all you have and have nothing left
Getting sick more often
Feeling like doing anything is a waste of time and/or energy
Feeling like there’s no end to the demands on your time and energy
Feeling like your to-do list never gets any shorter
Feeling constantly overwhelmed
Feeling like nothing you do makes a difference
Feeling like no one appreciates you
Change in eating habits
Change in sleep habits
Feeling like a failure
Constantly doubting yourself
Feeling like no one understands you
Feeling a deep sense of dissatisfaction with life
Feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything
Withdrawing from loved ones
Withdrawing from responsibilities
Constantly procrastinating or drawing things out
Using things like food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
Lashing out in anger at other people
Skipping work needlessly
Showing up to work late
Leaving work early
If you read through this list and could relate to several items, chances are you’re either burned out or heading in that direction.
So, what can you do?
From @BlessTheMessy Instagram
How do you treat burnout?
The first step to treating burnout is to recognize that you’re in the midst of it (or are on your way toward burnout). The next step is to figure out a way for you to manage stress in a healthy way. Having coping strategies in place can help you to alleviate the symptoms of burnout so you can have the clarity and energy to not only get yourself out of the burnout stage, but to prevent it from happening again.
Turn to your support network for help. This might mean asking for help or letting people know that you need to take some things off your plate. Some examples include:
Getting help with chores
Finding a babysitter to help with your kids
Just having someone to talk or vent to so you can get some things off your chest
If you don’t have a support system already, now might be a good time to either find one or build one. There are a lot of communities and groups out there built around common interests, backgrounds, or goals. Find a group of like-minded people and get engaged.
Take a Break
If at all possible, take a break from the things that are stressing you out. Use up your vacation time and sick days. Take a leave of absence if you have to. If you’re feeling burned out at home, consider going for a weekend vacation — or even a staycation at a local hotel. Unplug from electronics and social media if those contribute to your sense of overwhelm. Use the time to truly step away from it all and relax.
Speaking of relaxing, that’s a big one. You need to take time to decompress and really slow down. In addition to getting some good, restful sleep, you should also make it a point to engage in activities like yoga, meditation, and breathwork to help your body and mind rest after all the stress they’ve been under.
Are you an employer who’s concerned about burnout in the workplace?
I offer corporate breathwork sessions that can help the members of your team manage their stress and anxiety so that they’re happier, more creative, and more productive. I’ve recently facilitated breathwork sessions for Sony Music employees, Accenture, and teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
I’d love to talk to you about how I can help you cultivate a more positive work environment. Click here to learn more about my corporate wellness sessions.