Is your first thought in the morning how much you want the day to be over so that you can go back to bed? Or does it feel like your best efforts at work are just enough to complete the bare minimum required of you? Or maybe even your hobbies are no longer fun or engaging, but rather seem like a chore, which you can thankfully put off for another time because, right now, all you really want to do is lie on the couch and watch some easily-digestible movie. Probably a movie you’ve already seen a dozen times, which is okay because you don’t have the energy or focus to watch anything unfamiliar or more complex.
I can go on with more similar examples, but I hope that those are enough to give you an idea of what I am talking about. The general word used to describe such a state of the mind (and sometimes the body) is “burnout” and it’s a term that people have begun to use more and more frequently during the past decade or two. Burnout isn’t some kind of mental health condition (although it could sometimes lead to one), but a natural consequence of the stress and fatigue accumulated on a daily basis, over long periods of time.
What causes burnout?
Normally, the main culprit for the burnout syndrome is people’s jobs, as they often tend to be a bit too taxing on the mind and psyche, and sometimes even on the person’s body. Long hours, stressful work environment, graveyard shifts, tight deadlines, unrealistically high targets, and the like can be overwhelming to even the most tenacious, disciplined, and hard-working person.
However, work is only one possible cause of becoming burnt-out, and there are others too, such as family life, having kids, or even taking care of the household. Furthermore, even your hobby may lead to a burnout, especially if you are really passionate about it. For example, if your hobby is writing short stories or composing songs, at a certain point, you might hit a creativity burnout. That said, in this article, I’ll mainly be focusing on types of burnout that are most common - ones related to a person’s job, family life, or kids, because these can have the greatest effect on your everyday life.
How do I know I am burnt out?
Since burnout syndrome isn’t very well studied and there are still many unanswered questions related to it, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if this is truly what a person is going through.
Furthermore, there are many similarities between being depressed and burnt-out. This can potentially be problematic because, if you are depressed, then taking a day or a week off to stay at home and relax (common advice for dealing with burnout) can actually have the opposite effect, since isolating oneself at home can deepen a person’s depression.
All that said, some common symptoms are a lack of enthusiasm and desire to engage in the activity that has caused the burnout, feeling fatigued and even exhausted, as well as lacking confidence in that activity (for instance, lacking confidence that you are any good at your job).
The main difference between depression and burnout syndrome is that the negative feelings and emotions during depression aren’t limited to any particular activity, but rather permeate all aspects of a person’s life, whereas the burnout pretty much always has a specific source.
Other symptoms, or rather consequences, of the burnout syndrome are developing mental health issues. It is possible to actually become depressed, develop OCD, or even anger-management issues if your burnout becomes too severe and doesn’t get relieved. In such cases, it’s probably best to focus on dealing with the mental condition first, as that is the more pressing issue in such situations. For instance, if you (or someone you know) have started having anger issues due to a constant burnout, then joining a support group or an anger management class
can help with the problem, especially if you combine it with the suggestions from the following section.
What steps can I take to fix it?
Burnout syndrome is one of those things that, in order to deal with them, you have to take a step back and take a chill pill, rather than brute-force your way to the solution. In other words, the harder you try to resolve your burnout, the worse it’s going to get. Therefore, what you must do instead is give yourself some time to relax and reflect. Let’s say, for example, that it is your job that has led to your burnout. In such instances, it might be best if you took a week off to go on a vacation, or even to simply stay at home and relax with your favorite hobbies.
Of course, here comes the issue that many people cannot leave work for a week and afford an expensive week-long vacation. In cases such as this, you need to find other ways to grant yourself the necessary time to relax. For example, you may not be able to leave work for an entire week, but you can still try talking to your employer/manager and request one extra rest day every once in a while, explaining that you need it in order to remain effective at your job. And, ultimately, if you aren’t met with any sort of understanding from your employers and your work is getting the best of you, leaving your job and seeking employment elsewhere is also a valid option.
As far as the burnout at home is concerned, it’s important to rely on your closest people to help you get through it. For instance, if you are the parent who is taking care of the kids most of the time and this has started to weigh down on you, it’s not only acceptable but necessary that you ask your partner to relief you for every now and then, so that you can have some time for yourself, during which you can focus on your hobbies or simply get some time to relax and recharge your batteries.
How do I prevent burnout in the future?
Hopefully, you’ve managed to get over your burnout and what’s left now is to ensure that you keep it away for good. Generally, the best advice I could give here is that you organize and structure your lifestyle in such a way as to always have some personal time, during which you can distance yourself from the activity or activities most likely to get you burnt-out.
For instance, make sure that the job you are working and the employer you have allows for enough opportunities to get days off and recover when you feel the need to do that. Also, make sure that you have a mutual understanding with your partner and other people close to you to help one another with chores and parenting duties. Ultimately, you need to remember to not fall into extremes and put all your energy in one place for long periods of time because this is the main reason why you may end up getting the burnout syndrome.