Burnout and What To Do About It
People are constantly juggling many different responsibilities in their lives, from work to family to caring for others. Sometimes we can clearly define boundaries and compartmentalize our time. Other times the lines that keep different tasks separate and manageable become blurred. Burnout, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion triggered by excessive and persistent stress. Although stress and burnout may feel the same, burnout is actually the result of stress built up over time. It is important to recognize the build up of burnout before it has us feeling powerless or helpless. Burnout is especially common in high-stress and high-demanding jobs where people have difficulty balancing work and life in a healthy way.
Burnout looks like this
Everyone’s symptoms and experiences of a burnout will be different, yet there are some common factors.
- A loss of interest
- Lack of focus
- Physical exhaustion
- Feeling emotionally drained
- Feeling easily irritated
- Social isolation
- Feeling insecure
- Creative exhaustion
- Making more mistakes and errors
- Feeling anxious or depressed
No-one wants to feel this way, and people can become creative in how they deal with heavy or negative symptoms and emotions. Self-soothing is a coping mechanism that can be effective, but it can also be an unhealthy coping habit. Some people may self-soothe by not eating or over eating, drinking alcohol or doing drugs as a way to make themselves feel better or numb. Bottling up emotions may lead to taking your stressors out on others.
How Do You Cope?
Take a moment to observe what you may be experiencing right now, at this moment in time. Does any of the above resonate with you? Do you feel there are times when you are over giving and not able to process your emotions?
Are you someone who bottles up emotions? Do you tend to look for social company or hide from friends and loved ones in times of stress? How do you self-soothe?
Although not dealing with dark feelings might work in the short run, there are no long term benefits to be gained from numbing yourself or distracting yourself so you don’t have to feel. By not facing our hardships and bumps in the road, we also open ourselves up to other negative feelings and unwanted habits. Feeling cynical and hopeless, feeling detached and alone are some consequences of tuning out the bad. This in turn may lead to a vicious cycle that may also negatively impact our immune system, leading to sleep issues, inflammation in our body, digestive issues and headaches.
Four Ways to Start Coping With A Burnout
The first step in changing patterns and habits is to become aware of your current coping strategies. Meditations are a great way to learn about our subconscious triggers and processes, but starting up a meditative practice takes… practice
Healthy Health Care Habits
Set up healthy self-care habits such as going for a walk with the dog, listening to your favourite song, taking a yoga class, or making yourself a nice meal. Prioritize activities you enjoy, and even better would be to do an activity with a friend. Focusing on activities you find relaxing and enjoyable can help to remind yourself that you have not always felt this way, and trigger your mind to remember happier times.
Surround yourself with supportive people, whether these are friends, family, neighbours, or colleagues. We are social beings and we thrive on being present with others. Of course there has to be a healthy balance of alone time and social time. Go for a coffee with a friend, stroll along Lakeshore with a colleague, or take your sibling for lunch.
Take Your Breaks
How easy is it, whether you work from home or in an office, to keep working through your lunch breaks? Make time for you, prioritize yourself, step away from your workspace, and take a breather.
One way mindful breathing helps to lower your stress level is by releasing endorphins, the pleasure-producing hormones, and lowering anxiety-provoking brain chemicals such as adrenaline, the stress hormone. Stated simply, by controlling the way you breathe, you will feel more calm and relaxed.
Remember that self-care is not selfish