Feeling stressed and overwhelmed at times are pretty typical experiences for most people. We may feel overwhelmed by work, family situations or physical or mental health strains. It may feel intense and cause you to be emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of the day. It may feel that way for several days in a row, even. But when does it cross the line into burnout? How do you know you’ve hit the wall and can’t go any further? Most importantly, how can you stop before it reaches that point?
Genuine burnout differs from stress in various ways. With stress, you might have a bad day more often than you’d like, but you’re able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and remain motivated to move toward it. With burnout, everyday is a bad day. You no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel and physical and emotional exhaustion is constant. There doesn’t seem to be a purpose anymore-whether it be at your job or home life. Negativity and cynicism are rampant because you just can’t see the positive in anything anymore. People often start coming in late to work or calling in more often and withdrawing from responsibilities.
Certain jobs or fields of employment can increase someone’s likelihood of reaching burnout. In my previous job as a social worker in community based programs, I witnessed burnout in co workers, and myself, regularly. Jobs where funding is limited and employees are expected to do more with less help, can definitely increase this possibility. There are also personality traits that can lead to a higher chance of burnout. Being a “perfectionist”, having a strong need to control situations and difficulty delegating are all aspects that can increase the possibility of experiencing burnout.
The signs of burnout can be seen physically, mentally and emotionally; in all aspects of one’s life. So, how do we let it get this bad? One reason is because it happens slowly over time. Being stressed and having bad days are “normal”-everyone has them. So, when we experience them we do our best to push through or maybe take some time for self care. But when it’s occurring day in and day out, we may not recognize it for what it is and just assume it’s simply stress. This is why taking time out on a daily or at least weekly basis to check in with yourself is important. If we just continue to “push through”, we may miss out on tell tale signs that we’re heading down that road.
Aside from regular self check ins, here are some healthy ideas to prevent stressful circumstances from turning into burnout:
-Spend time with others: reaching out to those you know care about you can help you feel less isolated and alone. It’s also important, however, to limit your time with negative people-they can increase your feelings of pessimism and drain you emotionally. Also, engaging in a cause or volunteering can help you find meaning in your life again.
-Reassess your priorities: Taking time to reevaluate what is important to you can make a huge impact on how you choose to spend your time moving forward. It can be eye opening to look at what you say your priorities are, versus where you’re actually spending your time.
-Take care of yourself: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, not drinking in excess, eating regularly and exercising. These are the things in your life you can control on a regular basis and they will have a huge impact on how you handle stress.
Burnout can feel inevitable and unavoidable at times. But there are people who can help. A licensed mental health professional can help. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando psychotherapists.