Have you ever seen people who have no problem giving advice, but don’t actually practice what they preach? Sure you have. They’re everywhere. In fact, you might be one of those people. Don’t worry, I sometimes do this too. In fact, there’s been times where I’ve gone at life so hard, I’ve failed to notice burnout.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years working as a clinician is that it’s impossible to analyze your own brain objectively. So, when you start getting burned out with your current path, be it with work or home life, it’s hard to see it at first. Keep this up for long periods of time and you end up with increased levels of depressed mood. So, here are some things to watch out for along with specific actions to take that will help you battle burnout.
Signs of Burnout
Often, this is the starting point of burnout. This is the loss of respect for something or someone you once held in high esteem. You can become disenchanted either slowly, over a long period of time, or after a particularly horrible event. Either way, this is a surefire signal that you’re beginning to get burned out by your situation.
Cynicism and Sarcasm
This alone is not a significant predictor of burnout, but along with some of the other signs, it can be a glaring sign that you’re beginning to fall down the rabbit hole. If you’ve noticed increasing amounts of sarcasm coming out of your mouth or cynicism regarding those around you, that could be a sign you’re starting to feel burned out.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your tolerance level for stressors has drastically dropped. Perhaps you’ve even noticed you are becoming more impatient or irritable with those close to you. When your mood is impacted drastically and you tend to carry that into other situations in life, this is a sign you’re facing burnout. For example, if you’re burned out with your job and you come home in a bad mood and take it out on your spouse and kids, that should be a sign to you that something needs to change. You’re unhappy.
Loss of Motivation
It’s easy to lose your motivation for something you once loved if enough negative emotions are associated with the thing. For example, let’s say you started a great career in the field you love, but your employer runs a horrible show. It wouldn’t take long for you to experience enough negative consequences to outweigh the love you have for the origin of the job. That’s when burnout begins and you end up losing the motivation to continue working hard.
The scariest part is that this loss of motivation can bleed into other parts of your life and also lead to depressed mood.
This can sometimes go hand in hand with poor mood. If you’re feeling disgusted with your lot in life, some people tend to begin isolating themselves from others. They begin to detach themselves from the current reality, choosing instead to partake in dissociating activities.
I’m not suggesting that dissociating is a bad thing all of the time. Reading a fiction book or playing video games are acts of dissociation as it allows someone to escape reality for a time. However, if someone is relying on this type of coping strategy more and more, it can be a sign that he or she is horribly dissatisfied with their path in life.
Fatigue in and of itself isn’t necessarily a sign of burnout. However, if you’re noticing you’re more fatigued than normal, with no apparent changes to your sleeping routine, this could be indicative of burnout. Of course, you would also be experiencing other signs and symptoms of burnout as well. Being fatigued without experiencing other signs of burnout is likely related to something else.
Your sleep habits are impacted by many things in life. Increased fatigue could be indicative of many different things. I always recommend discussing your difficulties with a doctor if you’re noticing significant sleep disturbances with no apparent cause. There is always the possibility of a physical ailment at play that a doctor would be better able to assess.
What To Do
Self Care Measures
It is so important to practice effective and appropriate amounts of self care. This means doing something that you find enjoyable and stress relieving. This will be different for everyone. For example, here are some of my favorite self are activities.
- Talk to spouse about difficulties
- Read a fantasy or sci fi novel
- Play a video game
- Play toys with Bean
- Surf the internet
- Watch a funny television show/movie
- Go for a car ride (alone)
- Yoga or stretching
- Take a bath
These are some of the things I find highly enjoyable and help me shake off the stressors I encounter from work and life. There are probably some things you could add or change to your list. The point is, find those things that really help calm you and start putting them into your routine. You need good self care habits to combat burnout and effectively manage stress.
Review Goals and Progress
Goal setting is super important for emotional well being. We have to feel like we are moving forward in life to feel happy and healthy. A great way to combat burnout is to review your long term goals for the future and any of the progress you’ve made along the way to that goal.
If you’re finding that you’re making progress towards your long term goal and you’re feeling more and more burned out along the way, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that long term goal or the path you’re taking to get there. It’s important to ask yourself why you’re working towards the goal you have set. Are you working towards the goal that you want or are you working towards a goal you’ve made because it’s what someone else wants for you? Ultimately, you need to evaluate your situation and choose a path that best fits your values and desires.
Though, perhaps the issue isn’t with the goal itself. If you’re feeling like you’re not making any progress towards the goals you really want, you’re spinning your wheels in the mud. You’re increasing the amount of burnout you have for that particular goal every day that passes. In this case, it’s important to find out what is causing you to delay your progress.
Either way, the idea is to be ever evaluating of your situation and pay attention to how those things make you feel. It’s a step towards mindfulness and, let’s face it, everyone can stand to be a little more mindful of their situation.
Increase Positive Messages
What you put in your head matters! This means every negative message you hear has an impact on your mental well being. This can be music, books, television, or who you listen and/or talk to. If you fill your head with negative messages, you will feel negative more often. So, fill your head with positive things.
These positive messages can come from any source, but this is where motivational speakers really shine. If you’ve never listened to a motivational speaker, you might be surprised how good they can make you feel with just their message. Make sure you listen to a variety of speakers, though, some will resonate better with you than others (personal differences and all).
Give it a try and that may be just enough to pull you out of your burnout.
It’s easy to live life on autopilot. However, lack of mindfulness is the fastest way to get yourself stuck in a stressful situation. With a little more attention to your own cues, you can learn to recognize the signs of burnout. Once you’ve figured out your cues, you can use variations of the techniques above to battle burnout before it causes long term mood problems.
So, give it a try. Which techniques have you used to help battle burnout? Let me know in the comments below.