Picture this: you are working your job diligently and faithfully, not skipping a beat. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s like you smack a brick wall. Now, when your alarm goes off, you are hitting snooze and rolling over to the other side of the bed. This is a stark contrast to your usual: jumping up bright-eyed and bushy tailed singing your morning song. You take your time getting to work not really concerned if you are late. You determine you’ve earned yourself at least five minutes.
While on the job, you are completing your tasks as usual, but admittedly you are dragging your feet. This may go on for a few days or maybe even a few weeks. Eventually the negative impact that being over worked is having on you becomes insurmountable. It starts overflowing into your personal life. Now, you do not enjoy the things that you used to. You are a bit of a downer, and despite how much sleep you get, you still wake up tired, and end the day exhausted.
What I just described is the cycle of burnout. Burnout is essentially stress induced exhaustion that becomes overwhelming. It is when the details of your life begin to wear you out. The source of the stress does not have to come from one place, but the resulting burnout may manifest itself in one area of your life more than another.
Not all stress is bad. Basically, everything that we do produces some level of stress. Some of the benefits of “healthy stress” includes a work ethic, cognitive development, a sense of responsibility, and self-satisfaction. Burnout is not a technical term. It in and of itself is not necessarily a real thing; but the impact of being/feeling overworked, spent, or drained, can lead to serious consequences. Preventing yourself from being burnt out is imperative because if you do not, the stress could literally kill you.
The first thing to realize is that it is not you, it is what you are doing. All work and no play will make anyone a dull person. in protecting yourself from becoming depleted, it is important to consider where you are putting your energy to, and how much of your energy that activity is consuming. To your benefit you are not the energizer bunny. The Bible says that even God rested. Everyone needs to replenish themselves. The challenge is that sometimes there is not a one to one exchange in the thing that tires you versus the thing that restores you.
A good example of this is the sedentary lifestyle that one in four Americans live. If you are sitting in front of a computer all day for work, and then as a way to decompress or relax you watch television; that is not necessarily an equivalent exchange in relation to energy spent versus energy restored. If the primary contributor to your exhaustion drains you faster than the things that you do to replenish yourself, that is a perfect storm for becoming burnt out. This is one of the reasons why vacations are a great thing.
During a vacation you leave behind the thing that typically has you preoccupied. Sometimes the best way to prevent burnout is to get away from yourself. One of the key attributes of responsibilities is that every now and again you get to walk away from them.
If you are a parent, you understand this concept all too well. Being able to find a good babysitter while you take a night or two for yourself can be one of the biggest blessings. To stop burnout before it happens you must be able to strike some sort of balance between what you have to do, and what you get to do.
You have to be able to come to terms with the fact that there is always more to do. One of the things that can stress you out is the size of your workload. Whether personally or professionally, sometimes you can just constantly have a lot on your plate. Having a lot to do is not inherently a bad thing, however. The important thing in this instance is being able to prioritize.
I would encourage you, that if you are feeling as though you are becoming overwhelmed, to not engage in busy work. Do not do things just for the sake of doing something. Doing nothing is doing something. If you work a mundane job, use a few of those accumulated personal/sick days — it won’t hurt.
I recognize that there can be a barrier to access in relation to some of the things mentioned in this article; In such a case, remember that the reward system also works! Farmers do not plant a seed with an expectation of that seed not growing and producing a crop. In the same way, if you have been working hard, treating yourself is an appropriate response.
You do not have to fly to Aruba, but you can decide not to cook one night of the week. Ladies, buy that purse you have had your eye on for some time now. Fellas, get that watch that your girl said she thinks would look good on you. Doing something for yourself is not selfish. You cannot take care of others properly if you are not also taking at least a moment to consider yourself.
So, to review, if you feel a burnout coming on, or you are in the middle of one, know that it is just for a moment. To prevent or remedy that sense of being/feeling overwhelmed do what you have to, and is within your power to do to reinvigorate yourself. Know that it is not always a one to one exchange so what tires you out will in most cases not be the same thing that gives you adequate rest. Variety is the spice of life — do not be afraid to seek it out in moderation. Vacations are great, but if you cannot get away, treat yourself to something else. Also, just because your boss may overlook what you do, does not mean you should too. Know when enough is enough and above all else keep your head up.