For many, burnout has become a common part of daily life in the era of COVID-19. We’re hearing more and more about burnout in the news and in our social media feeds, with terms such as “lockdown fatigue”, “languishing” and “work-from-home burnout” permeating our collective vocabulary.
What is burnout?
How does it impact us on a daily basis?
Why do we experience it in the first place?
Why is self-care alone not enough to overcome it?
If we look beyond the obvious reasons for burnout – such as work-related stress and the monotony of a repetitive daily routine, we may find something deeper. Specifically, that our burnout might be trying to tell us something and could indicate that perhaps we aren’t as content with our lives as we may have previously thought. In this sense, burnout could be a sign that we desperately need to make a change.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can occur when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. You begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces our productivity and saps our energy, leaving us feeling increasingly helpless, powerless, cynical, and resentful. The unhappiness caused by burnout can eventually threaten your job, relationships, and ultimately your health. Burnout can sneak up on us and may appear when we least expect it – even when things seem like they’ve been going pretty well.
How does burnout impact us on a daily basis?
Symptoms of burnout can be tricky to identify, they can be subtle and may blend into the background noise of our day-to-day activities. However, there are some warning signs we can look out for that may help us realise when we need to step back and take stock of things. These can include:
- Feeling tired and unfocused most of the time
- Feeling detached and unmotivated
- Lowered immunity or muscle tension
- Using food, alcohol, or drugs to cope with stress
- Feeling chronically frustrated or irritated by the people around us
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Being unable to take pleasure in things that we’d normally find enjoyable
Self-care questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling burnt out
Am I eating enough and eating well?
It’s important to remember that diet can have a considerable impact on our mood and energy levels. Try to make sure that you’re eating regular, healthy meals throughout the day and that you’re drinking plenty of water.
How much caffeine am I consuming and when am I consuming it?
Caffeine might seem like a “get out of jail free card” when it comes to productivity. However, it charges a hefty fee if consumed in excess or consumed at the wrong time of day. The detrimental effects of caffeine on sleep are well documented. If consumed late in the day, it can leave us feeling unrefreshed – even if we’ve had a full night of rest. The same can be said for alcohol.
Am I taking time in the day to be still?
It can be difficult to find moments of silence in our noisy world. However, it is important to take time throughout the day to reflect and simply do nothing – if only for a few minutes. You may want to consider including mindfulness or breathwork in your daily routine, as these practices can offer multiple benefits in relation to stress reduction and overall health.
Do I have healthy boundaries in place?
Lifestyle changes elicited by the pandemic have blurred the lines between professional and personal time more than ever before. Many of us are working from home and there are no clear boundaries for when our work time ends and begins. This can lead to a scenario where we’re “always on” and may feel guilty for taking a break from our responsibilities.
Consequently, it’s up to us to put healthy boundaries in place and create separation between work and personal time. Additionally, try to set aside an hour or so each day where you do something that you enjoy and find meaning in. Something that is intrinsically motivated and done specifically for your own mental and spiritual nourishment. Remember, it’s absolutely okay to say “no” once in a while…
For further assistance with self-care planning, check out our Structured Self-Care Checklist on the Mind Up website.
Why is self-care alone not enough to overcome burnout?
Self-care is a critically important aspect of maintaining our mental and physical health, but sometimes it fails to address the root cause of problems such as burnout. If we stop for a moment and really listen to ourselves, we may find that our burnout is being driven by a misalignment with our core values or an absence of purpose and meaning in our daily lives. At times like this, it’s important to reflect on the things that truly matter to us and to think deeply about the things that we know we need but may not be getting.
To assist us in this task, we can turn to the 7 Dimensions of Wellbeing Model. This is a resource that can help us articulate how well we’re functioning in multiple domains of life. It can be used as a foundation to determine where changes may need to be made.
Where to next?
The resources alluded to in this article should provide you with a solid foundation for understanding burnout and learning how best to avoid and recover from it. However, if you feel like you would benefit from further assistance with burnout or related matters, you’re more than welcome to get in touch.
Please reach out to Mind Up to organise a chat with someone from our team.