If you have ever felt crushed by your workload, helpless, drained, and/or completely exhausted, you may be on the road to burnout.
You now would think that every day is a bad day and that maybe caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy. You overload your schedule all the time and you feel like nothing you do makes a difference.
Firstly mentioned by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in his winter 1974 publication “Staff Burn-Out”, this phenomenon is associated today with unhealthy work environments. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress when your body exceeds its ability to restore and keep up.
The phases of burnout syndrome…
Psychologists H. Freudenberger and Gail North have theorized that the burnout process can be divided into 12 phases, not necessarily followed sequentially.
- Excessive ambition results in a compulsion to prove oneself abilities;
- Working harder, you overload your routine to fulfil your goals;
- Neglecting personal care and needs, your own restoration is in contrast with your objectives;
- Displacement of conflicts, the body shows physical symptoms of exhaustion and contrasts arise;
- Changes in Values to Validate Self Worth, friends, family and cared ones start to recognize your altered state and you perceive their intervention as irrelevant and antagonistic to your persona;
- Denial of emerging problems, you ignore the first symptoms and the blame falls off your responsibilities;
- Withdrawal, you have reduced social contact to a minimum as you deem people around you a burden;
- Behavioural changes, the lifestyle changes are more relevant and odd, at this point, what you sacrifice in the pursuit of your goal is secondary.
- Depersonalization or confusion of Identity, you feel detached from your own world and divorced from your persona, you start to recognize some problems but you fail to perceive your actions to solve them as meaningful.
- Inner Emptiness, you feel the void inside and seek release through overcompensation like overeating and alcohol or drugs abuse;
- Depression, an increased state of all the precedent phases, characterized by indifference, hopelessness and exhaustion;
- Burnout syndrome, at this point, suicidal thoughts become the release mechanism and a mental or even physical collapse could abruptly end your work streak.
You will not easily recognize your own exhaustion state. Many factors, as pride, necessity or even failing to notice the first symptoms, could stop you from realizing the dangers of the unhealthy path chosen.
Find your balance…
If you feel like you are giving too much and that is going to be harmful, not everything is hopeless. The loss of balance is both cause and consequence of burnout, so seeking back to a balanced lifestyle must be your primary concern.
Start by having adequate time to fulfil three important daily needs: Eat, Exercise, Sleep, just a few improvements in that sphere could mean a lot for your long-term gains.
Do not isolate yourself; the people around you must become a resource for your energy and stability, and not a burden. Try to be open to their feedback and listen to their advice, having them worried for your health must be seen as a signal and a wakeup call rather than a weakness or cause for more anxiety.
Lastly, rethink your priorities, setting a bar too high or suddenly leaping towards an insurmountable obstacle could be too much for you, do not be ashamed to lower your expectations and take baby steps to improve yourself.
And always be aware, it is not the fall that causes harms, it is the impact on the ground. If you feel stressed out and close to burnout, seek help to find your adequate equilibrium.