Have you also noticed that the term ‘burnout’ is popping up more and more recently? Whilst it had its debut in the 1970s, it really came to its height in the 80s – an era that also brings the term ‘overwork’ to mind. Now it seems to be having a bit of a resurgence that is not just reserved for Wall Street…
What is burnout?
As a pioneer of burnout research, Christina Maslach, explains that burnout happens when three factors coincide, namely feelings of emotional exhaustion, cynicism/detachment and a lack of accomplishment.
Simply put, it is what happens when you go through prolonged stress. Now, this could be at work but also through relationships, for example.
It makes you exhausted emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically. You might have physical symptoms like frequent headaches, muscle pain and lowered immunity, meaning you get ill more often. Changes in sleep and appetite are also common.
If that was not already disruptive enough to normal daily life, some of the most distressing symptoms for people are the emotional signs of burnout. People with burnout feel a loss of motivation, feel alone, feel like failures, helpless, trapped, defeated. You become increasingly dissatisfied and start to take on a cynical outlook on life. You feel less like yourself and this can be scary.
Why Burnout happens?
It happens when you lack enough social support to manage the stress or practice poor self-care, because you are too overwhelmed with everything you need to do. Add the pandemic into this equation and you have a pretty good idea of why we are seeing so much more of it recently.
The pandemic has brought on so many changes but in terms of contributing to burnout, two particular factors have been majorly impacted: we have blurrier work-life boundaries and less access to social support.
How to stop feeling burnt out?
Some of you might have dreaded this part; you fear that the only way to change things is to quit your job or break up that relationship entirely! Sometimes that may be the best solution, but there are other ways we can make our way back to our old selves again.
- Reach out to others: more genuine, intimate connections can get some of that zest for life back.
- Watch the negativity: cynics attract cynics! The last thing you want to do is to fuel your cynicism by attracting other cynics with your own cynicism. I know – what a mouthful! – but the point is to try and break this cycle of negativity by watching how excessive venting may actually be more damaging than cathartic in the long run.
- Make meaning: understanding the ‘why’ behind what you are doing. This can strengthen your feeling of purpose and life satisfaction.
- Take a break: chances are that you have not had one in a while! We subscribe to the cult of overwork and overlook the importance of slowing down and resting. Instead of just ‘pushing on through’ and ignoring the signs that you need to stop, you need to let your mind and body recharge.
Let us know in a comment below if you have any other tips that people could benefit from!