By Bryan Mapenzi
Work. A concept and aspect of our lives that, for many, has had many twists and turns over the last year and a half. Whether it was reduced hours, job loss, or the work from home transition because of the pandemic, we have all been shaped and molded by collective trauma in 2020 and 2021. These aspects, along with many joining the Great Resignation, have led to added stress about our future work lives. This rising stress can lead to burnout.
But what is burnout? Let’s get into it!
So what is burnout?
The concept of burnout has been around for quite some time, but dug its teeth into our way of life during the height, and still ongoing, pandemic. Besides your next-door neighbor doing late night donuts on your street, burnout is also the chronic stress that causes us to become psychologically and emotionally exhausted. It can be that feeling of emptiness that you can’t quite put your finger on regarding your work and the things you used to enjoy about your career. It can also look like decreased motivation and productivity at our place of work. Other symptoms of burnout include:
● Lowered immunity and getting sick more often
● A change in one’s appetite and sleep habits
● Feeling more pessimistic about daily life and work
● Decrease in overall satisfaction
● Withdrawal and isolation
● Using substances and food to cope
A study by Indeed showed that (52%) of respondents are feeling burned out, and over two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic. The issue is undoubtedly on the rise. If there’s a silver lining, it is that there are tips and strategies to decrease stress in our lives and in our work.
Know the signs
One of the key aspects to making sure burnout is not wreaking havoc in your work is by knowing those initial signs. Because everyone’s experience varies, signs may appear different, but slowing down to identify how you might be overdoing things will be key. Self-reflection and self-awareness will set you on a path to game plan on how to manage those signs of burnout before it becomes chronic and debilitating.
Tend to your needs
Most of us want to assist others and impact the work that we are doing. Because of this deep desire to serve, we can often neglect our own needs. I know we’ve looked up at 2:30pm, realizing we said we were going to have lunch thirty minutes ago after we finished one last thing. This is often the rule and not the exception for many and the more we stifle, disregard, and neglect our own needs, the easier it becomes to do so. Taking care of ourselves is a pivotal aspect of serving others, so they must go hand in hand.
Don’t neglect your “purpose portfolio”
Our purpose portfolio is the cluster of things that exist to grow our spiritual wellness outside of work. Too often we pour our time and energy into work and neglect family, friends, and the things we love in efforts to “get ahead”. Those few hours here and there won’t make much difference, especially when we are running on fumes and not performing at our best because of a lack of sleep, energy, and enthusiasm. Our ability to stave off burnout becomes enhanced when we have a purpose, passion, and persistence outside of work as well.
Create separation of work and home
This has become more difficult, especially as folks are still working from home. However, creating this separation allows for transitioning into a different role or stage of the day. For those who work in a confined space at home, taking time OUTSIDE of our homes can be helpful. Vacating the space where we do work is an aspect that we have lost, so the lines become blurred. Taking space elsewhere and returning can help reestablish that separation. For those who are back in the office, using the commute home gives us time to process the events of the day. Doing so promotes presence of mind, allowing us to be where our feet are at that moment.
Avoid the trap of hustling for your worth
We often tie our worth into our accomplishments and our accolades. This tether sets us up to chase these accolades to prove that we are “good enough”. This constant chase can never end because there will always be things to do and accomplish, so we never become content with who we are, outside of external measures. When we become content with our work and the essence of who we are, it allows us to decrease opportunities for burnout, because we accept that nothing can take away our value.
It is paramount that we take care of ourselves and identify the signs of burnout. A key point is acknowledging that many signs of burnout and depression are similar. It is important to recognize if you being burned out is feeding a depressive episode or if your depression is causing you to feel burned out. Seeking the help of a professional to see if your symptoms are just from burnout or from a potential undiagnosed mental health struggle can be a starting place. All things being equal, taking care of ourselves is not selfish, and it is an act of self-love that acknowledges our humanity.
I hope you can take time and space for yourself today as you embark on this holiday season. Be well!
*Featured Image from Getty Images