Beware the Burnout!

Practicing good self-care is one of the most important and possibly overlooked aspects of being an adult. Whether you’re still in college, or out in the working world, it’s unbelievably common for people to work and work and work, spread ourselves too thin, and end up burning out.

What is burn out, you ask? Well according to this article from Psychology Today,

Burnout is

“A state of chronic stress that leads to: Physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”

Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t realize we’re overdoing it until it’s too late. Burnout is not specific to working, it can happen to students as well. As an academic advisor, it’s definitely something I talk about to first-time college students. When I was in college, I woke up one Saturday at a normal time, but was just exhausted. I ended up going back to sleep until 4 in the afternoon. I didn’t even try to fight my body on it, which looking back now, was probably smart. Your body knows what it needs, it’s so important to listen to it in times of stress. Here are some other symptoms of burnout from an article on Forbes .com:

  1. Keep in mind that exhaustion can be emotional, mental, or physical.
  2. Lack of Motivation
  3. Frustration, Cynicism, and Other Negative Emotions
  4. Cognitive Problems
  5. Slipping Job Performance (or Academic)
  6. Interpersonal problems at Home and at Work
  7. Not Taking Care of Yourself
  8. Being Preoccupied with Work…When You’re Not at Work
  9. Generally Decreased Satisfaction
  10. Health Problems: I don’t know about you, but in times of chronic stress, my health/body are definitely affected. This could range from stress-induced insomnia, to a bad cold, to more serious issues like heart disease and depression. Either way, you need to take care of yourself.

This Forbes article also offers a few tips on what to do if you recognize these symptoms in yourself:

  • Take Relaxation Seriously – this may seem like an oxymoron since relaxation is meant to be relaxing (duh), but it’s important to designate an actual time for it.
  • Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life – find something that you like to do strictly because you enjoy doing it. Not because it helps someone else, not because it could help with work. Just because it’s something YOU like.
  • Unplug – In today’s world, this may be the hardest one to do. Technology can be so helpful for productivity, but it can get pretty obnoxious too. Try to set boundaries, like no cell phones at dinner. If you go out with friends or family, leave your phone in the car or put it on silent. Enjoy the moment that you’re in.unplug-quote-700x700
  • GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!! – I don’t care if you say you only need 4 hours of sleep a night to properly function. You need to get an adequate amount of sleep for a myriad of reasons, really. Not only can lack of sleep have negative effects on your job performance, but it can also lead to decreased motivation and leave you more sensitive to stressful events.
  • Get Organized – Make a to-do list, and prioritize. A lot of work-related stress might be the fear that you will forget to do something or something important will slip through the cracks. By making a list, you are actively putting a system in place to combat the worrying.
  • Stay Attuned – Pay attention to your body. Are you getting headaches more frequently? Are your shoulders and neck stiff? Do you feel depressed or like you’re in a funk? These types of things are not random (unless you’re accident prone like I am). Your body is trying to tell you something.
  • Know When It’s You and When It’s Them – Sometimes burnout is a result of internal factors, but sometimes it really is a result of external ones. Ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” and figure out what is causing you stress.
  • Figure Out When Enough is Enough – consider talking to your manager or HR about mental health services or stress management training. What would help make your work environment more positive and motivating?

I touched on this a little in You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup. Whether you want to improve your job performance or boost your grades, you can’t do that if you don’t take care of yourself. No one can expect you to do well if you’re falling asleep at your desk or constantly coming down with a cold. Take the time to evaluate yourself and listen to your body. It usually knows what it needs. Don’t be afraid to take a day off once in a while. Everyone needs a mental health day at one time or another.

My favorite piece of advice from all of this, is to find something to do that you enjoy simply because you enjoy it. Running, painting, cooking, knitting, skydiving, whatever. Find that thing you love and use it as an outlet. Take the time you need to take care of yourself. There is only one of you.