Burnout – The 21st Century Malady
As I am plowing through one course after another, my momentum slows. However, I cannot sit on my laurels. I have zero energy to keep the fast pace that I have over the past year. Is this senior-itis? Or something else? For me personally, there are multiple factors to my situation. I work full time in a demanding information technology job. I have five classes left to my college degree, so I’m rather sick of the grind. I’m juggling another part-time job. I have this awesome writing and editing opportunity. I recently lost two of my precious cats to cancer within two weeks of each other. And, I have one parent with Alzheimer’s disease. So yes, I have an enormous amount on my proverbial plate, but is that enough reason to feel so wiped out? For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
To understand what burnout means, we must delve into the typical symptoms one experiences. Researchers have found several characteristics of burnout that are summarized nicely in Psychology Today, including physical and mental exhaustion, disparagement and disinterest, and feelings of ineptness or hopelessness.
With exhaustion, it includes feeling physically worn out. I’ve suffered from insomnia sporadically for years, so this tired feeling is normal for me. However, insomnia is one of the more common ailments attributed to burnout. Along with insomnia, people experience chronic fatigue. For anyone that suffers from this syndrome, you know that a plethora of other issues arise. In the mental realm, anxiety, depression, anger, and even impaired memory or focus occurs. Also, just the lack of enjoyment in life is commonplace. Many of the symptoms coincide with other mental diagnoses. With depression and burnout, feeling “blue” or pessimistic, avoiding social activities, and even feeling apathy are also symptoms of burnout.
Okay, this sounds like me! Now what?
Ok, so you recognize you have a few signs, what next? Well, I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I’ve started saying “no” to things. I enjoy being helpful to others, even to the detriment of my free time or my health. I’m learning that I need to step back and give myself some recovery time. I’ve been through some recent tragedies and haven’t allowed myself time to grieve. By loving yourself and administering some self-care, you’re giving yourself the chance to rest. Don’t commit to every task or responsibility offered. You don’t have to be the superhero to the world. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, learn to delegate some tasks. I’ll admit in the past I’ve had a difficult time with this, but when you have no energy, you can’t force yourself to do something. Learn to let go of some of those burdens.
These feelings didn’t happen overnight; rebounding from it will take time as well.
Take a break. Take some time off from work or school if need be. Change the scenery and take a few days to relax and recharge. Being in a new, less stressful environment is exactly what I’m working on. I’ve left a stressful writing gig and joined a more supportive team. I took a few extra days off to do absolutely nothing (Well almost, I did some writing.) When suffering from burnout, recovery will not be fast. These feelings didn’t happen overnight; rebounding from it will take time as well. Remember, self-love is the best medicine for healing and rejuvenating.