If you’ve been working too hard, aiming for unrealistic goals and driving yourself to the ground, you’re a prime candidate for burnout.
Burnout isn’t about having a bad day at work, or even a bad week. It’s more pernicious, draining your energy and making you feel an exhaustion that isn’t relieved by rest.
Why does burnout happen?
Burnout usually occurs in relation to work. You are overworked and underappreciated. Job expectations are too high. You don’t have control over certain aspects of your work, like schedules and workloads. The work environment is counter-productive; you have an office bully or a boss who’s constantly looking over your shoulders.
Your personality type and lifestyle can also contribute to burnout, like Type A personalities that are highly competitive, ambitious, impatient and therefore, quickly stressed out. A very hectic lifestyle leaves no time for rest and relaxation. Perfectionists and pessimists are also more prone to being burned out.
How can you tell if you have burnout?
All of the above factors contribute to burnout. On top of that, you don’t recognize the condition easily. It catches you by surprise and suddenly, you realize that you are chronically fatigued and are easily irritated. You dread the thought of going to work, or even getting out of bed.
Your focus and attention span are weakened, and you can’t work as quickly and effectively because you must track back due to your forgetfulness. You don’t find joy anymore in your work, home, and all other areas of your life. You feel helpless and overwhelmed, your sleep and eating patterns change, and you frequently have headaches and muscle pains.
The prevalence is especially high among doctors and nurses, and individuals who care for the sick or the elderly. But even mothers caring for young kids get burnout too, as do teachers and workers in other industries.
How can you recover from it?
Fortunately, psychologists and mental health professionals recognize that burnout is a widespread condition and have come up with ways for you to recover from it. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or changing your patterns of thinking and doing, can help you get over your burnout.
Reconnect with people.
One of the signs of burnout is the desire for isolation, such as detaching yourself from your friends, co-workers and even family members. Reverse your behavior and make a conscious effort to seek out close friends and family members and start talking to them again. Confide in a trusted individual who will genuinely listen and talk about your feelings of exhaustion and loss of interest.
Instead of being glued to your phone during office breaks, join your co-workers in water cooler chat and talk about hobbies and interests. Plan for social events with them outside of work. Hanging out with co-workers can cushion you from job burnout. Social interaction is one of the best natural coping mechanisms and a face to face talk with someone who is attentive and not judgmental will unburden you of stress.
Avoid or limit to the barest minimum your contact with negative people.
On the other hand, interacting with negative people will only exacerbate your burnout. Their pessimistic outlook and gloomy mood will reinforce yours and bring you down instead of helping you to recover. If you can’t avoid having to deal with them, make it as brief as possible.
Engage in activities you like.
Pursue your interests, be it in sports, the arts, outdoor recreation, entertainment or professional enhancement. In this environment, you’ll meet like-minded people who you can talk to. It’s a refreshing change from your routine and breaks the monotony that has added to your burnout.
Make mindfulness practices a daily habit.
Being mindful is to be aware of the present moment – the people around you, your environment – and your senses in response to them. It’s about accepting yourself and others and withholding judgment. Yoga, meditation, and tai-chi are some disciplines that have been proven to enhance the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of its followers.
Look after your basic needs.
Get enough sleep. Seven to nine hours of restful sleep improves your health, memory, alertness and safety. A sound sleep is achieved by sticking to a schedule, making your bedroom cool and free from distracting noise, having a soft and comfortable bed and pillows, and freeing your mind of troublesome thoughts.
Do physical activities that increase your heart rate and deliver oxygen to your lungs. If going to a gym is not your thing, do brisk walking, low impact dancing, biking and light to moderate home exercises. For more intense exercises, consult a physician first especially if you have heart issues.
Eat healthy food. Avoid eating too much food that is rich in fats, sugar, and salt. Follow a Mediterranean diet as it consists more of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, some wine.
Like its onset, recovery from burnout does not happen overnight. But by steering your behavior and mindset to a positive and optimistic direction, you can regain the motivation, energy, and drive to live a happier life again.
First published in 2019; updated December 2021