How many times a day do you hear people talk about feeling “burned out”? I know in my profession and from speaking to many of my colleagues and clients, I hear it often. Life these days doesn’t often lend itself to feeling rested and maintaining a sense of well-being on a daily basis. Our minds and our bodies need to regroup (if only for a few minutes) or we run the risk of running into overdrive and heading towards burnout. So, how can you tell if you’re heading down the path of burnout, what causes it and what can you do about it?
According to Webster’s dictionary, burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion (and I would include mental also) usually the result of prolonged stress or frustration. Most people associate burnout with certain types of professions (like therapists and social workers) or work related stress such as working in a high-pressure job that is overly demanding or in a work situation that is chaotic or that you have little control. I know for me, working in a situation that was high stress, overwhelmingly demanding AND chaotic became too much. It took less than a year for me to figure out that this kind of environment just wasn’t for me. My sanity and my relationship with my then 2 year-old daughter were worth a lot more to me than the great paycheck! I’ve been working for myself ever since.
So, when you are feeling burnt out in your job or career, you may feel unmotivated, disengaged, detached, and exhausted. But burnout is not solely caused by tiresome or stressful work responsibilities. It can also be caused by lifestyle choices and personality styles. For example, if your life is packed FULL of responsibilities and obligations, like an overflowing plate, and you want to be all things to all people, chances are you are heading for exhaustion and burnout.
In this instance, you may want to ask yourself exactly why it is you feel the need to keep your life and plate filled in this way. Because if you are a perfectionist and feel like nothing you ever do is good enough or are a control freak and can’t ever delegate anything because you believe no one else can ever be good enough either you’re going to have a raging fire burning at both ends and will be overloaded. Perhaps it’s time to tweak these personality traits and mindset beliefs.
Signs that you may be disappearing down the rabbit hole of Burnout might include:
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of energy
- Feeling fatigued
- Decrease in work performance/productivity
- Interpersonal communication problems with co-workers or with loved ones at home
- Poor self-care
- Increased frustration
- Cynicism, negative thinking
- Feeling trapped
- Decreased sense of satisfaction
- Unexplained physical ailments
As humans, we have this tendency to think we are invincible. We believe that we can push our bodies and minds to the breaking point without cost. But the cost is enormous. Because our body and mind are fully connected, too much stress on one or the other can and will get the whole system to shut down. I’ve had clients tell me how their bodies and brains completely shut down because they pushed too far. Many end up in the hospital. Your body and your mind WILL give you warning signs. Pay attention.
How to avoid getting Burnt Out?
- Start your day with a positive attitude and intention. Not sure how? See my post on how to start your day off right here.
- Create a healthy lifestyle – one that includes time for fun, self-care and rejuvenation. It’s important to include time to recharge regularly. Ensure that your non-work life is very fulfilling and enjoyable. Having a healthy lifestyle also includes good nutrition and regular exercise.
- Unplug – Take some time daily to switch off from emails, cell phones, TVs, and computers. Give your body and brain a break from technology and give yourself a chance to reconnect with your loved ones. Your family will thank you! J In our house, there is no technology during meal times and we have the best conversations and play lots of fun games with each other and that deepens our connections.
- Get plenty of rest. Your brain rests and recharges during sleep. Taking a 10 or 20-minute nap will do wonders to give you a mental boost. And most people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you aren’t getting that, it WILL catch up with you.
- Take a mental break every hour. Neuroscientists tell us that just 60 seconds each hour refreshes the brain and can help you focus better and be more productive. So, get up from the computer, put down the book, take a few deep breaths, have a great big yawn and stretch, and then go back to working or studying. If you have a couple of minutes, talk a short walk.
If you are heading to burnout and exhaustion take steps to remedy the situation before it is too late. And, if you are in a job you hate, have a serious think about whether or not you really have to be doing THIS particular job/career. If you are convinced that this is the ONLY way to go, re-evaluate your job description and duties, address issues as they arise, and take sick time/vacations when needed. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you are the only one who can do your job and you have to work night and day to get it done. I promise you that if you became seriously ill, there would be someone else to pick up the slack.
You are worth taking care of. You have only one mind and one body. Take care of them.