Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Can we talk about burnout?
2021 may have sprinted past you if you have been bogged down by work, deadlines, reports, meetings and more deadlines. If your energy and even level of productivity is starting to wane, if you’re dissatisfied with a job that you feel is absolutely perfect for you, if you wake every morning with that “I’m already exhausted!” or “Not again!”, then you might be dealing with BURNOUT.
What is burnout?
a term coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the severe stress condition to leads to severe physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.
Because we live in a world that values work and productivity, burnout is often summed up as stress and exhaustion one feels from their jobs. However, it’s so much bigger than that. Burnout can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking or relationships. After going through a whole global pandemic, lockdowns and their own adverse effects, it’s only logical that most of us are burnt out from being at the edge, from witnessing so much loss and grief for a long period of time.
What burnout looks like:
The zeal and excitement that you had for certain activities disappears. Even activities that are part of your work or home life that you originally enjoyed start to feel like chores. Furthermore, it’s hard to start and complete even the simplest tasks that you are perfectly capable of acing.
Your body and mind are tired but you are unable to get a full night’s rest. You either keep waking up at night or are unable to fall asleep. Your sleep is disturbed because your mind is always buzzing, the wheels are always turning to figure out how to handle all the tasks that are on your plate. Even when you do get to sleep for 8 hours or more, you do not feel fully rested.
Your mind is never in the present. You often find yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to be on holiday or to stay in bed all day or to be left alone. Everything, anything else seems more interesting and more appealing than what is before you. You also tend to procrastinate because you hope for some form of escape from your tasks.
Chronic exhaustion or fatigue.
Chronic fatigue occurs when both the mind and the body are drained of all energy by constant rushing and over-scheduling. The long excessive hours of work heighten stress levels, compounded by increasing emotional turmoil and self-doubt.
Burnout makes it hard to mentally or even physically show up either at work, to meet ups with friends or family, at home or even for yourself. You may physically show up but mentally you find yourself tuned out. For those that do not show up physically, there is a tendency to prefer self-isolation. Social interaction is more difficult because you have no mental room to process what is happening in your present environment. It might also be difficult because your burnout has caused you to become more irritable with other people.
Anger or frustration.
People are constantly getting on your nerves. Irritability originally stems from feeling worthless, unproductive and a growing perception that you’re not able to do things as productively as you wish to or once did. This can interfere with the relationships in your life and destroy your relationships.
Headaches and muscle pain, pain in your back or shoulders. The list is endless. High amounts of stress can affect your immune system and deplete your energy making you more prone to illness.
Driving forces of burnout
Rigidity and stubbornness.
Fixation with details
Reluctance to delegate
Excessive work and obsessive productivity
How to cope with burnout
Pay attention to your body
Have you lost your appetite? Are you more short-tempered and irritable around people? Are you sleeping well? Our bodies speak to us. We just need to be more in the habit of listening to the messages they are sending. By listening to our bodies more often, we can learn to take pause, tune out and rest when we need to. Burnout is a condition that can pop up at different stages and times in our lives and so doing this often will help relieve the strain before it becomes severe.
Acknowledge your fatigue
Speak aloud, “I’m tired!” Give yourself permission to name that emotion/feeling. We often default towards wanting or needing to be “fine”. We tell people how blessed we are and we’re doing well. But it’s okay to also say that life is exhausting. Tune it to the reality of your fatigue. You can do this with yourself, through journaling or even a conversation with someone you trust. A lot of times, simply speaking these words takes the shame and deceit away, making it easier to cope.
Think critically about your lifestyle
Do you work 20 hours a day? Does work and hitting targets give you a sense of value or place? Are you always available to your co-workers, your boss, family and friendships? Do these relationships and being able to do and be so much for others give you a sense of worth? Are you codependent? How can you shift the way you think about work, relationships or yourself? These are hard questions but thinking critically about what you overwhelm yourself, why you take on so much can be the key to dealing with your burnout and ensuring it doesn’t weigh you down again.
Boundaries and delegation
Saying yes to everything and everyone is taking up space in your mind and body and draining you. Finding rest can be simple as saying no to added tasks, saying yes to when people are willing to help you. This might be harder for you because you subscribe to the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or less than, it simply means you need help. But there needs to be a shift.
Getting a chance to kickbox a punching bag and exert all your frustrations on it might seem like the first solution for someone whose plate is perpetually full and wants to kick the world in the gonads. But even taking a walk around the neighbourhood can help clear your mind and bring you back to the present, take the time to breathe and find a form of release.
Rest and self-care
Take that nap. Take those full 8 hours of sleep. Take that break. Take that leave. Realise that your self-care is important. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as, turning off your phone or notifications, stilling still and listening to soft music for an extended period of time. It can be doing your laundry and dishes and preparing or ordering in a very tasty meal. It can be watching a movie. Self-care can also be deciding that work ends at 4.00 p.m., actually taking steps to stick to that boundary.
As the year draws to an end, take some time to ask yourself whether you are exhausted and work towards not carrying that with you into the new year.