What is Burnout?
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. It is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with your job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.
If your job is an unpaid one, for example to look after your house, admin, and chores or to be a stay-at-home-mom, you too can develop burnout.
If you feel exhausted, start to hate your daily tasks, and begin to feel less capable, you are showing signs of burnout.
What causes Burnout?
Burnout is a result of long-term, unresolved stress that can negatively affect your work and your life.
The stress that contributes to burnout can come mainly from your job, but nothing is isolated and stress from your overall lifestyle and life can add to this stress. We spend most of our waking hours working so if we dread going to work and don’t gain any satisfaction out of what we’re doing, it can take a serious toll on our life. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
What is stress?
Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.
Stress is inevitable and life is full of uncertainties, but if we have the right tools to deal with these mental and/or emotional pressures, we can still thrive.
It is important to note that stress isn’t always negative, sometimes it is the tool that drives our motivation or alerts us of danger. If we know and understand ourselves, we will be able to distinguish between ‘good (eustress) and bad (distress)’ stress and respond accordingly.
You wouldn’t let this happen to your phone. Don’t let it happen to you.
Self-Care is a Priority, not a Luxury.
This is not to say that we should not be doing the above. They are all a part of life. But it is important to acknowledge what is using our energy so that we can find appropriate ways to regain that energy. Notice how much of what you do takes your energy and how many of your tasks and daily life replenishes your energy. Find a balance. We can also enjoy doing something that uses our energy and drains our battery. For example, you may LOVE your job but that doesn’t mean that it is not using up your precious effort.
WHATEVER MAKES YOU HAPPY!!!
Can we prevent Burnout?
Let’s look at the FIVE STAGES OF BURNOUT.
When we start a new role, job or task- we always do so with the best intentions and the utmost energy. We feel renewed, positive, and excited. Those initial stressors don’t seem so bad, they feel like a challenge, a positive push. This is the stage that is most important to preventing burnout. If we can learn to positively handle our work and stress while in this frame of mind, we will be more successful in doing so. Set routines, coping strategies and habits that will take care of your mental health and well-being. This way you will keep yourself in the honeymoon phase and not feel overwhelmed.
ONSET OF STRESS
As you start to become aware that some days are more stressful than others, your hope, energy and positivity may begin to wane. You may also notice that the stress is starting to influence your emotional, physical and mental health. You may feel less satisfied with your job and life overall. Again, if we are proactive and come up with healthy coping mechanisms to safe guard our health and wellness, we may prevent this onset of stress from becoming chronic stress. Self-awareness is key! It is important to notice our attitude and feelings shift and to be proactive in managing these.
Eventually, if stress is unmanaged, it will begin to feel overwhelming. You may notice that you have more stressful days than not. It feels like the stress is controlling your life and there is no way out. The feelings and symptoms will be very similar to those in stage 2, except far more frequent and overpowering. You will begin to feel powerless and unfilled often.
This is when it has all become too much and you just can’t go on; you can’t do it anymore. You collapse mentally, physically, and emotionally. Your symptoms have become critical, and you may be left feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life.
If one continues the way they do in stage 4, it will eventually become one’s new norm. Feeling this way and the symptoms of burnout have become so embedded in your life that it is difficult to remember or realise that life was and can be different. Your feelings of stress and burnout will be on-going rather than come in fleets or waves. If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.
What to do if we have symptoms of burnout?
The good news is that burnout has warning signs that come in the form of symptoms. Learn these, know yourself, listen to your body and you will be able to stay on top of your stress and in doing so, prevent burnout. Positive coping mechanisms, stress management and self-care are key to preventing burnout.
NEVER be afraid to seek help if stress and burnout are already prominent in your life; you can move back to stage 1 with the right tools and help. It is reversible with the right work and lifestyle changes.
Dealing with burnout requires the “Three R” approach:
Recognize. Watch for the warning signs of burnout.
Reverse. Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress.
Resilience. Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
Practical tips to prevent and reverse burnout:
–REACH OUT! To a friend, family member, professional or co-worker. Connection is key! Open-up and confide in people. Talking is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and social contact is paramount to stress reduction and thriving. Developing friendships with people at work will also make going there every day more enjoyable, and less stressful. Create positive bonds and avoid people that make you feel bad or dampen your mood. Remember that there are many people around you that feel the same way, so always offer your kindness and ears in return.
– Develop positive thought patterns and reframe the way you see your work. Our thoughts determine our feelings, and our feelings result in our behaviour. We have the power to make the mundane meaningful. Practice mindfulness and gratitude.
– Create a routine and to-do-lists that are prioritized so that you can stay on top of things and not feel overwhelmed. Familiarity is also important in feeling certain and less stressed.
– Create balance in your life! Make sure that when energy is used, it is also regained. Set aside time for self-care and activities that will make you feel HAPPY. Take time off when needed: nobody can go, go, go. Charge your battery.
– Look at your goals, hopes and dreams. How much do you prioritise these? Remember, this is why we live with meaning and purpose at the end of the day. Take some time to get to know yourself and what you want. If you not getting this at work, make sure you are getting it in other areas of your life.
– Set boundaries in all areas of your life and STICK TO THEM. Boundaries with people, relationships, work and technology. Say no to what doesn’t serve you and drown out negativity. If you give too much of yourself, you will have nothing left.
– Look after your body. To look after your body means to look after your mind. Practice good sleeping habits, nourish your body with good food and MOVE your body. Find ways and means that are enjoyable to you so that you can make them a habit and not something you will do once and dislike.
– When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, don’t revert to avoidance tactics like alcohol. Confront the situation and find a positive way to cope. Avoidance doesn’t eliminate the stress.
– Soothe your soul and awaken your spirit. Be it through prayer, breathing techniques, art and creativity, meditation, yoga, dancing: find a way to truly feel at peace and whole. Practice this often.
– Take your own advice. If a friend came to you and confided in you with what you are feeling, what would you tell them?
– And, lastly, remember, you are human. Feel the feels. We can’t be positive all the time, and that’s okay. Allow yourself ALL emotions. Give yourself time. Offer yourself grace. But then acknowledge them, and pick yourself up!
To Find out if you have symptoms of burnout take the burnout questionnaire: