Do you feel constantly exhausted and drained, tend to isolate yourself from your friends and family, and are losing motivation? In this case, there's a good probability you're on the verge of burnout.
But, first and foremost, what is burnout? Simply put, burnout is a state of exhaustion that includes physical, emotional, and mental fatigue. The term comes from Herbert Freudenberger’s 1974 book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, where the author described the phenomenon as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause of relationship fails to produce the desired results”.
The most common cause of burnout is a stressful work environment, lack of reward for good work, and overworking. However, your personality traits and lifestyle choices, are also very important factors. Some lifestyle causes include not having enough time to socialize with loved ones or even relax, taking on too many responsibilities, and not sleeping enough. Additionally, if you are a high achiever or a perfectionist that needs to be in control at all times, you are more prone to experience burnout.
Burnout is not just too much stress
Burnout is frequently mistaken for stress. Even though the latest might often influence burnout, they are actually quite the opposite. Stress is commonly linked with the words 'too much' - having too many responsibilities, too much work to manage, and working too many hours. Burnout, on the other hand, can be defined inversely as 'not enough' - not enough energy, not enough motivation, not enough interest. People who are stressed frequently understand that once the storm passes and they have everything under control, they will begin to feel better. People who are burnt out, however, may not see any chance for positive change coming their way. It's also worth mentioning that people who are suffering from burnout aren't always aware that it's happening.
Burnout can be classified into five different stages.
- Firstly, there is the Honeymoon phase. It begins with enthusiasm and hope. This stage is marked by feelings of fulfilment, productivity, and creativity. However, if you begin to feel slightly stressed and worried, it is critical to address it at this point and not allow it to worsen in order to avoid burnout.
- The Onset of stress phase comes next. People in this stage start to experience stress and lose focus more quickly, resulting in a less productive workflow. You may experience increased anxiety, forgetfulness, and difficulty falling asleep. Each day, however, is different, and some days may be more challenging than others.
- The third stage is the Chronic stress phase. Here stress becomes more chronic and is more likely to affect your work as well. This stage is characterized by being late, procrastinating tasks, and failing to complete them. Also, don't be surprised if you become increasingly annoyed and furious with the people around you.
- That stage is followed by the Burnout phase, in which your body has reached the point where it can no longer function normally. The symptoms worsen, and it becomes more difficult to cope with everyday tasks. You might feel numb and have a lot of self-doubt, in addition to frequent headaches, stomach issues, and a strong desire to isolate yourself.
- The Habitual burnout phase is the final stage. Here, burnout has been ingrained in your everyday life, resulting in extreme anxiety and depression. Chronic physical and mental exhaustion will most likely keep you from working. The symptoms have intensified and are now accompanied by chronic sadness and severe depression.
How to deal with burnout?
- The best way to avoid burnout (or deal with it, if you already have it), is to allow yourself some time to rest and relax. It's essential to give yourself some space and time away from all the work. Rethink your values, dreams, and priorities; learn to say "no"; put your phone away; begin a new creative project, and get enough sleep – all these things will help you take better care of yourself.
- Reaching out to your closest friends and the people you can trust is another great solution to help yourself. Don't keep it bottled in! Your loved ones may be able to provide you with the best advice, that you hadn't even considered yourself. And did you know that talking to a good listener is one of the quickest ways to relax your nervous system and relieve stress?
- Furthermore, make sure you get enough exercise! Although while burnt out, many people would rather not even think about exercising, it can be a powerful tool for giving your body more energy and boosting your mood. Start with a 10-minute walk and progressively increase the length of it day by day. Exercising allows you to focus on your body rather than your thoughts!
- Last but not least, keep a healthy diet in mind. Sweets, carbs, and caffeine may all decrease your mood and energy levels quickly, so avoid them as much as possible. Instead, eat extra Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in a variety of foods such as fish, seaweed, and walnuts. Also, try to stay away from nicotine and alcohol. Although they can help you calm down and feel less stressed, too much of them might lead to increased anxiety.
Do you recognize some of the previously mentioned symptoms in yourself and feel like you can't handle it on your own? In this case, make sure to seek help from a student counsellor (you can find more information about student counsellors at BUas through this link) or another professional. Take good care of yourself! 🙂