2020 is turning out to be a rough year for everyone. Even that is probably an understatement! We are struggling to balance working from home, e-learning for children, worries about the pandemic, and in some cases, income loss. This is a stressful time for all Americans, and you could even say the whole world.
Stress is common, and in some cases has been shown to be good for us. But while stress is defined as too much demand on you, burnout is beyond just being stressed. Coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress or overwork. This is when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, frustrated, and unable to meet constant demands.
This unusual time of quarantines and social distancing is increasing instances of burnout. People in nurturing jobs, such as first responders, health professionals, teachers, and childcare givers are experiencing burnout at higher rates than ever. Even people who are not working outside the home, but are actively managing education for children or caring for vulnerable elderly relatives are susceptible to burnout.
How Do I Know If I Am Burned Out?
Most of us have bad or sad days occasionally when we feel overloaded or unappreciated. But if you are feeling this way every day and struggling just to get out of bed, you may be burnedout.
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, and eventually you may feel like you have nothing more to give. People experiencing burnout may even adopt a pessimistic outlook toward life and feel hopeless. (According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, burnout and clinical depression have similar symptoms.)
Think of the signs as red flags that something is wrong. If you are self-aware and can reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If you ignore the signs, you’ll experience burnout. Common signs of burnout include:
- Feeling tired and exhausted most of the time
- Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses
- Frequent headaches or muscle pain
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Escape fantasies
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
- Taking out your frustrations on others
- Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
Suggestions For How to Avoid or Remedy Burnout
Get More Sleep
When you don’t sleep, your brain doesn’t function properly. Getting too little sleep can lead to a lack of judgment, increased chance of accidents, depression, and more. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night, so make this a priority. And remember: naps are not just for children. Instead of having an afternoon cup of coffee, try a 20 minute power nap.
Get More Exercise
Exercise is crucial to your mental and physical health. Regular exercise can increase mood, relieve stress, improve brain function, and more. Figure out what type of exercise you can commit to on a regular basis. Besides the physical benefits of exercise, you’ll enjoy the mental satisfaction of knowing that you’re taking good care of yourself.
Socialize With Friends
Emotional fulfillment from socializing outside your normal setting will help prevent burnout. It doesn’t need to be anything important or adventurous as long as it banishes the feeling that you’re stuck doing the same thing every day.
Practice Saying “No”
The more responsibility you take on, whether at work, at home, or in other settings, the more it will wear you down. If you’re a Type-A go-getter, it can be hard to turn down an opportunity that seems to advance your career. It can also be difficult for a nurturing personality to reject someone’s request for help. However, it’s important that you know your boundaries and practice saying “no” to stay within them.
Find a Hobby
By participating in a hobby outside of work, you can practice a different skill set and take a break from the grind of your regular job. You can even return to a hobby that you abandoned when you started putting more hours into your responsibilities. Rediscover your passion and get back into it!
Volunteer Your Skills
Reach out to a local organization and volunteer your time to make a difference in your community. You will not only be helping others, but the emotional fulfillment will give you a mood boost.
Take More Breaks
Resting and recharging are critical to your mental and physical health! You can avoid feeling guilt over taking breaks by scheduling free time directly on your calendar, just like you would a meeting. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day, you need to take time away from work and spend it on yourself. Whether that means a stroll nearby, a game of Candy Crush, or a chat with a friend, you’ll be refreshed when you get back to work.
Change Your Scenery
It’s more difficult these days to get out of your usual work environment, since so many of us are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. We can’t just pop into Starbucks and claim a seat for a few hours. However, just a change of scenery from your desk to the deck can make a huge difference in your perspective and your mood. Anything that gets you out of your typical grind will work.
Ask For Help
This is the most difficult thing for some people to do. Admitting that you need help is a huge step, though. Being self-aware and recognizing that you need someone to see you through will prevent you from going into full-on burnout mode. If you need help with a particular project, ask a peer. If you need help with time management, ask your boss. If you need help coping, talk to a therapist. No matter what kind of help you need, chances are by the time someone else recognizes that you need it, it’s too late.