Remedies to overcome psychological fatigue.
Mental burnout usually strikes at the worst time, hitting when we have a fast-approaching deadline, are dealing with a new job, or a stressful all-consuming project. After experiencing consistent, high levels of stress, we reach a state of emotional exhaustion. From that point on, motivation levels drop – as we start to believe nothing really matters – and start to downplay our successes.
Burnout happens gradually, so you might not notice the symptoms immediately. But it can negatively affect your abilities and attitudes across all aspects of life.
“Burnout” was first described in 1970 by Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger when outlining the severe stress levels that arise in professions like medicine and education. But in 2021, we are all vulnerable to mental burnout; as surveys show up to 50% of people feel burned out at any given time.
Beyond the short-term exhaustion, it also has severe long-term consequences. Evidence suggests that burnout leads to a permanent drop in motivation, and in severe cases: depression.
What is Mental Burnout?
According to psychologist Sherrie Carter, Burnout is a form of prolonged stress that leads to: physical and emotional exhaustion; cynicism and detachment, as well as feelings of worthlessness and lack of accomplishment. Burnout is not exclusively caused by working long hours. It could occur in all aspects of life, like parenting, caretaking, romantic relationships. It can have multiple causes:
- Cynicism and depression often occur when a person is not in control of their work, or when they’re forced to complete tasks that conflict with their values.
- Exhaustion arises when a person lacks support when they have too many responsibilities.
But how do we combat these issues, and bounce back when we are experiencing burnout?
How to Bounce Back
1. Find the Source
It’s difficult to overcome burnout if you don’t know the root cause. What’s triggering your anguish? What one thing stresses you out, eats up your time, and leaves you feeling exhausted? Burnout often relates to professional triggers. But according to therapist Crystal Raypole, other common everyday triggers include:
- Having an intense academic schedule.
- Experiencing relationship issues, that seem to go in circles and have no real solutions.
- Caring for a loved one with a serious medical issue.
Burnout can also be caused by a compound of multiple triggers. Imagine you’re a single parent, trying to do night school, while working in the day. Each one might be manageable on its own, but the combination of stress without a break will inevitably overwhelm you.
Trying to do too many things causes burnout. In the words of Barrie Sueskind:
“Eventually you bend so much you break, and that’s when burnout happens”
To properly deal with this, identify the tasks that are grinding you down. Often, we don’t deem these tasks worthwhile or meaningful – they are an unnecessary and pointless trigger of stress. Knowing that, we can avoid them on our road to recovery.
2. Re-Evaluate Your Priorities
Burnout is a sign that we haven’t got our work/life balance right. Rather than dedicating time to something enjoyable and worthwhile, we’re over committing ourselves to stressful and pointless tasks. If this is something you’re experiencing, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.
Instead of letting them consume you, manage your burnout triggers where you can. Of course, avoiding them altogether might not be possible; some of us must work a stressful job to pay the bills. But you can set boundaries and limit the amount of time you spend on these tasks – remind yourself that saying no to requests to work on yourself is perfectly acceptable.
Use that spare time to nourish your creative side. One reason burnout occurs is because we’re spending so much time on tasks we don’t deem worthwhile. In combating it, take some time out to assess your hopes, values, and dreams. Ask yourself: “am I neglecting something that’s important to me?” You can combat burnout by creating a sense of purpose, making a positive impact to others’ lives, and creating meaningful change.
According to Alan Kohll, insufficient breaks is a leading cause of chronic stress and burnout. So, on top of nourishing your creative side, be sure to set some time aside to relax to let your mind and body recover.
If you’ve got a lot going on at work, it can be difficult to fully switch off when you get home. With technology at our fingertips, it’s tempting to check your work email, or work through the night – to get that stressful task out of the way as quickly as possible.
To avoid burnout, you need to completely switch off from these temptations. To do so, we recommend using FocusMe. It will enable you to block out and resist the urge to check your emails, or continue working on that work presentation when you should be relaxing.
3. Allow Time For Your Mind and Body to Recover
Recovering from burnout is a process that takes time. You can’t expect instant recovery. Instead, you need to stay committed to taking care of yourself emotionally and physically. Even if you’re raring to get back to work, resist the temptation to overdo things. Aim to create healthier long-term workplace habits that involve regular breaks. Take up a new hobby that you enjoy, spend more time with friends, or just set time aside to watch a new Netflix series.
In most cases, it is worth creating a support network of people who can help you through the process – as they will be able to hold you accountable and point out when you’re causing self-inflicted burnout. Better still, you can use this network to relieve some of your daily stress by talking through problems.
Most importantly, to create a sustainable work-life balance free from burnout, you must be willing to dedicate time each week to restoring your mind and body. If work requirements don’t allow you the room to properly look after yourself, then it might be time to find a new job or drop that task that’s consuming your time and effort.