It’s interesting that, following Operation Transformation, this article is on the area of burnout — I must make a note to myself!
I have to say balancing competing priorities is more of a struggle this time of year than any other. I get a lot of requests for 1:1 sessions following OT, I say no to manage my own stress levels, while saying yes to school, work and community talks.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Erodes Your Soul
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life including home, work, and social life.
Prone to Burnout
My experience is that those who care, I mean really care, and are committed are prone to burnout. Often you see it in those in giving roles, such as mothers, carers, teachers, nurses, and health workers.
Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress.
Stress, by and large, involves ‘too much’: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.
Burnout, on the other hand, is about ‘not enough’. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring.
People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.
Signs and symptoms of burnout
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on us. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore the signs, you may eventually burn out.
Preventing Burnout—– The ‘Three Rs’ approach
Recognise: Watch for the warning signs of burnout and stress and engage self-care.
Recognition is the first act in preventing stress. Figure out how stress and burnout is impacting on you and develop your own self-care strategies. Self-care is not selfish, it’s something we need to do to protect ourselves. Sometimes when it comes to self-care we need to be assertive, as others might not like us taking back control over our wellbeing. Set boundaries and say no. Stay the course.
Reverse: Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress. Social connection is nature’s antidote to stress and talking face-to-face with a good listener is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors; they just have to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without becoming distracted or expressing judgment. Reach out to those closest to you, such as your partner, family, and friends, unless they are toxic.
Limit your contact with negative and toxic people. Hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain will only drag down your mood and outlook.
If you have to work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend together.
Resilience: Build your resilience to stress. This starts with sleep, rest, nutrition and exercise.
Exercise is my go to, but also the first thing that gets hit when I am stressed!
Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working.
Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.