IT’S COMMON AMONGST HIGH-ACHIEVERS, BUT FEW CAN RECOGNIZE IT, AND MANY DENY IT CAN HAPPEN TO THEM: BURNOUT.
Life is full of pressures to not only succeed, but exceed expectations at everything we do. It’s a world that places value on achievement, rank, and one’s ability to be able to prove oneself as able to handle the daily pressures of modern society. A young person’s life is full of expectations to be met - get good marks, get a good job, study hard, save money for post secondary, get accepted to their chosen post secondary destination, plan for the future – the pressures are endless and often hard to handle all at once. When all these things become too much, and we push ourselves too hard, we run the risk of burning ourselves out.
Burnout, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is as a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work. Burnout is what roadblocks you into being able to push yourself any further into completing the tasks at hand. Burnout is your body’s way of telling you to STOP and take care of your own well-being before trying to accomplish anything else.
Burnout is difficult to recognize and accept in high achievers. Most of us don’t have time for burnout, never mind the time to dedicate to resting, or taking time off, especially with imminent deadlines and items to scratch off the to-do list. Yet learning how to recognize, and treat burnout, is one of the most effective ways that you can protect your productivity and effectiveness and ensure that you are always putting your best face forward in what you do.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU ARE BURNING OUT?
1. Complete and utter exhaustion. When you have a lot on the go, it’s easy to feel tired and draggy, but when you start to feel abnormally tired, you’re napping more often, or falling asleep in places where you should be staying awake, your body is sending you a sign that you’ve reached exhaustion or burnout.
2. Negative thoughts and feelings. Do you find yourself feeling overly critical of others? Do you get frustrated easily by the smallest things people do? Do you find yourself thinking negatively about something that once gave you energy and joy? A shift from positive thinking to more negative thoughts may indicate burnout and that it’s time for a refresher.
3. Lack of motivation. The thought of your to-do list is so intimidating and daunting that you can’t even bring yourself to look at it. Your desk is piling up with papers and tasks you need to complete, but you can’t even bring yourself to sit down and tackle it all. You find yourself finding compelling reasons to avoid your work and much more important tasks that demand your time (aka. Procrastination). If you are just finding that you don’t have the gas in your tank to move forward, it may be time to stop to refuel.
4. Increased headaches, muscle aches, or general decrease of physical well-being. If you find yourself reaching for remedies to decrease aches and pains when you normally wouldn’t need to, your body may be sending you a big signal that you are burning out.
5. Slipping performance. If grades aren’t as up to snuff as they usually are, or people who depend on your productivity are commenting that you’re under-performing, it’s perhaps time to recognize why there has been a decrease in your normal awesome level of output. Burnout, when not recognized and cared for, can put those things you are working the hardest for at jeopardy.
Feel like you may be burning out? The first, and most helpful thing that you can do for yourself is let yourself off the hook, and recognize that it’s okay to burn out from time to time. The most influential leaders of this world can point to a time, or several times, when they were burned out, and had to recognize and address it in order to continue on to be effective leaders. There’s no shame in burning out – it’s just a humble recognition that you’ve been a bit too much of a rock star in your life and you deserve some time away to regroup. Everyone needs time to reignite their light inside from time to time.
NOW THAT YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THAT YOU’RE EXPERIENCING BURNOUT, IT’S TIME TO SHOW BURNOUT WHO’S BOSS AND WORK TOWARDS A HEALTHIER, MORE BALANCED, AND PRODUCTIVE VERSION OF YOURSELF. HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO DEAL WITH BURNOUT IN YOUR LIFE:
1. Schedule in your “me” time. It’s very easy to schedule in time to study, work, or complete errands or tasks. It’s not as easy to schedule in time for yourself. When making your schedule, try something revolutionary: Before you put in your appointments, tasks or to-dos, put in time for yourself first. “Take a walk”, or “go to the gym”, or “spend time with friends”, or “Netflix binge” (we all need our Netflix binges!). When you put yourself first, and schedule your life around you, you may be surprised at the way you approach your studies or work refreshed and energized.
2. Give yourself an attitude adjustment. If you have been noticing that you’ve been a bit short with people, or you have found yourself immediately going to more negative thoughts, call yourself out on those. Try your hardest to flip negative thoughts back to the positive. “There is no way that I am going to meet this deadline,” becomes, “I have always met my deadlines, and I will find strategies to ensure I meet this one too”.
3. Seek support. Whether it’s reaching out to experts who are available to help young people move towards success, or finding support within your friends group, talking to others and seeking the help of others to help you relieve your burnout can help you find new perspectives, or new strategies to ensure that you don’t experience burnout on the regular.
4. Set goals. Take time to relate your present pressures to your future outcomes. Remind yourself of what you are working to achieve. Adjust your goals when necessary if you find that what you are doing now isn’t going to help get you to the place you want to be in your future. Take time to reassess your goals and what you are doing if the burnout is starting to exceed the reward.
5. Rest. It is OK to take time off. If you have gotten to the point where your well-being is starting to become seriously at risk, look at your options for taking a few days, or weeks off from what you are doing to regroup. A lot of workplaces have flexible options for employees to take time away. Weekends are also a great time to dedicate to rest if you can. Put a box around your rest time, and protect it with your life, as without rest, you can’t even begin to help yourself relieve your burnout, never mind move back towards a more productive place.
Now that you’ve learned about burnout and how to recognize and minimize it, there are few other things to consider if you are feeling burned out. Sometimes you have to persevere through multiple bouts of burnout in order to get to a particular place in your life. For instance, school exams are a time when young people tend to get burnout. It’s important to recognize burnout and practice self-care as outlined above, but it’s also important to remind yourself that this feeling of burnout is only temporary. It is a necessary stepping stone to something greater and it is starting you on your path to finding that career that allows you to follow your dreams.
When you have launched your career, it's important to pay close attention to burnout, and understand when and why it occurs. Sometimes the feeling of being burned out in your career may be indicative of something greater than just being a bit overworked and in need of a rest. If the feelings we described in this article are more than occasional, that could be your body signaling to you that it may be time for a change or to consider something different in your career.
BURNOUT IS NORMAL, AND BURNOUT IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED ABOUT, BUT THERE IS A LOT YOU CAN DO TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE MINIMIZING YOUR FREQUENCY OF FEELING BURNED OUT, AND MINIMIZING THE DAMAGE EXCESSIVE BURNOUT CAN CAUSE YOU.