How to identify, and heal from burnout

Your brain and your body can only deal with being overworked and stressed out for so long. Consistently high levels of unmanaged stress will leave you emotionally – and physically – burnt out.

Because burnout happens gradually, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. You tend to feel unproductive and demotivated, and eventually that whet you do is of little to no significance.

These symptoms eventually affect all aspects of your life, and not just the source from where the burnout stems.

The most common symptoms of burnout are:

  • frustration and irritability
  • difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
  • reduced pride in what you do and achieve
  • difficulty being present with those you care about
  • muscle tension, pain, fatigue, and insomnia
  • losing sight of your goals

Much of the working public is susceptible to burnout, but certain occupations may be more so than others.

The global Covid pandemic has also had a significant impact on the number of people who are suffering from burnout. The worldwide job losses and uncertainty surrounding the economy has seen millions working overtime in order to feel ‘relevant’ and ‘irreplaceable’. Working from home has further exacerbated this problem as people no longer ‘go home’ to switch off, but remain constantly in a state of work-induced stress.

The impact of burnout is far-reaching. It can adversely affect your work performance, prevent you form relaxing outside of work, and put you at risk of both physical and mental health concerns.

If you suspect you have burnout, or are rapidly heading towards it, here are some strategies to help you realign with yourself and your purpose.

Know where it’s coming from

To make a change, you need to know what it is that needs to change. Think about what could be causing your burnout.

Many people associate it with workplace stress, but it is also possible to experience burnout from things like relationship problems, caring for someone with a serious medical condition, following a demanding study schedule, or taking too much on to realistically do yourself.

Any of these factors could lead to you feeling burnt out if you don’t get the necessary support or take on more than you can handle.

What can you change?

There might be some things that you can change immediately that could have a significant impact.

Are you taking on too much for one person? It’s tempting to do it all, but usually an attempt to do that results in your lacking the energy to do anything at all.

If there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do what you need to, find ways to reschedule or delegate some of the tasks. This will help ease your frustration and stress, which will result in immediate relief.

Talk to a friend or a therapist

It difficult to know where to start finding solutions to deal with stress. It’s advisable to speak to a close family member or friend. Because they know you and the intricacies of your life, they might be able to offer you some guidance, and even help you brainstorm some solutions.

You can also talk to a therapist for professional guidance in helping you identify the causes of your stress, and also to offer you some coping mechanisms to help you deal with burnout.

Take back control

Burnout can make you feel powerless and like you have no control over your life. Here are some tips to taking back some control:

  • Set boundaries: Setting limits on how much time others should expect from you can help you manage stress. Be firm about your needs and be clear when communicating these.
  • Prioritize: Some things are just not as important as others. Decide which tasks those are, and set them aside for when you have spare time.
  • Delegate: It’s impossible to do it all yourself, and it’s often unnecessary. If there is a lot of critical work that needs to be done pass some on to someone you trust.
  • Leave work at the office: Recovering from burnout means prioritizing a work-life balance. After leaving work, concentrate yourself and who you are outside of work. Try to relax and recharge in your favourite ways.

Your time is precious and being selective about accepting commitments isn’t selfish – it is essential to your mental health, and to actively preventing burnout.

Be kind to yourself

Burnout conjures up feelings of failure and lack of purpose which often cause you to be harder on yourself than necessary. If a friend was in the same situation, you’d be kind and empathetic.

Be sure to give yourself the same kindness. Remind yourself that it’s ok to need some time to yourself, and that taking care of your mental and physical health is the only way that you will be able to recover.

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