Have You Reached The Point of Burnout & How To Recover

What would you say if I told you I am driving across New York to California without stopping? You most likely will say that there is no way that is possible because the car will eventually run out of gas, and I will never reach my destination. I may end up stranded, and what plans and goals I had to do in California when I arrive will be pushed back.

 


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This analogy can be applied to us as humans because in society today, most of us have this mindset that we have to keep going and pushing non-stop to reach our goals, accomplish what we want, or appear as though our lives are not wasting away. But if we keep going, eventually we run out of ‘gas,’ and in the end, it does more harm than good to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. When you have reached this breaking point, it is known as Burnout.

What does it mean to be burnout?

Being burned out means “feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. It is characterized as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. It results from performing at a high level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or an overburdening workload, take their toll.”

Reaching the point of being burnt out means that you have been pushing yourself too hard for too long, that your body and brain can no longer keep up. It is a dreaded feeling that, unfortunately, many of us know all too well. There have been times in my life that I have experienced being burnout. It either stems from work, working on goals, or sometimes just simply overthinking. I think too much!

Being burnout is undoubtedly not a great feeling, and in some cases, you cannot avoid it. But how do you know that you are on the verge of being burnt out? How do you know that your body needs ‘gas’? Well, your body is a powerful tool, and when life gets too busy and stressful, your body will send you signs that you have reached the point of burn out and that you need to slow down and pause for the moment.

 


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Warning signs of burnout

There are days when you will feel low, helpless, overloaded, or underappreciated. These experiences will happen from time to time in your life, but when you feel like this most of the time, you may be experiencing burnout.

But here’s the tricky part, however. Burnout is a gradual process, it does not happen overnight, and it creeps up on you. The signs are very subtle at first, and sometimes you may ignore them or think it is related to something else. Here are some six signs to look out for:

  1. Exhaustion

This is usually the first giveaway that your body has been going a mile a minute, and it is time to slow down. Exhaustion can be emotional, physical, or mental:

  • You are feeling drained most of the time
  • Your immune system has decreased (frequent illness)
  • Changes in sleep routine and eating pattern
  • Frequent headaches and muscle pain

 

  1. Lack of motivation

This is a gradual process; you will notice that your motivation levels start to decrease, and you are simply not in the mood to do anything from going to work, completing tasks, tending to your children, or being creative. When you are no longer enthusiastic about anything anymore, that motivation to get up and get going becomes difficult as time progresses on.

  1. Negative thoughts and emotions

This is usually one of my early signs when I am on the verge of approaching burnout. I become moody and irritable, and those negative thoughts start rushing in more than usual. When you feel that what you are doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, your thoughts and emotions can get the best of you. You may start to notice the following:

  • Racing negative thoughts about self-doubt and failure
  • Having a negative outlook on life
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of helplessness or being defeated

 

  1. Cognitive problems

Have you noticed yourself being in a brain fog? Difficulty concentrating and focusing? Memory problems? If this sounds like you, and it has been going on for some time, it may be burnout. Our bodies can handle being under pressure in short bursts, but your ability to focus and concentrate becomes difficult when you are burnt out. You may also experience difficulty in problem-solving and remembering things.

  1. Self-neglect

If you are experiencing the first four signs above, you are more than likely to neglect your self-care. When you are experiencing burn out, sometimes you may engage in unhealthy coping strategies such as overeating junk food, being sedentary, not sleeping enough, or smoking/drinking too much.

  1. Depression and isolation

As mentioned before, being burnt out is a gradual process, and not something that happens overnight. Therefore if you are overloaded, you will notice that your mood will start to change frequently. Eventually, you will begin to go through long periods of feeling depressed because of the negative thoughts and emotions you have within yourself.

Being burnout also puts you in a place where you start to withdraw yourself from being around others because of how you feel: lacking motivation, feeling overwhelmed and overload, and having cognitive problems. With all of that going on in your body, in most cases, you will want to keep to yourself because there is no emotional and physical energy for anyone else.

 

Is too much stress the same as being burnout?

Burnout may stem from prolonged stress, but they are not precisely the same. Stress involves being under pressure by doing too much. There is a strong demand to do too much physically and mentally. Burnout, on the other hand, is feeling as though you are not doing enough. It brings about feelings of emptiness, mental exhaustion, lack of motivation, and lack of empathy.

 

Possible causes of burnout

Anyone who feels overworked and undervalued can become at risk of experiencing burnout. It can be from working hard at work, juggling being a stay at home parent or working simultaneously, to trying to balance work and school. Many factors contribute to burnout apart from stressful work, including your personality and lifestyle. Here are some possible causes:

  • Feeling like you have lost control over your life
  • Lack of social support in your relationship with others
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Lack of recognition/appreciation for the work that you do
  • Taking on too many responsibilities without help from others
  • Always thinking that what you do is not good enough
  • The need to always be in control and wanting to do everything on your own
  • Working in a high-pressure environment

 

Are there others you can think of? Let me know in the comments section below.

 


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Recovering from a burnout

Whether you recognize the warning signs of burnout or you have already past your breaking point, if you continue to push past the exhaustion and continue as though nothing is wrong, your physical and emotional well-being becomes at risk for more damage. Now is the time to pause, reflect, and change things up so you can overcome burnout and start to feel whole again:

Reach out 

I’ll be honest; sometimes, it is hard for me to let people in when I am burnt out because I like to work through my emotions on my own. But reaching out to those around you that you trust and confide in can help boost how you feel, plus put you in a positive mood and take your mind off of anything negative, even if it’s for a while.

Get enough sleep

I am sure I am not the only one who does not get enough sleep from time to time, right? I mean, what is sleep? Is that even a thing? Yes! It is! Sleep is so important because it affects everything – your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Therefore make sure to establish a healthy sleep-wake routine so you can function well.

Unplug

Communicative technology has come a long way over the years, and it helps to promote productivity. But from time to time, it is important to disconnect and unplug from social media platforms because it can creep in and take away time from things and people important to you. Set aside time to disconnect as a way to keep stress levels low and manageable.

Limit your exposure to negativity

If you are always surrounded by negative or constantly complaining people, it can put a damper on your mood and possibly change your outlook on life. Believe it or not, this can become draining and eventually bring about exhaustion. Protect your energy and be mindful and limit your time around those who are always negative.

Nourish your creativity

As humans, we are all creative beings. When we are caught up with work and life, it can leave little room for creativity. Creativity, however, is one of the best things to help your burnout. Switch things up by getting creative and doing things that have nothing to do with work/life. Do something fun to help alleviate some of your stress.

Relaxation is key

Having your brain always on the go is not healthy. Be consistent in setting time apart to detox your mind and engage in relaxation techniques to give your mind and body the rest it needs to perform at the best level. Such activities can be: meditation, listening to music, going for walks, visiting family/friends, or doing yoga. Be intentional about what you will do to relax and enjoy every moment of it.

Find work-life balance

Maintaining a work-life balance is essential because it helps to reduce stress and prevents becoming burnout. Prioritize your time, have set work hours, and try to stick to them, manage your time, know your strengths, set realistic expectations, and take time out for yourself.

Set boundaries 

Setting boundaries is hard because it seems harsh, but it is important to do for your mental health. Don’t overextend yourself and remember that there is no harm in saying “no.” Yes, it will be challenging from time to time, but remind yourself that saying no is allowing you to make time to do things for yourself that are important to you.

At some point in our lives, we will all experience burnout in our lives. Some of us may be more prone to experiencing burnout more frequently than others because of our personality traits and current life situations. With that in mind, it is important to understand that when it comes to recovering from burnout, having a level of self-awareness, not ignoring warning signs, and being open and diligent about your recovery process is the first step to take.

It won’t be easy, but knowing who you are, knowing your values, knowing what you will and will not tolerate, and keeping an eye out for warning signs will help you to prevent or overcome burnout from happening too frequently.

If anything 2020 has taught, is that life is undoubtedly precious and things can change drastically within seconds. For the year 2021, be more intentional and take time out to pause and fuel your body so you can function.


 

Sources

  • American Psychological Association (2020). Burnout definition. https://dictionary.apa.org/burnout

 


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Rebekah Charles

Rebekah Charles

26 Responses

  1. Happy New Year! Burnout is common when you are trying to dive straight for your goal without many breaks and a good step back once in a while to think things through. I know for me, it’s when I work too long and start to get some negative feedback over something I thought wasn’t a huge issue. It is important to be able to recognize when you’re in a burnout. That way, you can take the steps to recover from it and know how to prevent it next time (the best way possible). I know for me, I was getting burned out from work and took 2 weeks off. Did not respond to emails while being out, it felt great! Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Nancy ✨ mdrnminimalists.com

    1. Nancy so spot on! Those warning signs really tell us so much! It tells us that something is wrong, but is more so important, is not ignoring these signs but actually doing something about it! So happy that 2 weeks did justice for you!

    1. Lisa thanks so much for your feedback! Anyone is vulnerable to experiencing burnout if not careful. But taking the necessary precautions needed to avoid it, really goes a long way.

  2. Great post Rebekah!! Taking care of your mental wellbeing and slowing down to prevent burn out is so important

  3. Excellent post, Rebekah. I suspect that this will be helpful to a great many people given the nature of the 2020 that most of us have endured. Of course, burnout was an issue long before coronavirus arrived but I can’t help but feel that it may have made things worse.
    I made the decision long ago to find a better work/life balance. Will I get as far in my career as I may otherwise have done? No, probably not. Will I live a longer and happier life and be a nicer, better person to know? Yes, I think I will.
    Remember: Work to live, not live to work!

  4. Great post that is much needed! We all need to be reminded to slow down and adhere to the warning signs the body gives off. If 2020, wasn’t a wake up call to some, I don’t know what will. Last year, was a time of reflection and hopefully we will take that into the new year. Granted leaving Covid-19 behind.

    1. Shauntae thanks so much for your feedback. 2020 was a real wake up call for me. It was the most trying and difficult time for me emotionally. I plan to really be more intentional of taking care of myself for 2021

  5. I really suffer from burnout, as when I do something I commit to it 110% and just keep ploughing through when my body is telling me to stop! I find taking a break and a moment to sit back and stop really helps!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

    1. Katie, I am the same way! It is horrible sometimes because even though I am tired and my eyes are hurting, I just need to keep going until I am finished. If not, my mind keeps going a mile a minute. But I am trying, and telling myself that I deserve this care and I need to take care of my body, really helps me.

  6. Well said! I think the whole of 2020 really left me burnout so for January I’m fully dedicating it to recovery and relaxation so i can carry on with the year without all the emotional baggage!

  7. This is a great post with useful information and tips. I tend to plan my time and my work so that I have time out to relax to help me avoid burn out. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Lauren this is a great tip. I really have to do better at planning my time. Sometimes the hours just go by so fast and I haven’t had much time to relax. 2021 I plan to do much better!

  8. I was completely burnt out in 2019 which led to health issues in 2020 that I am still trying to get better from. I’ve exhausted myself to the point that I cant work for another year. That will be 2 years of not working due to burnout mentally, physically, and emotionally. This post hit close to home for me. And you’re right, unplugging from the world, making self care a priority, and staying away from negativity all are a major help to mend yourself back together again.

    1. Oh no! I am so sorry that happened to you, I hope 2002 was a little bit better despite COVID. It is so scary to think that so many health issues came about that it now prevents you from working for 2 years! That is so scary! Take this time to truly take care of yourself and your body. Focus on rebuilding yourself from the inside out. You deserve it!

  9. Being burnt out is not the best feeling. I’ve had that feeling before and it is not the best. Not having the motivation or inspiration really holds you back. Sometimes, you’re just really trying to get things done, but forget to take care of yourself. I found taking breaks in between being worthwhile, to at least get your mind off of things for a while. When you go back, your energy is better than ever. Feeling pressure from other people causes burnout too.. Tho that is technically stress. Love these suggestions on how to recover! Totally agree with resting and Doing a fun activity!

    Nancy ✨ mdrnminimalists.com

    1. Nancy thank you so much for your feedback! Burnout is so not a good feeling at all. I experience it from time to time, especially when I have a goal in mind that I want to achieve at a certain time. I think it is just our nature and how we were raised. Not doing anything makes us think that time is wasting away. But without breaks, how long can one function for? Not very long. So happy you enjoyed the article!

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Hello & Welcome!

HEY! I’m Rebekah, but everyone calls me Bekah or Becky.

I work for adults who suffer from Mental Illnesses and/or have Intellectual Disabilities. I provide Behavioral Therapeutic Services, among other services to this population.

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