Burnout is a term that is thrown around a lot, but what does it mean? Burnout is a term that was coined regarding the shift to experiencing apathy or anxiety towards your job. Burnout can appear in many different ways, it can start as a lack of satisfaction about your job, or increased frustrations over experiences that never bothered you before. Eventually this will evolve into guilt about your feelings, or panic about work experiences. Finally, if not addressed it can turn into the dread of getting out of bed to go to work, showing up later and later without any care, or severe apathy regarding your employment. Symptoms of burnout can show up as anxiety, apathy, feeling drained, changes in appetite, mental exhaustion, persistent or recurring illnesses, changes in sleep patterns.
Are you experiencing burnout at work? That does not mean that you need to quit your job or run away to a deserted island, although that does not always sound like that worst idea! If you are experiencing burnout, you need to evaluate your work life balance, boundaries with your job, and your self-care routines. We experience burnout in all jobs, but that does not mean we can just run away from our problems. Stay at home moms can not just leave their kiddos home alone, they need to evaluate the situation and make some changes, maybe even ask for help. As a society, we are trained to not ask for help, asking for help is a sign of weakness, we should be able to just get over it and keep going…wrong! We are humans, not robots, we have feelings and emotions and we need support and help from our fellow humans.
If you are experiencing burnout it is time to evaluate your day to day routines. What do you do for yourself? Do you get to take breaks as needed, are you getting outside, are you getting proper nutrition, are you getting any exercise, what about your sleep schedule? Are there some discrepancies with what you, as a human, need from what you are getting? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs starts with the total basics, food, water, and sleep. We often are not getting even those basic needs! The top layer of the hierarchy is self-actualization; how will we get there if we can not even take the time to drink water?
Step one to working on reducing burnout is setting boundaries! Set boundaries with your employers, your co-workers, your family, and most importantly yourself. Setting boundaries is challenging but necessary. Your employer might not recognize that you are burnt out if you do not tell them. Are you working from home after hours? Are you taking those random calls on the weekend? If it is causing you to feel burnt out, then stop it! Your employers can only expect the minimum of expectations and until you put up those boundaries they will push you. The hardest part about boundaries is sticking to them and not letting your own guilt get the best of you. The client can wait until Monday, the email can be responded to during business hours. If you make an exception once, then people will assume you will every time. Set your boundaries and stick to them!
Step two, self-care. This is one of the hardest things for my clients to do. Self-care looks different for everyone. Some people enjoy meditation in the morning before work, others feel revived by an amazing exercise, going for a walk, monthly massage, just sitting in silence, or therapy. Evaluate your needs and what works for you. Start small, 5 minutes a day, and work your way up. For me, it’s exercise, I need the 30 minutes to myself to sweat it all out. I had to set boundaries with my kids that this was my time, and unless it’s an emergency then I do not want to be bothered. Yes, it’s hard to get the time in, it’s hard to maintain keeping it as my time, but it is what I need so it is important. What do you need?
Finally, talk to the people in your life about what you are experiencing. Talk to your employer, talk to your co-workers, talk to your family, talk to your therapist. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. It is okay to be struggling, and it is okay to ask for help. Employers are much more understanding of burnout than ever before, and oftentimes will encourage you to take some time for yourself. Allow your employers to support you in setting boundaries. Your family might not recognize what you are experiencing, it is okay to ask for help. Ask a family member to come stay with your kids while you take a night out, or a short vacation. Evaluate what you need and ask for help to achieve that. Finally, your therapist will support you to not only express your concerns, but process them, and work on plans to reduce the burnout.