Burnout describes an experience of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress. In addition to exhaustion, there are two other features that are common among those experiencing burnout.
Exhaustion No matter how much rest you get, you still feel drained- all the time.
Loss of Interest and Distancing You may notice a change in attitude that results in a loss of enthusiasm, disengagement, cynicism, or the desire to pull away and distance yourself from work.
Decreased Sense of Accomplishment This is where you feel as though you are not making a meaningful contribution and are not as productive or effective at your position.
In my experience with treating burnout, three things have stood out.
First, it can affect anyone, including teachers, retail workers, managers, executives, medical professionals, and caretakers. The second thing that stands out is that even though burnout is caused by stress from work, the effects are not limited to the office- it can negatively impact your personal and social life as well. Finally, when experiencing burnout, I've found that there always tends to be one of the following four things a play…
Underlying Causes of Burnout
1. Out of Balance
You may find that you are either overworked or under-challenged by what you do. You can tell that you're overworked if you feel like there is never enough time to get through your assigned tasks and responsibilities. You may also feel that you are constantly in crunch mode, under pressure or trying to catch up.
It's quite intuitive that too many demands, tasks, pressure, and responsibilities lead to stress; however, what's less well-known is that not being challenged enough can also contribute to stress. We have an innate need to grow, so doing repetitive tasks or feeling like we have stagnated in our roles at work can negatively affect our psyche and become a stressor that leads to burnout.
On the other hand, burnout also occurs when there isn't a right balance between your work and home life. This is especially prevalent now, with many of us working remotely. When we were commuting to and from the office, it was easier to leave work at work, but now that many of us are working from home, we risk falling into a pattern of allowing our jobs to bleed into our personal time and lives.
2. Out of Alignment
When you feel like the work you do no longer speaks to you- that is, you get no intrinsic reward, feel completely detached, begin dreading Monday mornings and look at your job as nothing more than a paycheck, you may be out of your calling.
Now, this is tricky because it is normal to ebb and flow through stages of loving, liking, and being completely over your job. I'm not suggesting that anyone is 100% passionate about what they do 100% of the time. I also want to acknowledge that for many, work is simply a means to an end, and that's okay.
Exploring this will be most relevant to those who find it important to get a sense of fulfillment from their careers. So if you find that you've been dreading Monday mornings and living for the weekends pretty consistently over the past few months, it may be worth exploring whether what you are doing is personally fulfilling to you or if you feel drawn to something else.
3. Lack of Support
Dealing with an unsupportive environment is draining. Unsupportive environments can take various shapes and forms. It can look like having conflicts with colleagues, experiencing tension with management, receiving unfair treatment, or lacking adequate resources, training or safety in your work environment.
4. Out of Gas
Burnout is often a sign that you've been running on empty, that is, not taking enough time to refuel and do what fills you up mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Burnout Recovery Strategies
Step One: Self-Care
Although self-care alone is not the "cure" to burnout, it is an important step. Developing a good self-care practice is critical for your well-being and can also provide an increased sense of clarity and energy, thus enhancing your ability to cope with stress.
As you work on this step, it's important to remember that there is more to self-care than planning a spa day. There are five dimensions to self-care (physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional) and it'll be most effective if you try to incorporate activities from each dimension.
I've created a Self-Care worksheet with activity suggestions for each dimension and a place for you to schedule and record what you do for each day. You can download it below.
Step Two: Self-Audit
The next step is to figure out what needs to change, and one way to do this is to get to the root of the problem. There are three ways to reflect on the underlying cause of your burnout:
Talking it through, ideally with both a trusted friend and a professional, such as a therapist, coach or counsellor.
While doing a combination of these will likely be most effective, it is most important that you simply start. Once you've identified the underlying source of your stress and burnout, your path forward will become clearer.
If you've been dealing with stress and burnout, there is no shame in seeking professional help. We are a team of passionate professionals who are ready to listen. If you are interested in learning more about how counselling can help, please click here to Explore Therapy and Schedule a Complimentary Consultation.
I hope this post helps and look forward to seeing you around.