Thanks to hectic schedules and society’s obsession with being busy all the time, more and more people are experiencing burnout in their personal and professional lives. Wait, I am not judging you or anyone for being a workhorse – I have burned out myself quite a few times. And each time, I have kicked myself in the gut for not reading the signs that led to my crash. For burnout doesn’t happen instantly. It creeps up on you like a monster stalking its victims. Luckily, if you look out for these telltale signs, you can stop it from showing up at your door.
But first, What exactly is burnout? Many people think it’s “just stress” or job-related.
HelpGuide defines it as “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.”
Basically, anyone can get burned out – students, stay at home parents, new mothers, office-goers, etc. Anyone who is constantly taking on more tasks than they can handle is at risk. And no matter what has caused the burnout, it will touch all areas of your life and make them super sucky.
What are the signs you are headed for exhaustion syndrome aka burnout? These are mine.
Now there’s a whole bunch of articles that will tell you the generic symptoms you can look out for. But that doesn’t make for a good read. So let me tell you how it manifests for me. Remember, I have clinical depression too, so it’s not easy to differentiate between burnout and depression. Here’s where I will give the mandatory disclaimer – This post, like all others, is no replacement for professional help. Visit a doctor for proper medical assistance and diagnosis instead of guesstimating on the basis of my words.
Okay, now that the legalese is all sorted, let’s begin.
The first sign is constant boredom and lethargy.
Then comes the disillusionment aka ‘what am I doing with my life?’ with a side dish of frustration and overwhelm.
And finally, the sign that clarifies I have burned out is the thought that I can’t/don’t want to do anything. Except hide out under my comforter all day.
How can you prevent it from officially arriving?
When the first sign hits me, I immediately make sure whether it’s a case of depression or burnout. If nothing interests me, it’s depression. When certain activities make me feel more relaxed, it means I have on the road to burnout. Since previous experiences have shown me how doing nothing about this is a mistake, I deal with it by narrowing my to-do lists and taking a mental health day or two. Within a week, I am cured of this international affliction.
As for what happens when I ignore signs 1 and 2? I always go on to step 2 and take about two months to heal. And that’s a lot of wasted time spent feeling miserable. Which is why I have learned not to ignore them. Whenever sign 1 shows up, I drop everything and loosen up my schedule. Even though that gets tricky at times, I get it done so I don’t move on to sign 2 and then 3.
What I’m trying to say is that even if it seems like a good idea to power through the initial stages of burnout, don’t. I have learned this the hard way and I hope you don’t have to go down that rocky road.
Take it from me: when you begin to feel drained, find out why and try to get rid of that feeling. If you don’t, you’ll know why ignoring your body’s warnings will always be one of your worst ideas.
You wouldn’t skip a visit to the service station when the battery of your bike/car/motorcycle is running low. Then why take on too much when you are in dire need of recharging your mind?
When was the last time you were hit with exhaustion syndrome? What did you do to recover from it? Let me know in the comments below.