Burnout seems to be scarily common at the moment, and for a number of reasons. I wanted to write this piece to explain what burnout is, the reason why it occurs and what we can do in our daily lives to help manage it.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is when you are emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted and drained due to excessive and prolonged stress. It is brought on when you feel overwhelmed, fatigued and not able to meet constant demands.
Burnout reduces your energy levels and your productivity leaving you feeling hopeless, helpless and with nothing more to give.
The negative effects of burnout appear in all different areas of your life - your home life, work life and your social life, where you become distant, too tired to do anything and increasingly negative. Burnout can also affect you physically too as you are more vulnerable to flus and colds and other illnesses which arise due to being run down.
Here are some classic symptoms of burnout:
Feeling tired and drained most of the time
Headaches and muscle pain
Change in appetite or sleep patterns
Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
Feeling overwhelmed and over committed
Feeling ill frequently
Sense of failure and self-doubt
Increase in anxiety
Lack of motivation
Negative mood or swift mood swings
Increase in negative outlook
Detachment and feeling alone
Decrease in satisfaction
Withdrawing from responsibilities
Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope
Taking out frustrations on others
Skipping work or changing hours of your own accord
Why Are We Burning Out?
We burn out for a number of reasons but mainly due to excessive work and responsibilities and not making the time for the rest and downtime we need.
Burnout can be caused by your job, when you feel like you have little or no control over your work or a lack of recognition or reward for good work. When you have unclear or overly demanding job expectations or doing work that is monotonous or unchallenging. Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment will also increase the chances of burnout.
Burnout can also be caused by your lifestyle choices such as working too much and not giving yourself enough time to socialise or relax, or taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others. It could also be due to a lack of close and supportive relationships or even just not getting enough sleep.
Personality traits can result in burnout too. Being a perfectionist with a tendency to think that nothing is ever good enough or the need to be in control with a reluctance to delegate to others can cause burn out. If you have a pessimistic view of yourself and the world around you, this could also lead to burn out, but generally, it is those who have a high-achieving personality who suffer the most.
To add to the above, our chances of getting burnt out are increasing due to the Pandemic. This sudden change to our life and to the world around us has seen a significant amount of stress in us all, with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety on the rise. Not only this, working from home has proven more difficult than we initially thought due to the lack of physical social interaction, the increase of unnecessary consecutive video calls and the inability to switch your work life off, resulting in the blur between work and home life with distractions everywhere. Working from home with children has not been easy either! Not only this, the Pandemic has also made us face ourselves. Instead of being blissfully unaware and coping with our lives as they were, we were made to look at ourselves and our lives, leaving us no option but to make changes. Whether this be a redecoration of our homes, additions to our hobbies, the assessment of our friends and family or even divorce! Living in intense environments has led to more burnouts due to us being more mentally and emotionally drained and more physically exhausted than usual.
How To Manage Burnout
Whether you are seeing the signs of an imminent burnout or whether you are already past the breaking point, the first thing to do is to recognise that you are burning out. When you start seeing the classic signs, noted above, you know that you are well on the way to becoming burnt out - if you are not already there.
When you have been able to recognise that you are reaching burnout, stop doing what you are doing. Pressing forward and pushing through the mental and physical exhaustion will only make matters worse and cause more damage. Now is the time to stop and change direction.
Once you have stopped, the next thing to do is change what you are doing. Not only in that moment - such as take a break for a few days and maybe seek help and support if you need it but also think about changing what you do going forwards to prevent future burnouts with self-care.
Self-care you can do in the moment:
Take a break for a few days - go away for a little while and get out of your normal routine to give yourself some space and a new surrounding. *my favourite*
Make yourself a cup of tea and put your feet up
Create something beautiful by crafting
See friends and family
Seek professional support
Walk in nature
Book a spa day/break *another one of my favs*
Basically anything that promotes rest and taking yourself out of your current situation that feels good.
It is important that you rest until you actually feel rested - not just when you think you should return to your responsibilities. It can take a few days, it can take a week - accept this, like you would with any other illness, and know that you will be in a much better place when you have taken the time to get yourself feeling like you again.
Be around others. Reach out to those closest to you such as your partner, your friends or your family. Be more sociable with your colleagues. Limit your contact with negative people. Connect with a community or a cause which is meaningful to you. Find new friends!
Look at your work life. Find balance in your work life by changing your routine or changing your work hours - if you are able to. Take the time for regular breaks and regular time off. Make more friends at work. Try to find value in your work, think about how what you do has a positive impact, bigger than yourself, on others - What is your purpose? Ask for help if you need it!
Re-evaluate your priorities. Set boundaries around yourself - your time, your space and your workload. Take regular breaks from technology and social media. Be creative! Set aside time to relax - you do need it and you do deserve it. Get plenty of sleep.
Exercise. Exercising is a key element of your routine - or at least is should be. It burns off stress and anxieties, it boosts your mood by releasing happy hormones and it gives you a sense of achievement. Even if it is just walking for 20 minutes a day, running, swimming or dancing, find time in your routine for regular exercise.
A healthy diet. What you put in your body has a big effect on your mood and your energy levels. By eating healthily on a regular basis, you will boost your mood, your energy levels throughout the day and your mental strength. Even if it is a portion of fruit, salad or veggies with every meal, you are on the way to preventing that dreaded burnout!
Burnout is pretty brutal and can affect all areas of your life and how you see yourself. I hope the information above helps you to recognise burnout when it seeps in, gives you the confidence to stop what you are doing and provides you with the knowledge and tools you need to be able to make changes and prevent yourself from burning out in future.
Lots of love,