Burnout has become an increasingly common concern in our lives. The desire to make ends meet and live the best life in a fast-paced world filled with multiple stressors has made us more susceptible to overworking and chronic stress. Generally, this exposure to excessive stress for prolonged periods causes us to feel overwhelmed and drained physically and emotionally. Consequently, we lose the edge and are unable to keep pace with the ever-growing demands.
It is worth noting that burnout is not exclusive to people working in formal employment. It is a problem that cuts across the board and affects even those working from home. I can attest to this fact, given that I do not work in formal employment.
I fell victim to burnout a while back. However, it took me some time to realize that this was not just stress. It was a hallowing experience managed using a series of approaches that helped promote recovery and prevent a relapse.
As I noted earlier, burnout is sometimes mistaken for stress or depression. On this note, understanding its dimensions, signs, and symptoms can help you identify it in good time and seek professional help for better outcomes.
How to Know When You Have Burnout
Burnout generally refers to a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that leaves one completely drained and unable to function and cope with everyday life demands.
It usually occurs when a person gets exposed to stress for prolonged periods without taking concrete steps to manage it. Essentially, burnout is a response to this persistent and unresolved stress.
It is generally challenging to determine whether one has burnout or chronic stress. However, asking yourself specific questions can help you know if you have burnout, allowing you to take action and seek appropriate help. Usually, these questions include:
- Do you feel physically, cognitively, and emotionally exhausted?
- Do you feel you lack enough energy to continue working?
- Do you regularly feel overwhelmed, helpless, and trapped?
- Have you become increasingly negative and cynical?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating on your work?
- Have you lost your sense of personal identity and goals?
- Have you become less productive at work?
- Do you feel less competent or ineffective in your work?
- Has your sleep behavior changed?
- Do you feel more irritable or impatient with other people?
- Has your work motivation significantly declined?
- Do you feel your job has become increasingly stressful and frustrating?
- Are you procrastinating or taking longer to start your assigned tasks?
- Do you feel more detached, disengaged, or withdrawn?
- Are you neglecting yourself and your responsibilities?
- Are you experiencing self-doubt?
- Do you feel increasingly dissatisfied with your achievements?
Burnout can sometimes manifest itself as unexplained headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems. People suffering from burnout might also overindulge in alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
Strategies for Coping with Burnout
Managing burnout is not an easy task. It is a process that requires time and demands your full attention. You have to be willing to take genuine steps to remedy the situation and improve your physical and mental health. The strategies below can help you move forward towards recovery.
- Identify the source of your burnout – The first step in managing this problem is recognizing elements of your life that may be making you feel burned out. In particular, you should identify the most significant stressors first and prioritize resolving them. It follows that burnout occurs due to long-term exposure to unresolved stress. Once you have pinpointed the source of this disabling stress, attention now shifts towards reducing exposure to it.
- Develop positive interpersonal relationships – You should generally focus your attention on building new connections in the workplace and other social circles. For instance, you should make new friends and revitalize your social life. You can use these new connections to distract yourself. You can also find an activity that helps you interact more with other people and activate positive relationships. For instance, volunteering can offer unlimited opportunities to socialize and allow you to do something meaningful for someone in need. Therefore, this activity can help you take a break from your stressful or demanding daily schedules.
- Talk to close friends or loved ones – You should also consider sharing your current struggles with burnout with a trusted friend, a family member, or your significant other. As a result, they will do what they can to help and support you through this challenging period. Talking to a partner can prove rewarding in the long run because they will not pressure you as you work through your burnout. Instead, they will support you in your journey to recovery.
- Avoid interactions with negative people – You should not associate too much with negative people because dealing with burnout partly entails improving your mood and developing a positive mindset. If you must interact with them, you should keep the time spent with them at a bare minimum.
- Reevaluate your views about work and life – Burnout often occurs when we have a negative perspective about work. However, when you start looking at your occupation in a positive light, you will likely learn to enjoy what you do. This change in attitude can help you develop a sense of purpose and a positive mindset. Consequently, you will regain control of your work and life, given that these generally intertwine. Making friends in the workplace might also help you reshape how you view your work. Having workmates with whom you share a few things can prove highly rewarding and assist you in coping with burnout.
- Take a break from work – Generally, work can act as a significant stressor and often plays a great role in the onset of the burnout syndrome. In particular, the high job demands can leave you physically and emotionally exhausted, especially if you do not have adequate rest. In this context, taking an interrupted break can help you deal with burnout and recharge your body, mind, and soul. You can use your sick days to take a vacation instead of converting them into equivalent pay. After all, your health is more important.
- Exercise regularly – Physical activity can equally help you cope with burnout. Exercising will particularly enable you to eliminate stress hormones and boost your mood. You can begin with less intense exercises like swimming and walking. As your energy levels improve, you can ease into more intense activities such as weight training. A recent study found that combining resistance and cardio exercises helps you minimize psychological distress, emotional exhaustion, and self-reported stress.
- Eat healthy meals – Consuming a healthy and balanced diet also helps with recovery from burnout. In particular, the anti-inflammatory properties of such a diet might help alleviate burnout symptoms. Healthy meals can further influence your mental well-being through the gut-brain axis, helping you deal with burnout symptoms.
- Get adequate sleep – Sleep also plays a critical role in your recovery from burnout. Adequate sleep can particularly help you rest and re-energize, with a significant impact on your mood. It also enables you to minimize the fatigue that comes with sleep deprivation and leaves you feeling refreshed. Otherwise, lack of a good night’s rest might negatively affect your recovery, worsening your burnout.
- Participate in a personally meaningful project or cause – Taking pleasure in a personally important project or cause can equally help you cope with burnout. Such an undertaking can shift your focus away from everyday life demands and provide an escape for your mind. Consequently, it can help you heal emotionally and boost your feeling of personal accomplishment, positively impacting your recovery.
Here are some resources from renowned authors you could use to learn more about burnout and effective ways of addressing it. Click on the image for more details.
Mayo Clinic Strategies To Reduce Burnout: 12 Actions to Create the Ideal Workplace (Mayo Clinic Scientific Press)
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