Stress management – watch out for the burnout trap!
If you feel helpless, disillusioned, and utterly exhausted from constant stress, you may be on the path to burnout. What can you do to restore your balance and feel positive and hopeful again? Read on and then get some help! In earnest!
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress persists, you lose the interest and motivation that got you into a particular role in the first place.
Burnout reduziert die Produktivität und saugt Ihre Energie ab, so dass Sie sich zunehmend hilflos, hoffnungslos, zynisch und verärgert fühlen. Irgendwann haben Sie vielleicht das Gefühl, nichts mehr zu geben.
Die negativen Auswirkungen von Burnout haben Auswirkungen in jeden Bereich des Lebens – einschließlich Ihres Hauses, Ihrer Arbeit und Ihres sozialen Lebens. Burnout kann auch langfristige Veränderungen in Ihrem Körper verursachen, die Sie anfällig für Krankheiten wie Erkältungen und Grippe machen. Aufgrund seiner vielen Folgen ist es wichtig, sich sofort mit Burnout auseinanderzusetzen.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
Most of us have days when we feel helpless, overloaded, or unappreciated—when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If you feel like this most of the time, however, you may be burned out.
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. 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 them, you’ll eventually burn out.
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
Behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout
The difference between stress and burnout
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.
|Stress vs. Burnout|
|Characterized by over-engagement.||Characterized by disengagement.|
|Emotions are overreactive.||Emotions are blunted.|
|Produces urgency and hyperactivity.||Produces helplessness and hopelessness.|
|Loss of energy.||Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope.|
|Leads to anxiety disorders.||Leads to detachment and depression.|
|Primary damage is physical.||Primary damage is emotional.|
|May kill you prematurely.||May make life seem not worth living.|
Causes of Burnout
Burnout often stems from your job. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout, from the hardworking office worker who hasn’t had a vacation in years, to the frazzled stay-at-home mom tending to kids, housework, and an aging parent.
But burnout is not caused solely by stressful work or too many responsibilities. Other factors contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle and personality traits. In fact, what you do in your downtime and how you look at the world can play just as big of a role in causing overwhelming stress as work or home demands.
Work-related causes of burnout
- Feeling like you have little or no control over your work.
- Lack of recognition or reward for good work.
- Unclear or overly demanding job expectations.
- Doing work that’s monotonous or unchallenging.
- Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment.
Lifestyle causes of burnout
- Working too much, without enough time for socializing or relaxing.
- Lack of close, supportive relationships.
- Taking on too many responsibilities, without enough help from others.
- Not getting enough sleep.
Personality traits can contribute to burnout
- Perfectionistic tendencies; nothing is ever good enough.
- Pessimistic view of yourself and the world.
- The need to be in control; reluctance to delegate to others.
- High-achieving, Type A personality.
Dealing with burnout
Whether you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout or you’re already past the breaking point, trying to push through the exhaustion and continuing as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage. Now is the time to pause and change direction by learning how you can help yourself overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again.
Dealing with burnout requires the “Three R” approach:
Recognize: Watch for the warning signs of burnout.
Reverse: Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress.
Resilience: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
Are you on the way to burnout?
You may be on the path to burnout if:
- Every day is a bad day
- How you deal with your work or your personal life seems like a total waste of energy
- You are exhausted all the time
- Most of your day is spent doing tasks that you find either ‘dull’ boring or overwhelming
- You feel that nothing you do makes a difference or is valued
Dealing with Burnout - 5 Tips
The following tips on how to prevent or manage burnout can help you cope with symptoms and regain your energy, focus, and wellbeing.
Tip 1: Reach out to other people
When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone take action to help yourself. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and get your life back into balance. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.
Social contact 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. Opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship. Try not to think about what’s burning you out and make the time you spend with loved ones positive and enjoyable.
Be more sociable with your coworkers. Developing friendships with people you work with can help buffer you from job burnout. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smartphone, try engaging your colleagues. Or schedule social events together after work.
Limit your contact with negative 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.
Connect with a cause or a community group that is personally meaningful to you.Joining a religious, social, or support group can give you a place to talk to like-minded people about how to deal with daily stress—and to make new friends. If your line of work has a professional association, you can attend meetings and interact with others coping with the same workplace demands.
Find new friends. If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.
Tip 2: Reframe the way you look at work
Whether you have a job that leaves you rushed off your feet or one that is monotonous and unfulfilling, the most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit and find a job you love instead. Of course, for many of us changing job or career is far from being a practical solution, we’re grateful just to have work that pays the bills. Whatever your situation, though, there are still steps you can take to improve your state of mind.
Try to find some value in your work. Even in some mundane jobs, you can often focus on how your role helps others, for example, or provides a much-needed product or service. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy, even if it’s just chatting with your coworkers at lunch. Changing your attitude towards your job can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.
Find balance in your life. If you hate your job, look for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life: in your family, friends, hobbies, or voluntary work. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.
Make friends at work. Having strong ties in the workplace can help reduce monotony and counter the effects of burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve stress from an unfulfilling or demanding job, improve your job performance, or simply get you through a rough day.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence, anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and pursue other methods of recovery.
Tip 3: Reevaluate your priorities
Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. 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.
Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make.
Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email or social media.
Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.
Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.
Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.
Tip 4: Make exercise a priority
Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out, exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do right now to boost your mood.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.
Rhythmic exercise, where you move both your arms and legs, is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, running, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or even dancing.
To maximize stress relief, instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts, focus on your body and how it feels as you move: the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the wind on your skin.
Tip 5: Support your mood and energy levels with a healthy diet
What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
Reduce your high intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, unhealthy fats, and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones.
Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost.
The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Avoid nicotine. Smoking when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol temporarily reduces worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.