How Burnout Affects Mental Health | Life Lessons
Something our generation is aware of unanimously is burnout. It almost feels as inevitable as breathing when working in a fast-paced environment. Although burnout is not considered as a medical condition, it is a starting point for many. Yes, you read that right. You will be amazed to know the extent of how burnout affects our mental health and our motivation in life.
As a person who just started her career with high ambitions and dreams that took me on the edge of a breakout, I realised an important lesson about a lesson, and I would love to quote Billy Joel;
Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile…
(Now, don’t you want to offer a round of applause, folks!)
I understand that we have to thrive for success and growth in life with an ever-increasing graph. But at the cost of what?
While some would agree to disagree, I say NO. When I know that something or someone is causing me constant stress, I would like to take a step back and then take action.
I had the kind of storm no one would ever wish to see. Being overwhelmed with work, I was spiralling down with work stress and then another cycle of stress about the stress—basically, a catch 22 situation.
Then, I broke down.
I learned it the hard way, but I wish to let no one go through it, and that’s why we are here. I had wished I knew how burnout affects mental health before I reached the worst spot, mentally.
So buckle up dear readers, and let’s explore all about burnout. Let’s discover how burnout affects our mental health, and address it in time without waiting for it to get worse to seek help.
WHAT IS BURNOUT?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.
It hampers a person’s ability to cope with the demands of life. Herbert Freudenberger first coined the term, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. In a nutshell, burnout leaves you with low or almost no motivation or incentive to a commitment. You fail to achieve desired results and devoting yourself to the task seem futile or/and humongous.
The term has recently gained popularity concerning people’s mental well-being and the workplace’s overwhelming mental pressure. However, the term has seeped in to represent stress and emotional exhaustion in other life areas, like parenthood, romantic relationships, and caretaking.
Simply put, burnout is characterised by three major symptoms of exhaustion, cynicism and the reduced ability or desire to perform well and produce desired outcomes.
THE SILVER LINING BETWEEN STRESS AND BURNOUT.
Being stressed out is part and parcel of our lives. Stress in a certain amount is even good for us to thrive in life and keep growing, it works like an alarm. In psychology, we call it Eustress, the good stress.
However, when unchecked, stress affects our daily functioning, thoughts, and mood.
Most importantly, when the stress becomes chronic and is left unaddressed, it causes burnout. Burnout and stress can appear to be the same, but there is a silver lining. The former refers to an extended period of stress that feels as it can’t be improved. If stress is short-lived or tied to a specific goal, it is most likely not harmful.
HOW CAN YOU TELL YOU ARE NEARING BURNOUT?
While burnout is not considered a medical condition, that does not mean it is not be taken seriously. Here are some common signs and symptoms of burnout:
- Lack of self-motivation and alienation to attend work-related activities
- Emotional exhaustion that makes you feel drained mentally, unable to cope and absence of energy to do things in daily life
- Physical exhaustion, fatigue, tiredness, constant headaches, and gut-related problems
- Reduced performance at work, unable to set and achieve targets
- Negative feelings about the tasks or people related to that particular task
- Lack of concentration
- Unable to get creative and insightful ideas
- Lack of interest in activities that you used to enjoy
- Random episodes of anger
- Frequent irritability
Coming back to the point, the surprising and powerful lessons I learned from burnout:
1. The first lesson I learned was to identify burnout.
After many months at peril, I realised that I did not know what burnout is or how I experience it. Now, whenever I feel off the lane, I research and try to consult reliable and authentic people to help me identify my issue to overcome it.
When I realised that burnout affects mental health, all the dots started to connect. Thank heavens, I addressed in time and eliminated the consequences. Moving onto lesson number 2.
2. Always, acknowledge and communicate your problems.
Unless humans acquire beehive properties, we have to speak to express our concerns. Your body knows and alarms you to the prospective pitfalls. Listen to them and talk about your problems to get help.
3. Take regular breaks.
I can go the extent of an exaggeration to establish the importance of mindful breaks. Waking up with a hovering rush, fuelling caffeine to our bodies, and sitting in front of our devices and labouring until the day ends do not allow our body to relax and rejuvenate.
Burnout not just affects mental health, it also costs us physically. Learn to live out of fight or flight mode. Listen to your favourite rendition or eat lunch away from your office desk. Just remind yourself to make breathing space for yourself every now and then.
4. If self-care is selfish, so be it.
With a long to-do list and uncountable things to attend to, we really don’t get time to care about ourselves.
But you know what, you can take out time and prioritise yourself. You just need to learn how to be selfish enough to do things you love without worrying about anything else. Put yourself on the top, even before your children. Help yourself before helping others!
In other news, let me share an important lesson: self-care does not necessarily have to be about a fancy spa or bubble baths or getting your nails done. Although it could rightly be so, you can find out things that give you happiness as a by-product.
5. You don’t have to be YES person.
When you have too many conflicting responsibilities, simply saying “no” to new tasks is an important way to reduce your workload. Scheduling regular breaks, starting, stopping at set times, and minimising multi-tasking can help maintain boundaries and reduce burnout feelings. Drawing boundaries, communicating them, and setting consequences go a long way, trust me.
6. Ask for help.
Burnout is reversible. With small lifestyle changes and intentions, one can beat burnout. There are various ways of how burnout affects mental health, and it can debilitate an individual to live a happy and healthy life.
Asking for help is brave. Talk to your HR manager, consult a therapist, and create practical self-care strategies to maintain work-life balance and reduce suffocating stress.
These were the lessons I learned from my burnout experience. You saw how burnout affects mental health and other areas of our life. You don’t have to reach there. Educate yourself, prepare yourself, and defeat and bounce back from burnout.