Do you feel like you have no energy left to deal with the stresses of your job? Or, for that matter, your life? That you just ‘can’t take this anymore’? If you do, you are probably experiencing burnout.
A lot of people of several age groups go through burnout. At times, it goes unnoticed for long or gets addressed very late. By the time, the fatigue and distress the person experiences take a toll. How do you know if you are going through this? Here are some ways of recognizing burnout:-
Signs of Burnout:
Burnout is described as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”
If you see that you go through the following, especially the first three, chances are that you’re going through burnout
Exhaustion – You feel as though you have no resources left to deal with demands and responsibilities. You feel weary and lethargic, physically, mentally or both.
Drop in Productivity – Assignments take longer to finish, you make more mistakes; you are far less productive than you were earlier.
Demotivation – You no longer feel as motivated about things that motivated you earlier. What you felt passionate about earlier, you seem indifferent to now.
Irritability – You snap at the slightest of provocation. You find yourself getting easily annoyed at things..and you know this isn’t typical of you.
Social Withdrawal – You might not feel like talking to colleagues or for that matter, even family. You feel like keeping to yourself and avoid interaction.
What are these Signs of Burnout trying to tell You?
Burnout is a manifestation of a deeper problem. It is a clear message that:
“You can’t go on like this anymore. It’s time for change”
It’ s time to stop and notice that you are really unhappy. At the core, what is this unhappiness about?
It could certainly be about some factors at work– long hours, several deadlines, underemployment, politics and pressure.
However more often than not, it is likely that something else is at the core and the work stressors are merely compounding the problem. It could be:-
- Stressors outside of work, such as acute relationship distress or family problems that you need to address.
- Bigger, larger aspects of your life that you’ve been ignoring. The things you’ve wanted to do but have never done, the experiences you’ve wanted to have, but have shied away from, the childhood hobbies that you were so passionate about but left behind..all of these could also be reasons why you are burnt out.
- Some meaninglessness about what you are doing or your everyday routine that keeps nagging underneath but you ignore it.
Simply put burnout is a message to you that things need to change. Something important is not being looked at. You are not listening deeply to your own self. Chances are, you already know to some extent what that is but have not been addressing it. Burnout time is time to pause, to take stock.
How to Handle Burnout?
Some Free and Wide Introspection
Sit back and take stock – what are all the changes you want in your life? Is there anything you wish to change? It could be a small change, or a big one. It is always better if you know what you want. How big the change is, what’s prompting it and whether it is doable are all things that you would have to think about, step by step. All the same, ignoring your wants or making compromises is a short term strategy… you will pull through for a while before unhappiness catches up again. Freely think about what really is bothering you and what you wish to change.
Notice What’s Keeping You from Changing
While introspecting, also think about what has been holding you back for so long. Sometimes, we desire change but put it off, or subconsciously resist it. Ask yourself why aren’t you ready? What are the fears that keep you in the same spot? Acknowledge these reservations and fears, know that they are there. Then be brave. Being brave doesn’t necessarily mean plunging into humongous change. It means – taking the smallest step towards change.
The Practice of Mindfulness Meditation can be helpful in coping with Burnout.
Begin your practice with our carefully curated Guided Meditation Playlist!
For Easy Changes
This is simple. If in your list there are some comparatively easy changes – such as avoiding staying back at work needlessly, limiting gossip with coworkers or exercising just a little bit everyday, you can immediately get started. In fact, it is a good idea to get started, since making small changes will give you a boost..it will shift you out of the rut. And what you need the most, right now, is probably just that – moving out of the rut. Maybe next time you feel too tired just breathe thrice being present. Or take a 5 minute quiet rest in the afternoons. Or if you can’t join a dance class you’ve been waiting to join maybe just go for a single class one weekend.
For Complex, Big Changes
If you are absolutely certain of what you want, start planning for the change. This change might have been on your mind for long. You’ve done the thinking. Now, start planning for it. Think of it like this – what can I do right now in the direction of this change I want? Options might be many, depending on what the change is – bringing issues up at work, talking to concerned persons, joining a course or something else. If you think about it, you will be able to identify what this first step could be. Whatever it is, try and do it. Just standing up and paying attention to your needs will soothe some of the angst.
However, sometimes, you have a vague idea about what you want, but are unsure about whether it is good for you in the long run. Maybe you’ve never given these changes a serious thought. In such cases:-
Spend some time contemplating these ideas – Once you really give each of these ideas a real thought, the picture will become clearer. It might take you some days and things might seem hazy to begin with, however, they do become clearer with time. Some questions that might help are-
- Where is this idea stemming from? What is driving it?
- Is it just my present frustration that’s making me think this way? Or is there something deeper?
- What are the possible pitfalls of pursuing this idea?
- What are the things I need to take care of, if I were to go ahead?
Get Perspective – Perspective helps a lot while you contemplate. Talk to people who have known you and who will be honest with you about what they feel. You can think aloud with them, and there will be space for your ideas to get discussed in a safe space. Importantly, you will get feedback from them and that might open up new windows of thought.
If you see yourself gaining some clarity in a few weeks, or a few months even, you are doing well.
Do Things You Enjoy
This one you might have read or heard about for sure. It seems paradoxical or even repulsive to be asked to ‘enjoy’ when you are feeling down… but it certainly helps. Do whatever gives you happiness. Small things, just about anything that you like – meeting people you like, or taking a small trip alone, drawing and doodling or loud bathroom singing, cooking new recipes or feasting on cuisines you like… don’t underestimate the power of play and fun. It makes you feel good and you deserve to feel good, don’t you
Burnout is a phase, with a message for you. Listen to yourself, get support, and you will eventually do what is right for you
Image Credit: Schezar
Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan
Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she conducts Individual Counseling at Inner Space.