Do you ever feel like there is so much to do and so much to be?
Carrying a constant ‘to-do’ list in your mind may mean you can’t relax even when you want to. It’s difficult to switch off when you feel overwhelmed by all the things you ‘should’ be doing or feel guilty for resting. Perhaps you feel an underlying sense that you haven't achieved enough? That you should be doing more to optimise your career, your health, your relationships, your lifestyle, yourself. Maybe you expect to reach unattainable goals and are never satisfied. Or the goals seem meaningless to you and leave you unfulfilled. You may feel so demotivated by the pressure to get everything done to a certain standard that you can’t bring yourself to start. Or are so exhausted you just can’t be productive.
If your schedule is growing as much as your stress levels, you could be suffering from burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a response to prolonged stress that leads to a state of anxiety accompanied by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. With your energy sapped and effectiveness reduced, it can leave you feeling increasingly inadequate and unable to meet the seemingly constant demands of life. The accompanying sense of despondence, disillusionment and detachment can have negative effects that spill over into your home, work and social life.
What causes it?
Research shows that complex environments and stressors, coupled with high expectations and feelings of pressure, create the conditions for burnout.
We live in a society characterised by information overload and where we are often online 24/7. Answering emails, messages and calls immediately makes it difficult to switch off and erodes work-life balance. Increased expectations to live your ‘best life’ while constantly comparing yourself to others are exacerbated by the distortions of social media. Changing workplaces and shrinking job stability are complicated by mounting workloads and fewer resources. Average is no longer enough and the pressure to achieve more and more is amplified by the ideal bodies, lifestyles and careers that are dictated to us by magazines, screens and social media feeds.
It’s no surprise that burnout now crosses multiple generations and all aspects of life.
What can help?
There are positive ways you can deal with burnout to help get your life back into balance. Take regular time-out and give yourself permission to relax, reflect and heal. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress. Eating well and getting enough sleep can help to boost mood and energy levels.
There may be ways you can reduce the number of stressors in your life. Try redistributing or delegating the load you're carrying and avoid overextending yourself by setting boundaries. Unplug yourself from technology and set certain times to check emails or social media. Connect with colleagues, family and friends about how you’re feeling.
Burnout can also provide a prompt to rediscover what is meaningful to you and what really makes you happy. It may lead you to re-evaluate your goals and priorities and redefine your home, social or work roles. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you a sense of fulfilment and explore activities that you find personally rewarding.
Many sufferers of burnout will greatly benefit from reaching out for professional support. Speaking with a psychologist can help you to re-evaluate your goals and re-prioritise your activities. By regaining a sense of balance, purpose and energy, your enjoyment of all life has to offer can be reignited.
Written by Prue Foster