Get to burnout before it gets to you
There’s been a LOT happening this past 18-months and we’ve all done our very best to keep going and hang in there through it all. But I’m really struck by how exhausted people are as we re-enter the world and all its busy-ness, especially on the build-up to Christmas. There’s a big difference though between exhaustion and burnout so this week’s blog is about recognising those early-warning signs and symptoms with a view to catching it before it depletes us fully.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
Signs and symptoms of burnout:
Most of us have days when we feel helpless, overloaded, or unappreciated—when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, however, you may be burned out.
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but 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 actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore them, you’ll eventually burn out.
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout:
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
- Frequent headaches or muscle pain
- Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses
- Change in appetite or sleep habits
Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout:
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated
- Detachment, feeling along in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
Behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout:
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope
- Taking out your frustrations on others
- Isolating yourself from others
- Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
- Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
Burnout vs stress:
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.
Dealing with burnout:
Whether you recognise 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.
The ‘three R’s’ of burnout:
- Recognise: watch for signs of burnout
- Reverse: undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress
- Resilience: build your resilience by taking care of your physical and emotional health
Strategies for dealing with burnout:
- Turn to other people – those closest to you, be sociable with your co-workers, seek out people who you share a common interest with, limit contact with negative people, find new friends
- Reframe the way you look at work – try to find some value in your world, find balance in your life, make friends at work, take time off
- Re-evaluate your priorities – set boundaries (everyone LOVES this one!), take a break from technology, nourish your creative side, set aside relaxation time, get plenty of sleep
- Make exercise a priority
- Support your mood and energy levels – minimise sugar and refined carbs, reduce caffeine, unhealthy fats, chemical preservatives/hormones, eat more omega-3 fatty acids, avoid nicotine, drink alcohol in moderation
If you need some support with burnout, we have a team of therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing – please reach out to us at: email@example.com / 03 9077 8194.