Burnout is a seri­ous issue and is some­thing that can seri­ously derail you and your cre­ative spirit. Over bur­den­ing your­self can become real­ity for some of us, and real­is­ing the signs that you’re burn­ing out is essen­tial in main­tain­ing men­tal and phys­i­cal health.

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Burnout is defined as “a stage of emo­tional, men­tal and phys­i­cal exhaus­tion caused by exces­sive and pro­longed stress”. Burnout will leave you feel­ing increas­ingly help­less, hope­less, cyn­i­cal and resentful.

The first thing to remem­ber is that there’s a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between stress and burnout. Burnout can occur when you’ve been sub­jected to large amounts of stress, but is not the same as too much stress.

Stress, by and large refers to “too much” — too much to do, too much pres­sure, too much work. Burnout is char­ac­terised how­ever by a sense of empti­ness — lack­ing in moti­va­tion, not car­ing about things any­more and fail­ing to see any redeem­ing qual­ity in the situation.

helpguide​.org iden­ti­fies a few indi­ca­tors that you’re on the road to burnout:

  • Every day is a bad day
  • Car­ing about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy
  • You’re exhausted all the time
  • The major­ity of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-​numbingly dull or overwhelming
  • You feel like noth­ing you do makes a dif­fer­ence or is appreciated

There are also a series of signs that iden­tify burnout phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally and by behav­iour. These include:

  • Feel­ing tired and drained most of the time, fre­quent headaches and changes in appetite
  • A sense of fail­ure and self-​doubt, loss of moti­va­tion and an increas­ingly cyn­i­cal attitude
  • With­drawal from respon­si­bil­ity, iso­la­tion from oth­ers and procrastination

These symp­toms closely mir­ror those of depres­sion, and much like depres­sion, burnout can increase grad­u­ally over an extended period of time. If you feel that some of these symp­toms are start­ing to creep up on you, there are steps you can take to pre­emp­tively address them.

Again, helpguide​.org pro­vides some great burnout pre­ven­tion tips:

  • Start the day with a relax­ing rit­ual. Rather than jump­ing out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least fif­teen min­utes read­ing your bible, writ­ing in your jour­nal, or doing gen­tle stretches.
  • Adopt healthy eat­ing, exer­cis­ing, and sleep­ing habits. When you eat right, engage in reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­ity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s has­sles and demands.
  • Set bound­aries. Don’t overex­tend your­self. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this dif­fi­cult, remind your­self that say­ing “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
  • Take a daily break from tech­nol­ogy. Set a time each day when you com­pletely dis­con­nect. Put away your lap­top, turn off your phone, and stop check­ing email.
  • Nour­ish your cre­ative side. Cre­ativ­ity is a pow­er­ful anti­dote to burnout. Try some­thing new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activ­i­ties that have noth­ing to do with work.
  • Learn how to man­age stress. When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel help­less. But you have a lot more con­trol over stress than you may think. Learn­ing how to man­age stress can help you regain your balance.


If you feel like you’ve already gone over the cliff into burnout ter­ri­tory, there’s very lit­tle you can do to slow the momen­tum of the fall. If you’ve reached this point, you need to address your burnout seri­ously — con­tin­u­ing to strug­gle through this will only lead to more phys­i­cal and emo­tional stress. There are three broad but effec­tive post burnout strate­gies:


1. Slow down

Take your foot off the gas for a moment. Iden­tify areas of your life that are adding the most weight and cut them loose, if only for the short term. You will need to force your­self to slow down, which may mean fight­ing against the way high capac­ity peo­ple have pro­grammed them­selves — to be doing some­thing all the time. The hard­est step is to stop and take a deep breath before ask­ing from help.


2. Get support

Don’t iso­late your­self. It’s a nat­ural instinct when you’re hurt­ing or feel­ing removed. Just remem­ber, the peo­ple who care about you will be the most impor­tant asset you have in deal­ing with your burnout. Even talk­ing with some­one you trust and shar­ing your feel­ings will help. Don’t feel like you’re bur­den­ing those peo­ple either — the ones that care will not even think twice.


3. Reeval­u­ate


There are a few things to note here. Burnout is a sign that some­thing in your life isn’t work­ing well, and if you can lever­age the sit­u­a­tion to help you iden­tify that “some­thing”, then you’ve already taken a pos­i­tive first step towards recov­ery. Think about your dreams and goals and use this as a chance to start again with a clean slate.

Finally, it’s healthy to acknowl­edge that burnout causes you to lose some­thing. Leav­ing these unrecog­nised will inevitably start the cycle again. Ruth Luban’s “Keep­ing The Fire” char­ac­terises those “some­things” as:

  • Ide­al­ism or dream with which you entered your career
  • The role or iden­tity that orig­i­nally came with your job
  • Phys­i­cal and emo­tional energy
  • Friends, fun, and sense of community
  • Self-​esteem and sense of control
  • Joy, mean­ing and pur­pose that make work — and life — worthwhile

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Hope­fully, burnout isn’t some­thing you’ll encounter in your life. But, if the warn­ing symp­toms are there, take the steps in this arti­cle and make sure that you seek appro­pri­ate help.


helpguide​.org

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