[Opinions expressed by guest authors are their own]
Burnout, a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, results from chronic work stress and anxiety – which are the by-products of a lifestyle that follows the ‘hustle overbalance’ route.
The telltale symptoms of burnout including frustration, lack of motivation, and overwhelming exhaustion sap you of energy, bringing your life to a psychological standstill, where nothing seems to be moving in a positive direction.
Signs & Symptoms
We all have days when every little task feels challenging, every good thing mundane, and every goal unachievable. Bad days make you feel overloaded, unappreciated, alone, and worthless. If every day feels like this, however, you may be burned out or about to have a major emotional, physical, and mental breakdown.
Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
- Loss of motivation
- Sense of worthlessness and self-doubt
- Feeling overwhelmed, trapped, and alone
- Lack of self-satisfaction and confidence
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
- Feeling tired all the time
- Loss of appetite
- Change in sleep habits
- Frequent headaches
- Muscle pains
Mental signs and symptoms of burnout
- Increase in negative thoughts
- Procrastinating, easily distracted
- Avoiding work as much as possible
- Using psychoactive drugs to cope with feelings of guilt and self-doubt
Causes of Burnout
Some people are naturally workaholic. They feel energetic, happy, alive when they work. They try to keep themselves as busy as possible, always engaged in some sort of productive activity.
Though such hard-wired discipline is not easy to acquire and is highly admirable, these people often have trouble relaxing.
They would rather binge 6 business books on weekends than spend an afternoon chilling out with friends at a local bar.
When you’re working all the time, unable to kick back with a rom-com even on Sundays, you constantly keep your body in the sympathetic or flight-or-fight state.
Your body needs to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest) every once in a while, or it starts to burn out.
The process is so gradual that you wouldn’t necessarily feel it wearing you out all at once.
Burnout also results from suboptimal work conditions, a job that you no longer enjoy, or an unhealthy lifestyle.
The first step towards treatment is recognizing the cause of your burnout.
How to Treat Burnout?
- Reach Out To Your Favorite People
Do not wait for burnout to seep into the marrow of your bones before reaching out to someone and asking for help.
Sharing how you’re feeling with a close friend or relative will release some of your built-up tension and allow you to look at the situation from a fresh perspective.
The persistent mind chatter in our heads rarely enables us to understand the root cause of a situation, and, thus, take the necessary action to uproot it.
The insights, empathy, and genuine concern of a close friend and relative will also make you feel less alone and overwhelmed.
2. Take a break
Sometimes a break is all you need to replenish your mental resources, rekindle your creative spark, and boost your passion.
When you take a break, make sure your mind is not making plans for the next business strategy you need to devise or going over all the pending tasks that need to get done. There is always going to be something to do. Just remember nothing is as important as your health and happiness.
Go surfing. Watch a movie while munching on Doritos. Invite your friends over and play video games. Just relax and don’t let your mind wander into those familiar office hallways and cluttered work stations.
3. Engage in some sort of physical activity
Sometimes your mind needs a break from all those laborious calculations and grueling campaigns. Taking part in some sort of physical activity like cleaning your office or repainting your house is the best way to engage your muscles and give your mind a rest.
You can also clean your house or reorganize your bookshelf. Any kind of physical activity that puts less strain on your mind and more on your muscles is good for eliminating negative thought patterns and fostering positivity.
1. Remember: Balance Over Hustle Is The Key
While the temptation of working extra hours may feel promising, especially if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur who works from home, remember balance over hustle is the key.
Create a schedule and stick to it. Devote a few hours every day to family, friends, and that Netflix show you’ve been putting off for so long.
Draw a line between your home and office life, so you have not tempted to overload yourself with assignments that can be taken care of later.
Those pending emails and unsolicited messages can wait. Your wellness cannot. Turn that into a mantra.
2. Have a Creative Outlet
While the ever-growing stardom of digital platforms like Youtube, Instagram, and Tik Tok has allowed people to turn their passion into work, it has also turned creativity into a daunting feat. As it happens, you do not need an Instagram account or a million followers on Tik Tok to discover what you can create.
Creativity shouldn’t be about social shares and fame. As Betsy Roe says,
“We often think about creativity as making something, but in fact, the root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’. When we are creative we feel as if the world and all that is in it is vibrantly alive.”
Having a creative outlet, like scribbling away in your art journal, or knitting a baby sweater will give your mind a break from the monotonous flow of your work life. Expressing yourself through art is one of the most beautiful ways of connecting with your innate nature.
3. Garbage In, Garbage Out
People often underestimate the power of self-efficacy, especially when there is always another ladder to scale, another uphill battle to defeat.
According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is a personal judgment of “how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations.”
If you allow negative thoughts to plague your subconscious, you will find it hard to have faith in your cognitive strengths and overcome challenging situations. Lack of self-efficacy will not only affect the result of your work but also welcome stress and anxiety to gnaw on your mental energy – which will eventually lead to burnout.
Practice self-efficacy. Believe in your unique set of cognitive strengths. The less you worry, the better you will perform at work without hoarding anxiety – the culprit behind burnout.
4. Have a blast on weekends
Weekends are the perfect way to wind up a hectic week. They give you something to look forward to on workdays and refresh you for the week ahead.
While the idea of getting things done and catching up with pending tasks on weekends may seem tempting, taking a break from the daily grind will allow you to be more productive on workdays.
No matter how much you love your work, endless hours hunched over a computer will increase your stress levels, resulting in unhealthy sleep habits and lack of motivation. Lazy Sundays and Pancake Saturdays keep your passion for work burning.
5. Join a community of like-minded people
If you are a reader, join a book club. If you are a musician, join a band. If you are a writer, join a writing group.
Your colleagues might be the perfect venting outlets, but they may not resonate with the things you are passionate about.
A community of like-minded people will keep you engaged and motivated about something other than work. Something that means as much to you – or more.
This community will also uplift you when you are down and rekindle your spirit when you feel drained – making you feel appreciated and less alone.
6. Eat Healthy Food
A healthy diet is essential for the optimal functioning of your body and mind. If you’re in the habit of gobbling down a meager meal while hunched over on your computer, fingers tapping away on the keys, then you’re not giving your body the right kind of enrichment.
An unhealthy diet full of processed food often lacks the essential nutrients that your body requires for performing different tasks. Lack of energy not only increases stress and anxiety levels but also affects your productivity.
Practice mindfulness when you’re eating. Engage all your senses and give your body only the best.
7. Create healthy sleep habits
Lack of sleep leads to exhaustion, poor mental health and increased stress levels – all of which contribute to the gradual process of burnout.
On average, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Good sleep is vital as it activates your parasympathetic (rest and digest) system, which allows your body to repair damaged cells and be fresh and active for another day full of possibilities.
Create a sleep schedule and avoid working late hours. You can also optimize your bedroom so your body enters the habit loop and shuts down as soon as you close your eyes.
8. Don’t be a Perfectionist
Perfectionism is a personality trait born from the compulsive desire to deliver only the best results.
You might often find yourself rewriting a single paragraph over and over again, trying to judge it from different angles to figure out which style flows better or sounds more flowery.
Perfectionism is a deceptive mind trick, a sugar-coated version of procrastination. It prevents you from making progress, the realization of which often results in guilt, stress and anxiety.
No matter how passionate you are about something, do not be a perfectionist. Instead of trying to do an unparalleled job – never before seen or heard of – try to do a good enough job. You’ll make mistakes along the way, but mistakes will teach you more than you can learn from hoarding anxiety and redoing a single task a hundred times over.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. If you feel anxiety and negative thoughts creeping up on you more often than usual, reach out to a friend and share how you have been feeling lately. You’ll feel less alone and overwhelmed when someone tells you that they’ve been there too.
Remember burnout is a red flag warning for a mental and emotional breakdown. Recognize the signs and symptoms and give yourself the break you’ve been long overdue for.