There comes a time when enough is enough. When stress builds up, it’s easy to start feeling helpless and totally exhausted. When this continues, you could be well on the way to burnout. But how do you get back to a more positive, energized self?
If you’re not sure if you’re burnt out, you’re about to find out. Here are some signs to look out for and how to regain your balance.
But first, let’s take a look at burnout a little more closely.
What is burnout, anyway?
When you burnout, you enter a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. This is usually the result of excessive prolonged stress. When the world feels like it’s on top of you, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up with constant demands.
Then, as this stress continues long term, you’re likely to lose interest and motivation. This may result in ‘falling out of love’ with a job, for example. While you may have loved the journey when you first started, prolonged stress can make you lose your mojo and enthusiasm.
As well as draining your energy, burnout can leave you feeling unproductive, helpless and even resentful about whatever may be causing you stress. After some time of pushing through the burnout stage, you’ll eventually feel as though you have nothing left to give.
But it doesn’t end there. Burnout can quickly take over other areas, too, including your home, social, and work life. If you’ve ever picked up far too much overtime at work and felt your body and mind hit a brick wall, the chances are, you’re burnt out. Alongside this, when you’re feeling stressed and exhausted, you’re likely to be susceptible to illnesses too.
What are the symptoms and signs of burnout?
It’s pretty common to have days when things just feel a little…Off. Those days where simply lifting your head up from the pillow feels like a chore. But when every day starts to follow this familiar pattern, you may be burnt out.
Burnout isn’t something that happens overnight. A long shift out of your usual routine isn’t usually enough to send you on a spiral of demotivation. But, it can creep up on you. As time goes on, the symptoms of burnout get worse, which is why it’s important to recognise the signs of burnout early on so that you can address them.
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
There are several physical signs of burnout, which include:
- Frequent headaches or muscle pain
- A change in sleep habits or appetite
- Getting sick more often
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
Recognizing emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
- Self-doubt and a sense of failure
- Lack of motivation
- An increasingly cynical and negative outlook
- Feeling defeated and helpless
- Feelings of detachment
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
What about behavioral signs of burnout?
- Taking out frustrations on others
- Using food, alcohol or drugs to manage stress
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating and avoiding tasks
- Skipping work or arriving late/leaving early
What’s the difference between stress and being burnt out?
It’s often hard to ignore the everyday stress we face. From a challenging work meeting to moving house, we face stress in all areas of our lives – at different times. However, being burnt out isn’t the same as too much stress.
When you’re feeling stressed, you may feel like throwing your laptop out the window, but while stress typically involves too much – often in the form of too many pressures – it is different to being burnt out. Burnout, is about not enough.
Let’s look at it a different way. If overloading yourself with stress feels like you’re drowning in pressure and responsibilities, then burnout is more like being dried up. When enough really is enough, the feeling of being burnt out can make us feel empty, totally demotivated and mentally exhausted.
As we touched upon earlier, burnout is less about one stressful day, and more a build-up of exhaustion. Usually, we’re pretty aware that we’re stressed. But when burnout happens, we don’t always notice right away.
|Stress vs Burnout|
|Overreactive emotions||Blunted emotions|
|Lack of energy||Lack of motivation, ideals, and hope|
|Produces urgency and hyperactivity||Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness|
|Leads to anxiety disorders||Leads to detachment and depression|
|Primary damage is physical||Primary damage is emotional|
|May lead to premature death||May make life seem not worth living|
What causes burnout?
There can be several causes of burnout, however, the most common is your job. Typically, burnout occurs when you feel overworked and undervalued, or feeling as though you’re fighting a losing battle. Whether you’re fixed in a 9 to 5 life or running around after the kids, housework, or caring for an elderly parent – burnout can strike in many forms.
But it’s not just a stressful job or too many responsibilities necessarily causing burnout. There are other factors involved when we question ‘how does burnout happen?’ and it can involve your lifestyle and even your personality traits.
What you do in your downtime also matters here, as well as your outlook on the world. But first, let’s take a look at the different causes of burnout.
There are a variety of work-related factors that can cause burnout, including:
- Lack of recognition/reward for hard work
- Feeling like you have little/no control over work
- What feels like unattainable work expectations
- Doing unchallenging or monotonous tasks/work
- Working in an environment that is high pressure
- Working long hours, with little time to socialize and relax
- Lack of support network and/or supportive relationships
- Running low on energy, with little sleep
- Taking on too many responsibilities
What about personality traits? How can they contribute to burnout?
- Pessimistic view of yourself/the world
- High-achieving, type A personality
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Need to be in control, stunting delegation
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How to deal with burnout
If you’re starting to recognize burnout creeping up on you, there’s plenty of time to make a change in order to avoid burning out completely. If you’re already beyond breaking point – don’t worry, there is a way back.
However, the route you take shouldn’t be ploughing through that breaking point, through exhaustion – as this will only cause further emotional and physical damage. This is where it’s time to pause, change direction and overcome burnout to regain your balance.
This is where the ‘Three R’ approach comes in:
- Recognize – Keep an eye out for the warning signs of burnout
- Reverse – Already hit breaking point? Now it’s time to undo the damage and seek support
- Resilience – Build your resilience by looking after your physical and mental health
How to fight back against burnout
Looking for a way to deal with burnout? Here are our top 5 tips for combatting burnout.
1. Seek help and support from others
When you’re feeling burnt out, it’s incredibly easy to see the world through a negative lens. It’s difficult to muster the energy to do even the simplest of tasks, let alone fight your way out in order to regain your balance and positive self.
While it may feel troubling, you have more control over stress than you may believe. One of the most effective strategies in this circumstance is to reach out to others. A little conversation can go a long way in alleviating your worries and concerns. A problem halved is a problem solved, after all. Try to speak to someone you trust face to face to help relieve stress and calm your nervous system.
Sure, the person in question may not fix your burnout immediately, but it’ll certainly feel as though a weight has been lifted. Here are some further tips for seeking help and support:
- Reach out to your closest friends and family – You don’t even have to discuss what you think is causing your burnout (although of course, you can!), but some time spent with family and loved ones can help you to create a positive mindset
- Socialize with co-workers – If your burnout is predominantly focused around work, try to socialize with your colleagues and strengthen your relationships. Whether it’s organising a social event or simply chatting about your day over lunch with a colleague, it can help
- Limit negative influences – If you’re surrounded by negative people, it’s no surprise you’re feeling low and burnt out. Try to limit the time spent with these people in order to inject more positivity into your life
- Build new friendships – Not sure about turning to those you already know? Don’t be afraid to build new relationships
2. Reframe your outlook at work
While it would be easy to say ‘just quit!’ your job to avoid work burnout, it isn’t always quite that easy. No matter what your current work situation is, reframing your outlook can benefit your mental health and help you avoid burnout.
- Take time off – We all need time to relax and completely switch off from all work communications. Use up some holiday time or sick days and take a break
- Make work friends – As we touched upon above, having friendships with colleagues can help you avoid burnout and improve job performance. There’s nothing quite like a good moan about the boss at your favorite bar after work!
- Find balance – If you really do hate your job, try to focus on other elements of your life that bring you satisfaction, while creating a plan to help you change careers or roles
3. Review your priorities
Burnout is usually a red flag in your life telling you to slow down. Whether its work, home life or your relationship (or a combination of them all) causing you to burn out, it’s time to take a break. Use this time wisely to review your priorities and think about your hopes, goals and dreams.
While burying your head at a desk 9 to 5 may be paying the bills, is it leading you to neglect another aspect of your life? Potentially. Take daily breaks from technology and set boundaries in your life. Learn to say no, and set aside time to relax with yoga, meditation or even a great book.
4. Prioritize exercise
Many of us try to squeeze exercise in around our busy schedules, rather than making exercise the priority. When you’re already burnt out, exercise may feel like the last thing on your mind, but it is actually a powerful antidote to stress and burnout.
Also Read: How to get more energy in the morning
Make time to exercise, adding space into your diary to ensure you keep to it each day. Even a short 10 minute walk can work wonders to boost your mood and fight back against burnout.
5. Follow a healthy diet
Fighting back against burnout also comes from within, in relation to your diet. If you’re consuming over-processed and sugary foods, it comes as no surprise you’re feeling sluggish. Try to swap out refined carbs for complex carbs, and reduce unhealthy fats, caffeine (in large amounts) as well as preservatives.
If you’re a smoker, now may be the time to cut back with the aim of stopping! Smoking can exacerbate your stress levels, rather than calm them. The same can be said for alcohol. Instead, try to adopt a healthy, balanced diet that keeps you feeling fuller for longer and full of energy.
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