Burnout: How to identify and deal with it

By Grace Duffy / August 3, 2021
burnout

Ever feel overwhelmed, unfocused, or guilty that all you seem to do these days is drag yourself around? You could be suffering from burnout. If you think this might be the case or maybe you’re desperately looking for a way to get back on track, then keep reading. Because, in this article, we’re going to look at how to identify burnout, what causes it, and how best to deal with it so that you can get back to living. Let’s get to it.

What is burnout?

Burnout is defined as being a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged periods of workplace-related stress that has not been dealt with. This occupational phenomenon can affect anyone, anywhere, and at any stage in their career. Noticeably, however, the vast majority of sufferers are those in the high-stress professions of social work, emergency response, design, business, retail, medicine, and law.

The other side of this coin is also knowing how to recognise the difference between normal work-related stress versus the soul-crushing abyss that is burnout. For example, stress, in small doses and when the occasion calls for it, can be a great motivator and is a healthy way of testing yourself from time to time. It is also an unavoidable part of any workplace as most professions and sectors will inevitably have a “busy period”. For retail workers, this could be Christmas, and, for emergency response professionals, it could be the summer months.

Burnout, on the other hand, is when the stressful period at work never ends and, coupled with growing anxiety and feelings of failure, can leave many workers confused, exhausted, and feeling unable to face another day at work.

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What are the symptoms of burnout?

So how do you identify if you are suffering from burnout or are perhaps headed in that direction? Well, it affects everyone differently, with some people suffering from physical side effects and not mental or those who experience a shift in their emotional state. That being said the most common signs to look for are:

Physical

  • Exhaustion – constantly feeling tired, like you are dragging yourself around.

  • Sick – you get frequent illnesses and headaches.

  • Sleep – Your sleeping patterns are disturbed or you are unable to get good quality sleep resulting in feeling tired even when you wake up.

Mental

  • Motivation – You have a complete lack of motivation to do anything and may feel hopeless.

  • Confusion – It is hard to focus on tasks and complete them, and you frequently get confused or are forgetful.

  • Feelings – You feel miserable, useless, trapped, and have an uncharacteristically negative outlook on life.

  • Emotional – Angry or emotional outbursts caused by a feeling of frustration.

  • Guilt – Feeling guilty for procrastinating or failing to meet deadlines.

Behavioural  

  • Withdrawing from society.

  • Turning to substances to cope  – alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities.

  • Procrastinating or skipping work.

How do you get over burnout?

Now, whilst these symptoms are broad and can be a result of many other illnesses and problems, they are the most common ones associated with burnout. The good news, however, is that there are multiple ways that you can combat this exhaustion-ridden limbo. Here are some of the best:

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Say no

This one can be difficult to carry out but is paramount if you feel overwhelmed and need a break from the drudgery of work. Do not feel pressured to take on additional roles and responsibilities in the workplace, at home, or even in regard to trying to keep up with other parents or neighbours. Everyone’s schedule is different so, whilst it may be a breeze for someone to fit in three extracurricular hobbies for their child, if you only have time for one then that’s fine. Focus on what works for you instead of trying to play catch up with other people. By saying “no”, you will be able to streamline your schedule and focus on what is essential.

Sleep

Sleep can be the number one thing that makes or breaks a person. When you don’t get enough sleep it can cause a ripple effect which hinders everything else in our lives, from work performance to our metabolisms. Help to reset your sleep pattern by not looking at a screen one hour before you go to bed, turning off notifications, and placing phones away from your head before you hit the hay. You should also aim to go to bed at the same time every night to establish good sleeping habits and to help things along. Studies have shown that lavender essential oil can also help to calm the mind before bed and improve insomnia.

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Exercise

Exercise is incredibly important for those suffering from burnout as, for many, it is a chance to have a break from their responsibilities and clear their heads. It can help to alleviate stress, keep your body healthy, and improve your mood.

Exercise also goes hand in hand with promoting better sleep. Oftentimes, people complain that they are unable to fall asleep despite saying that they are exhausted. However, what they really mean is that they are mentally exhausted from sitting at a desk all day. Therefore, it can be difficult to fall asleep at night when the body has not physically moved in hours and still has stores of energy. That is why exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk in the evening with your partner, can do wonders for your body and sleep schedule.

Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and takeaways

It can be very tempting after a stressful week to get a takeaway or to celebrate a Friday night with a bottle of wine, and, whilst these things are fine in moderation, overindulgence or reliance on ready meals can make the symptoms of burnout worse. These foods and substances can contribute to higher levels of anxiety, weight gain, and a lowered mood. All of which can make it harder to break out of that negative cycle. Aim to eat a more balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and, for smokers, aim to cut down or quit as nicotine actually makes anxiety levels worse.

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Better organisation

Last on our list is organisation. As burnout can lead to brain fog and a sense that tasks have become overwhelming, there is all the more reason to get organised. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of writing down thoughts, fears, and, most importantly, to-do lists. By making out a list of important upcoming events, tasks, and deadlines, you can rid yourself of the stress and panic that comes with being caught off guard.

You may also discover that, by writing down your worries, you are better able to figure out what is causing your burnout or if there is an underlying problem that has changed your attitude towards work.  Better organisation leads to more control over your day and, that way, you can avoid nasty surprises.

Conclusion

Overall, burnout, like most ailments, is curable. Oftentimes it can be hard for people to admit they are struggling, even to themselves, and, with our lives becoming more hectic, it has nearly become an expected part of juggling work and home life. You just have to identify and tackle it as early as you can in order to claw back control over your schedule and life.

If this article has been useful, or you think it might help someone suffering from burnout, then please feel free to like and share it.

 

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About the author

Grace Duffy

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