We’re in the last stretch of the year, and by now, most of us are feeling exhausted, drained, and ready for the year to be over with. In the worst cases, many have reached and exceeded their limit and are feeling burned out. In our fast-paced world, burnout has become an all-too-common phenomenon. Whether you’re a student, a working professional, a parent, or anyone navigating the demands of modern life, the risk of burnout is always there. Burnout is more than just feeling tired or stressed. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and extended periods of chronic stress and overwork. In this article, we will explore what burnout is, its causes, symptoms, and, most importantly, how to beat it and regain control of your life.
The first thing to remember is that burnout is not a sign of weakness. It’s a state of dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances that results in emotional, physical, and mental manifestations. Burnout is understood as the result of continuous exposure to chronic stressors and not having or implementing effective coping mechanisms.
Reduced productivity, feeling disconnected and demotivated from one’s work, and even physical symptoms like headaches or sleep problems can all be signs of burnout. To prevent burnout, you need to be able to identify its symptoms, which include cynicism or persistent exhaustion. This can help us better protect our mental and physical health and eventually promote a healthier and more sustainable way of living by recognising its existence and dealing with its causes. The key components of burnout include:
- Emotional exhaustion: You are overwhelmed by everything and feel emotionally drained. What could be little things that were previously manageable are now triggers that send you further down a spiral and make it difficult to cope with minor stressors.
- Depersonalisation: This involves having a cynical and detached attitude towards your personal goals, work, every responsibility, and life in general. You have ‘checked out’ and moving through life on autopilot.
- Reduced personal accomplishment: You feel like your efforts are futile and that you are not achieving your goals, leading to decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can also be caused by not having the energy to invest in pursuing your goals and piles on the other negative feelings that weigh you down.
We are human, but we react differently to varying situations and scenarios. Burnout can have deep, far-reaching, and lasting effects on an individual’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It’s important to know what burnout can look like so that you can recognise the signs in yourself and your loved ones.
- Physically: It can manifest as chronic fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite, headaches, and increased susceptibility to illnesses.
- Emotionally: Burnout leads to feelings of hopelessness, irritability, no motivation, short temper, or interest in previously enjoyable activities. It can strain relationships due to increased cynicism and detachment.
- Mentally: From a mental aspect, burnout can impair cognitive functions such as poor concentration and forgetfulness, thus making it difficult to perform tasks effectively.
In the long run, if burnout is faced and dealt with, it can contribute to more serious conditions such as depression, heart problems, heightened anxiety, and more. Recognising and addressing the effects of burnout is crucial to maintaining overall health and well-being.
Causes of Burnout
We live in demanding times and are pulled in different directions daily. At home, work, and at play, somebody wants something from us, and we can make the mistake of saying “yes” to everything, even when our bodies tell us otherwise. To effectively beat burnout, you need to understand its root causes and triggers. Below, we will explore the various factors that contribute to feeling burnt out and discouraged and then learn ways to mitigate these effects and recover.
- Work overload: One of the most common causes of burnout is excessive workload and long working hours. Working excessively without rest leaves you with little time to rest and recharge.
- Lack of control: We are bombarded with information, changes, and instability every day, and the constant barrage of this can make you feel powerless or like you have no say in your work or personal life. Over time this can contribute to burnout.
- Lack of work-life balance: When work takes over your personal life, you often have little time to spend on your hobbies, pursue your passions, or spend time with family and friends. This imbalance leaves little time for relaxation and self-care, and as a result, burnout can occur.
- Unclear expectations: As workplaces change their way of working, economic turns force changes and other uncertainties can have you feeling some ambiguity in your job role or personal goals. As time progresses and no clear path comes through, this can lead to confusion and frustration.
- Lack of social support: Isolation and a lack of supportive relationships can exacerbate feelings of burnout.
These are the everyday realities for many of us and can’t always be avoided. What we need are ways to manage these in a healthy way.
How to Beat Burnout
The good news is that a burnout diagnosis is not the end. There is help available and proactive steps you can take to reclaim a sense of balance and vitality. Here are a few strategies to help you overcome burnout and bring the light and joy back into your life.
- Self-care: Intentionally prioritise self-care activities like exercise, meditation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. These simple activities can help heal your mind and body.
- Self-knowledge: You know yourself better than anyone else. The first step in keeping burnout at bay is to check in with yourself. How are you coping at work? Are you feeling stressed out? Are you getting enough sleep? How are your anxiety levels? If just the mere thought of these questions gets your heart racing, it might be worth taking a closer look at your mental well-being.
- Set boundaries: Boundaries are important for others to adhere to, but we must respect ourselves enough to maintain these for ourselves. Establish clear boundaries for people and set a distinct line between work and personal life. Learn to say “no” when necessary and communicate your limits to others.
- Time management: Make time to organise your tasks and prioritise them. Time management techniques can help you work more efficiently, reducing stress. If you know what’s coming, you can prepare for it and manage other tasks well.
- Get help: The biggest disservice is thinking that we can and should do it alone. There is no shame in asking for help. Talk to friends, family, or a mental health professional about your feelings. Sharing your experiences can provide emotional relief and support.
- Take breaks: Take that coffee break and have lunch away from your desk. Go on short vacations or a staycation if needed but do this to help you recharge and prevent burnout.
- Re-evaluate goals: Reflect on your personal and professional goals and adjust them if necessary. Setting achievable and meaningful goals can rekindle your motivation.
- Delegate: Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks when possible. Delegation empowers others and lightens your workload.
Beating burnout requires a combination of self-awareness, self-care, and lifestyle adjustments. Recognising the signs of burnout early on and taking proactive steps to address it is essential for your well-being and long-term success. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help when needed, and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. By implementing these strategies, you can regain control of your life, improve your mental and physical health, and enjoy a more fulfilling and balanced existence.
If you feel that your mental health is under strain, you need to reach out and ask for help. Our Mental Health Assessment is a free and convenient way to assess your well-being and take the necessary steps to recovery.