Burnout occurs when excessive and prolonged stress leads to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. It is a sense of helplessness, and you no longer care about things you once thought were important. It doesn’t sound pleasant.
Burnout is different from feeling stressed. Feeling stressed means that we have piled too much on our plates and struggle to work our way through it. It is often temporary. By adjusting our schedules or lives, we can ease the feeling of ‘fullness. But when we fail to recognise, re-evaluate and readjust to stress burnout happens. I think burnout is best described as a feeling of having ‘crashed and burned!
“Burnout happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”
Are you a perfectionist? Would you consider yourself a high-achiever? Do you resonate with the definition of a Type-A personality? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you are at greater risk of burnout than your more laid-back and go-with-the-flow friends. So how do you know if you are heading towards burnout, and how can you stop it from happening?
How do you know if you are heading towards burnout? There are many emotional and mental signals to look out for:
You Often Get Sick
Chronic stress lowers your immunity, leaving you open to picking up every bug. This can also lead to frequent headaches, backaches, or muscle pain.
You Constantly Feel Fatigued
Fatigue is different from feeling tired. We all get tired at times, but this is usually fixed by a good night’s sleep, a day off work, or a short holiday. When you are experiencing fatigue, none of these things help. You wake tired, you crawl your way through your day, and you fall into bed exhausted no matter how much sleep you get. This can be a definitive sign of burnout.
Shortness Of Breath
This is often related to anxiety. Have you ever woken up in the morning, and as soon as you open your eyes, you feel like you can’t breathe properly? Please don’t ignore it. Your breathing is trying to tell you something!
Research tells us that gut issues are often due to chronic, low-grade inflammation in our bodies. And do you know what causes this? Stress!
Suppose you start to panic because you can relate to one or more of these, then don’t! Your body is clever. It is just sending you messages to tell you it’s time to tune in, listen and ask what it is trying to say to you. It is then your job to take action before it starts yelling louder and leads to burnout.
So what can you do to help prevent burnout? Here are some simple steps to get you started.
Take A Break
Your body is telling you that it wants you to slow down for just a little bit. Take a sick day, clear your calendar for a long weekend, or schedule in a holiday. The world will not end if you do! But if you are going to take a break, then do just that. This means no social media and no filling your day with activities. This time is for you to do whatever helps you relax and recharge. Spend a day lying in bed reading a book. Take that three-day hike into the middle of nowhere. Or lie on the couch and watch back-to-back episodes of ‘The Real Housewives of wherever. In short, do anything that will help you lessen your stress and eventually the burnout symptoms.
Find Ways To Manage Your Stress Best
Find three things that may help. Do a journal daily. For someone who is not expressive or a great talker, journaling is a great way to get out of their head and release any emotions that need to be let go. Meditate daily. This helps days flow, and make better decisions, and keep you more focused. And lastly, make sleep a priority. We can not emphasize the importance of sleep enough.
When you sit and ask yourself, you will know why. Maybe you aren’t honoring the boundaries you usually set for yourself. You are caught up in the trap of saying ‘yes’ to everyone and everything. Or you have taken too much on. This can make your plate overflow, and it isn’t making any headway through it. Your body was sending you a message to slow down and prioritize what was necessary.
Have A Go-to Person
Everyone has a couple of go-to people in their lives. These are the friends you know you can text at 8 pm with a message that says talking things through with someone who can be the most cathartic thing you can do. The best advice, though, is not to choose someone who may feel the same way you do at that time. Instead, choose a friend in a positive space and know how it feels to experience stress. They will listen and then gently pick you up, knowing that you will do the same for her when the time comes. That’s what true friendship is all about.
Make Self-care A Priority
We all know, who has time for self-care? You struggle enough as it is to find time to shave your legs, right? So the question to you is, do you have time to feel like crap? Prioritizing self-care is something that we all have struggled for. For some of us, it means lying in a bubble bath each night with beautiful candles and a glass of red wine. Or taking a day off to head to a spa for a facial, massage, and manicure (sounds lovely, but also not going to happen!).
What we have come to realize is that self-care is actually about the small and frequent things. For some, self-care means sitting outside in the morning for five minutes cuddling my dogs. It’s about regular short walks in nature. It’s about cooking a nourishing meal in the evenings. And it’s about reading for 15 minutes in bed at night. Simple little things that can make you feel better. Four simple little things that recharge your batteries. Or things that can be part of your day every day.
Stress is something that we all have in our lives. It is normal. It is when this stress becomes chronic that it affects emotional and physical health. This is in fact the first sign of burnout.
It is up to you to commit yourself to slow down. It is up to you to start taking care of yourself before you hit the wall that is burnout. So what is one thing you can do today to start taking more care of yourself? Create a balance between your work and personal life.