How to Beat Burnout: The Stages of Burnout and Tips on Coping
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As a society, we are consumed with “hustle culture” and it has become an expectation to always be producing or learning, or juggling multiple things at once. However, habits like these can sneak up on you quickly. In this blog, we will be discussing the stages of burnout as well as some helpful tips to overcome the dreary feeling of not matching your best potential.
What is Burnout?
Burnout may feel different depending on the person and their situation. It can be defined as a state of being mentally or physically exhausted because of prolonged stressors. This exhaustion can take from physical, mental, or emotional health, and the stressors can stem from anything in your everyday environment piling up. This can include work, school, family, relationships, environmental stressors, finances, or all of the above haven’t been resolved or accomplished over a period of time, or if the activity has been repeated over a long period of time with no breaks.
You may feel like you are mentally or physically fatigued or in a slump, or that doable tasks seem too overwhelming to face. A primary cause of burnout is a lack of support or lack of passion for the tasks you are performing on a daily basis. It may feel like you can’t escape this cycle, or like you have no control over your burnout.
Individuals in medical professions might feel burnout because they give an abundance of their time and energy to help people in a distressed state. Stay-at-home parents can feel this way, they are at home responsible for everyone in their family, usually sacrificing their careers and time to make sure everyone else is happy. First responders might feel this as well; it is hard to take care of yourself when you are responsible for others as your career.
These individuals might feel Compassion fatigue. This can be an outcome of burnout, this is when an individual loses hope in their ability to help others because of lowered levels of empathy. For students reading this, you may know the burnout feeling all too well. When constantly working towards a degree, you may easily feel drained. Burnout can happen to anyone, so it is key to start recognizing what may trigger the burnout cycle and how to make it more manageable.
Cycles and Stages of Burnout:
Burnout is usually associated with feelings of being trapped in a cycle of negative emotions of burnout: high levels of stress. Hopelessness is another feeling that arises with burnout or the feeling that you put in so much effort with little in return. These feelings can lead you to frustration or depletion.
The burnout stages may look like:
- Feeling determined to prove yourself.
- Starting to work harder at completing more tasks.
- Starting to compromise instead of caring for yourself.
- Overlooking conflicts and focusing more on things that need to be done.
- Denying that you feel tired.
- Withdrawing from aspects of your life that you enjoy.
- Recognizable mood changes.
- Signs of depersonalization.
- Increased feelings of emptiness and anxiety.
- Mental, emotional, and/or physical collapse.
How to Avoid Burnout:
- Boundaries! If you feel that you are responsible for too many tasks, it is ok to talk about how you feel and alternatives with peers, coworkers, and supervisors. Even at home, if things are becoming too hard to accomplish, it is ok to say no or ask for more time! Your mental health and sanity come first and you cannot be on top of your game if you are exhausted. Focus on one task at a time. This can help with the overwhelming feelings that are associated with burnout.
- To-do lists and planners are also extremely helpful to write out tasks that need to be done, just done at a later time when you are in the right headspace. You can come back to the list when you feel rested and ready to start new tasks.
- Unplug and go into nature! You would be surprised how good you feel after a quick walk outside with no phone or notifications.
- Work-life balance is also so important! It is talked about frequently, but what does that mean exactly? Work-life balance means that you should also be nurturing relationships, friendships, hobbies, exercising, adventuring, or just the little things that make you happy apart from work or study. Taking care of your life is the ultimate goal—you are not just a job or an accomplishment!
- It is also important to remember that there is always an option to leave or to change something, you can always say no or move to another possibility.
Take care of yourself first…
It is a great accomplishment to have a career you are proud of and a degree you worked hard for and a big family to share memories with. But without balance, you will be stuck in the cycle instead of living your life and checking experiences off of your bucket list. Adding self-care priorities that require more downtime and breaks, and saying “yes” to more things after work can diminish the frequency of burnout the more you implement it. It is also a big step to take if you need to close an opportunity and open a new one if it is dimming your light too much. Keeping your light lit will prevent it from burning out.
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Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Burnout. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/burnout
Team, T. (2022, October 11). Burnout: Stages, types, causes, signs. therapist.com. https://therapist.com/stress/burnout/
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