Are you on the road to burnout?

Burnout

Are you on the road to burnout?

It’s something we’re all too familiar with - it’s burnout. When you push yourself to the absolute limit before going “I’m done”. Here to guide us through burnout in this week’s Writer’s Corner is Ellie.

Many of us are all too familiar with the term ‘burnout’. It’s a state of mental and physical exhaustion that stems from working too hard and not taking proper care of ourselves. 

While we all want to work hard, if we want to be our most efficient there has to be a balance. You can’t be all go-go-go without any time set aside for cooling off. You need to match periods of non-stop work with periods of rest and recuperation. Otherwise, you risk burning out and losing your productivity altogether. 

Taking it too far

In a lot of ways, burnout can be a downside to passion and productivity. Being passionate about what you do is great, but you need to know when to stop. Especially if you love your work, it’s easy to get carried away and allow it to take over. You stop having a work-life balance and instead have a lot of the work without any of the life.

There’s also a societal factor to burnout. We’re in a society where working hard isn’t always considered as hard enough. There’s a misconception that to be productive we must give all we’ve got at all times. We must work until we’re running on empty and then we’ll have earned our position. In employment, tasks need doing as soon as possible, or every second spent behind the computer must be productive and worthwhile. A lot of the time, we fear we’ll be under scrutiny if we’re not consistently pushing ourselves.

Out of 7,500 employees, 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always. While 44% feel burned out sometimes. Take some comfort in the fact you’re not alone. 

When we take things too far - when we strive to be too productive if you will - we end up shutting down. Our body physically and mentally shuts off because it’s exhausted and needs time to cool down. Even though you start with the best intentions, working too hard can result in a complete halt to productivity and motivation. The opposite of what you want. This is what makes burnout so frustrating. A lot of the time we bring ourselves to this breaking point and end up in the exact situation we wanted to avoid.

Read the signs

Working ourselves to the point of burnout, taking a week off to recover, and then repeating the same again and again isn’t a good habit to get into. Your body lets you know when it’s reaching its limit. So it’s important we learn to listen and read the signs. When you fear you’re on a downward slope, take a break before you’re forced into one.

The physical signs of burnout are things like a lack of appetite or increased fatigue. You might get regular headaches or notice more frequent periods of lethargy. Your immune system can often take a hit so you might feel more run-down or see recurrent illnesses.

Psychological symptoms you may notice are fluctuating moods, unexpected sadness, or persistent anxiety. You might feel hopeless, like you’re not good enough, or see a complete lack of motivation. Your whole demeanour will take a turn for the worse. Your emotions will be all over the place while all feelings of passion or enjoyment will be muted.

Another sign you’re close to burnout is when you start making unhealthy choices. You know these things are bad for you, but you keep making bad calls anyway. Maybe you get into the habit of skipping meals because you don’t feel you have the time to eat. Or you’ve been eating unhealthy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for weeks on end. You might also be pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines but not making up for the lost sleep at any other part of the day.

Stop making excuses

We can be hesitant to acknowledge we’re burning out because it can feel a lot like admitting defeat. We justify what we’re doing by saying ‘it’s only for another week’, or ‘once I’ve achieved X, Y, and Z I’ll give myself a break’.

In the moment, logic can disappear. We don’t understand we’re driving ourselves into a brick wall, but instead we keep going and wait for the crash. 

Know when to stop

Whenever we work hard, we’re running the risk of pushing ourselves too far. And this isn’t to say you shouldn’t work hard or push yourself. You should want to be your best. But you should also know when to stop.

Try to recognise signs of burnout and make changes before it gets even worse. Plan your time more productively so you’re able to fit in breaks and times for relaxation. Let the people around you know this is something you struggle with. This way, they can intervene and force you away from work when they notice you slipping.

We’re all capable of burning ourselves out. It’s easy to get carried away and ignore your body’s need for downtime and relaxation. But by pushing ourselves too far, we can ruin our future productivity. It’s important we listen to our bodies so we can prevent this from happening. When your body’s screaming for a rest, give it one. If you’re struggling to focus or get things done, don’t beat yourself up, just revisit once things feel better.

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Alia CosterComment