Are you suffering from burnout? Or is it stress?
Burnout is a term that gets thrown out loosely, but few people actually give it the merit it deserves. Some think it’s a technical term to describe being overworked, and many discredit it by assuming the person claiming or curious about burnout are just lazy and don’t want to work. I’m about to put this whole burnout situation on blast, so buckle up. You might wonder if burnout only applies to a high-stress job environment- it doesn’t. It can also affect anyone who feels overworked and undervalued. Shout out to you stay at home moms/dads and caregivers!
Firstly, as you may assume, I myself have suffered from burnout. As a person who also used to seek approval and validation from others, was left feeling that I was a complainer and for some reason just couldn’t handle the workload of my corporate job in the tech industry. I’ve now learned, among many other newfound empowering self-views, that burnout was 110% what I was experiencing, and I didn’t need anyone to agree with me for it to be true. Unfortunately, in scenarios where we feel overwhelmed and extremely stressed we’re unable to decipher for ourselves what is and is not an acceptable environment to expose ourselves to. At that point, we may seek the opinions of others as a cry for help.
The truth is, in this experience of burnout, the only person who can save us is ourselves. It takes a lot of courage and self-reflection to take action and get to a place that allows space for healing- the road is rough and may feel even more depleting before it’s fulfilling.
The first step, in any unhealthy scenario is to identify that there is a problem. As mentioned, this means that YOU may need to be the only one who believes this to be true. The beauty in this is that once you start to realize, that in all aspects of your life, YOU create your reality and likewise YOU are the only one who can change it. So at the end of the day, validation from others really won’t even get you anywhere- you don’t need it.
Step two is to understand what burnout is. Burnout, as defined by HelpGuide.org, a trusted guide to mental health & wellness, is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress and can occur when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As this continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on the role you are in, in the first place. Your productivity is reduced and your energy is depleted, which leaves you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful.
Eventually, you’re so drained that you feel like you have nothing left to give. The result is a negative effect on nearly every area of your life- including your home life, social life, and your job. Even worse, burnout can cause long-term changes to your body that will make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flus, or other disadvantageous health concerns (read: adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, skin issues, digestive issues, etc.). You feel exhausted, helpless, under-appreciated and overloaded constantly. Physically, your body’s composition is changing. Physical signs and symptoms of burnout include: feeling tired and drained more of the time, frequent headaches or muscle pain, lowered immunity, and changes in sleep and/or appetite habits. Emotionally, you might feel like you’re getting depressed, but are confused if you’ve never had this experience before, and at the same time feel so blessed for the life you do have, so none of it even really makes sense. Emotional signs and symptoms include: sense of failure and self-doubt, feeling helpless/trapped and defeated, loss of motivation, increasingly cynical and negative outlook, detachment/feeling alone in the world, and a decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. Pretty grim, right? I can tell you from personal experience, it’s no fun, and it’s certainly no way to live.
Behaviorally you might also be showing signs and symptoms of burnout, but those around you might confuse your situation (by no fault of theirs, they’re only trying to help) and say to you, “maybe you’re just depressed,” or “maybe just go in and get your job done and try to forget about the work when you’re not there,” if you’re burned out from a job. Seems rational, but in extreme burnout scenarios, it’s usually past the point of being able to cope and rewire the situation at hand. This can often create friction in personal relationships, as you see your friends and family less and less, because you have no energy or capacity to engage, and your significant other might also be telling you you’ve changed or have a hard time connecting or having fun with you, because, well, you’re not very connected or fun right now! You withdraw from responsibilities in nearly every aspect of your life, you play the hermit/grama card, you procrastinate or take forever to get simple tasks done, you skip work or skimp on hours, you take your frustrations out on others, and you start using things like food, alcohol and/or drugs to cope.
This is SO NOT COOL, people!!! One more fun fact that might help to decipher if you’re struggling with burnout is the differentiation between stress and burnout. This often gets convoluted. Burnout stems from unrelenting stress, however stress involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. The clear outlier is that stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll be fine. Burnout however, is about not enough- you feel empty and mentally exhausted- devoid of motivation and just don’t care anymore. You lack the outlook of hope for positive change in your situation. Stress might feel like you’re underwater and burnout feels like you’re all dried up like the Sahara desert. Stress can lead to anxiety, while burnout can lead to depression.
So now what? Do you just quit whatever it that’s taken you to this place of burnout? Nope, not necessarily. This does not mean you have to quit the scenario you’re in- your job, your life/family responsibilities, etc.- but means that you DO need to assess your lifestyle and personality traits to help get you closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. What you do in your downtime, and if you even allow yourself downtime, are BIG factors. Your personality can play into this mix in a substantial way, too.
Before getting into solutions, let’s take a quick look at what the causes for burnout could be, because I know you might be looking for just a little more proof or validation if you’re suspecting you’re burnt out!
Work causes of burnout are feeling that you have little to no control over your work (have a job that tells you you need to be ok with being accountable without control? Hmm…), lack of recognition for good work, unclear or overly demanding job expectations, doing monotonous or unchallenging work, and being in a chaotic or high-pressure environments can lead you right down that quick, down-hill road to burnout.
Lifestyle causes can be working too much without enough time to socialize or relax, a lack of close and supportive relationships, taking on too many responsibilities without enough help from others, and not getting enough sleep. The key with these is to realize that you are the only one who has control to change these pieces of your life- even if you feel helpless in them.
As mentioned, your personality can play a major role, too. Calling all perfectionists (nothing is ever good enough), those who have an already pessimistic view of themselves and/or the world, control-freaks who don’t like delegating tasks to others to help, and high-achieving/overall type A personalities.
Yikes, I checked nearly all of those boxes in my severe burnout state! The good news is- you can get a hold of burnout and turn it around before it takes a major toll on your health and wellbeing. But trust me- if you don’t give this attention now, you’ll end up in a pretty bad place physically, mentally and socially.
Now, if you think you’re suffering from burnout, whether you think it’s just beginning or full-fledged taking over your entire life, you should really make some changes, and fast. Here are some quick tips to get you started, now:
Limit your contact with negative people- this will only drag your mood and outlook down more.
Find balance in your life- focus on parts of your life that bring you joy, instead of brewing negative energy towards what’s already draining you…where attention goes, energy flows! The trick is to breed good energy in fulfilling parts of your life, not negative energy in already unfulfilling areas.
Make friends at work- reduces monotony and helps relieve stress when you can focus on the positive together.
Take time off- if you’re extremely close to full-blown burnout, you should take some time to yourself- figure out how, ask for help from those close to you and DO IT.
Set boundaries- don’t overextend yourself and learn to say no.
Nourish your creative side- trying something new, resume a hobby or start a passion project, these can be powerful anecdotes.
Set aside relaxation and self-care time- I know, I know, you don’t have time for this, but you DO. You have to. Look at your priorities and realize that if you do not take time for yourself now, every other area of your life is going to start suffering even more.
Be mindful of sleep and exercise- again, I understand time seems extremely scarce, but only YOU have the power to make changes to take care of yourself and create space and time for what will help you recover.
Eat healthier- food is medicine and supports your body while it’s depleted, healthy choices will enhance your mood and boost your energy.
I’m writing this because I know first hand what a personal hell this is while you’re going through it. You question yourself in pretty much every way possible- ‘am I good enough?,’ ‘am I crazy,’ ‘am I doomed,’ ‘am I whiny baby,’ on and on… It’s pretty much the worst! I’m here on the other side to tell you that you can get a hold of this- you are the creator of your destiny. If you feel like you don’t have options or time, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. What you need is to see them. You need to be woken up to your life again and out of the helpless cloud you’ve grown comfortable living in. I could go on and on, but essentially, your life is waiting for you and the time is now.
Do you think it’s a coincidence you’re reading this right now? You’re not fulfilled. You’re tired. You feel guilty. You feel yucky. You don’t feel like yourself. You’re stuck. I’m here to tell you that you are enough, you are powerful, you are capable, and you are so loved. This world needs you for your gifts. You need to express your gifts to the world. You may still need to discover them, too, and that’s ok! I’m here to tell you the sun will come out again and YOU have the power to be living life FULL OUT, FULL BLOWN BEAUTIFULLY the way you’re intended to live it. We have just one life (even if you believe in reincarnation, you gotta make this one count!), and we’re too blessed to be here and have the advantages we do in this world to not make it a happy life and spread our light to others.
Are you ready for change and direction to make your life incredible? Are you ready for more energy and fulfillment? I’d love to help you! Schedule time to talk with me, I’m so eager to go over how I can help turn your life into what you want it to be- mind, body, soul. Aren’t you ready to live life with positive purpose and an abundance of energy? Are you ready to live your best life? I think you are…
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