Burnout – It’s Been A Full-on Year!

Women lots of post-it-notes on laptop and head in hand

What Is Burnout?

Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term “burnout” in 1974. He described it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion that occurs when we have experienced prolonged or chronic stress.

Unsurprisingly, burnout has been increasingly common in our busy, “hustle” oriented world. Particularly since 2020 due to the stresses and demands brought about by the global pandemic.


How To Identify Burnout

Burnout can present in a variety of different ways and can look a little bit different for everyone, but there are three specific signs or symptoms that show up:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

Everyone feels a little tired from time to time, but burnout is characterised by extreme fatigue that is hard to shake. Along with that exhaustion, you may feel overwhelmed by tasks that used to be simple and find it hard to motivate yourself to do much of anything at all.

Work that you used to enjoy can feel too difficult or downright pointless. Small stresses may feel like the end of the world, and you might be at a loss with how to get the old you back.

Your energy is zapped, your motivation has long departed, and you may develop a host of physical symptoms as your nervous system succumbs to that perpetual state of fight or flight.


Common Signs Of Burnout

There are some common signs that can signify burnout. These can be:

  • Persistent insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Digestive disorders
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Isolation
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of productivity

While anybody can become burned out, it does seem particularly common amongst “type A” personalities – those who tend to be highly ambitious and perfectionists.


3 Simple Steps To Support Yourself

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It’s actually a result of ongoing stress. This stress could stem from one area of your life or many. Perhaps you’re caring for an ill family member, working in a demanding job, trying to home school the kids through a pandemic, or facing another challenge.

After identifying that you’re suffering from burnout, the first consideration is to ask yourself if there’s a way to address the stress in your life.

Is there anything you can do to ease the pressure you feel at work or home? If not, then it’s time to take some practical steps to deal with the stress yourself.

Here are three simple yet effective ways you can support yourself during burnout:

1: Learn to Manage Your Stress Levels

Your body is designed to deal with stress from time to time, but chronic stress is another story. If you constantly feel tense and overwhelmed, your body keeps the stress response going, pumping out stress hormones such as cortisol.

Over time, these hormones can be detrimental, causing insomnia, increased anxiety, and a host of other physical and mental issues.

Most of us can’t just jump on a plane to a tropical island and let the stress melt away right now. But luckily, there are plenty of ways to calm that stress response down right at home.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways of calming the body. Even if you’re not spiritual, research reveals there are loads of benefits from even a simple ten-minute-a-day meditation practice.

It can be intimidating to sit still and be with your mind, but there are plenty of free apps or YouTube videos that will guide you through the practice. Commit to just five to ten minutes a day, to begin with. Stick with it, and you will start to see glimpses of how it can feel to calm your mind and body.

2: Get Moving

Before you roll your eyes and crawl back under your blanket – I get it! Often, exercise is the last thing you want to do when feeling overwhelmed with life.

But it’s also one of the best ways to boost your mood and help you feel empowered! The mental benefits of exercise are just as valuable as the physical benefits.

You don’t have to do an hour-long HIIT class or run a 5K (although if that motivates you, embrace it!)

Something as gentle as Tai Chi or Yin Yoga can help you get out of your mind and into your body, reducing stress levels as you focus on your breath and stretch those tired muscles.

Even a ten-minute walk can improve your mood for up to two hours. Pick something that sounds enjoyable (failing that, at least tolerable) and start with just ten minutes every second day.

3: Reach Out for Support

Burnout makes minor problems seem enormous. It can make us feel terribly alone and yet not want to be around others. But reaching out to make connections is a powerful way to get your life back into balance.

Social contact is important for us (yes, even the introverts!) Sometimes, just talking to someone who is a good listener can calm your nervous system and lower your stress levels.

Connect with your partner, friends, or family if you feel comfortable with them. Initiate some honest conversations about how you’re feeling.

Alternatively, reaching out to someone who has experienced burnout and found a way out may be valuable. They’ll understand exactly how you’re feeling and can offer support and guidance to navigate your way off burnout island.

Bear in mind that burnout does share many symptoms with depression and anxiety. If you are concerned about your mental health, it’s always advisable to chat with your doctor or a mental health professional.

Set Yourself Up For Success In 2022

If you’re feeling like everything is too much, now is the perfect time to hit pause and take care of yourself so that you’re ready to welcome 2022 from a better and brighter perspective.

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. There is additional support out there that can help get you through.

I’ve climbed out of burnout hell and found my real power, which helped me discover my purpose: helping people like you do the same! 

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