Burnout, What is it?

What is burnout, its impacts and what you can do about it.
burnout matches, sprig of hope

Burnout is an insidious creeping of mental exhaustion that can blindside you and often goes unrecognised. Burnout can occur in every area of life, whether that be work, relationships, home, family, parenting or self-worth. Like running an engine without oil, it eventually burns itself out.

Burnout can be debilitating as once an individual has burntout, they struggle to manage the stresses of a busy life which may lead to ongoing mental health issues. Symptoms of burnout may include exhaustion, irritability, indecisiveness, sense of hopelessness, sense of lack of control, self-doubt which wasn’t present before, heightened anxiety, listlessness, interrupted sleep patterns, rumination and reduced functioning in basic tasks of self-care which may lead to destructive habits.

Existing traumas may be exacerbated, as symptoms will often echo old ways of being. Reduced capacity to respond to trauma-related impacts. Self-care practices are diminished or forgotten. That feeling of hopelessness is reignited.

Burnout occurs when an individual is overloaded; when they are at capacity and people keep asking for more. Typically this can present due to pressures of work, where you never see the end of the projects you were assigned, yet the deadlines feel shorter the emails increase, and the expectations of the boss get louder.

Burnout may show in the home environment when the domestic chores keep growing, sleep is less and children are acting out, whilst the partner is out socialising or working away from the home.

Burnout may become apparent in a relationship when the partner has demands on you and does not provide a balance between their needs and yours. When communication has broken down, where one is pursuing and the other is stonewalling or avoiding? The common thread is losing your voice and doubting your worth. The sooner you can recognise the changes, the quicker you can push a pause button on the impacts of burnout.

People become conditioned to ‘suck it up, to ‘push on through’ as this has become the societal narrative. It is distressing to see people who are full of potential and have accomplished so much, start to doubt themselves, and lose confidence, motivation and drive. This leads to sleeplessness, diminished physical health and corrosive impacts on a family.

Toxic work environments may present as friendly places, with smiling faces with camaraderie and even respect for the service that you provide. However, behind the scenes, it can be a daily curse of striving to meet unachievable expectations and overload with no respite in sight.

I have supported someone recently, who was tired and had low bandwidth for anything else other than the expectations of their employer. They told me they drank more to escape, they snapped at their family and they felt sad that they couldn’t spend more time with their children who were growing up fast. Their partner had reassured them that an alternative was possible. I reminded them to lean on their partner, to connect to their vulnerability and recognise its existence and life doesn’t have to be one way. Just because it’s what you signed up for originally. You can change the script.

Eventually, they made a snap decision and an exit point was created. The decision had been made, the relief was instant. The moment they made space for themselves was the moment they decided they were worth something more. Over the next few weeks I observed this person speak with more verve, they talked of reconnection with their children, micro-adventures, trips to museums and picnics in the rain. They reconnected with friends and organised bike rides, just like in the old days. Yes, there was fear. What if this freedom is selfish? What if I can’t manifest what I want? What if I can’t provide for the family? My feedback was what if you let the universe provide for you, wait and see. I told them that the next step is not easy, but it is mighty, it is life-changing. Inspired by others that had taken a step out of their comfort zone to realise new potential. Sometimes you have to feel the pain to grow. That they were part of their evolution.

They tell me that people’s responses have been wonderful, they respect them, they applaud them, and they are inspired by their actions. They tell me that people tell them how they wish they had done the same, that maybe they can do the same. They normalised their experience and made them a representative of the unspoken voice where it is ok to say ‘enough! I choose me.’

Burnout creeps up on people, it strangles creativity, breaks down relationships and destroys self-esteem. It is important to be able to recognise what the signs of burnout are. If you feel you are stuck or cannot see a way out. Share these feelings with someone, and seek out support. Because, if you don’t and you think that it will go away on its own accord, it won’t. Not unless changes are made and you prioritise your mental health.

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