These days, there is more demand for our time, energy, and attention than ever before. Anyone can feel exhausted from the high expectations they face at work and at home, and sometimes, it becomes too much to bear. If you feel like you are about to lose it due to the incredible pressure on you, you could be experiencing burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional or physical distress that is caused by long-term stress. This experience is very common in people with demanding jobs or a lot of different responsibilities (i.e. working full time and being a single parent). When you have burnout, you feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted in the face of the constant demands on you. As time goes on and the overwhelming stress doesn’t end, you may completely lose motivation to do anything. You are unproductive, low energy, and you may feel resentful and helpless. You feel as though you have nothing left to give. The consequences of burnout affect everything around you, from your home life to your professional life to your social life. Burnout also makes you more vulnerable to illness, particularly over the long term. If you are experiencing burnout, it is important for your health and quality of life to address it sooner rather than later.
Warning Signs of Burnout
If you are not sure whether or not you have burnout, read on for these telling warning signs.
- You’re always on edge. You constantly feel worried, stressed, or anxious. It seems like adrenaline is always rushing through you.
- You don’t care anymore. You used to be very invested in your work, but now you don’t feel like you have any motivation. You can’t focus on the task in front of you.
- You’re more resentful, negative, and cynical. You find yourself far more cynical than you used to be. You feel resentful and disconnected to people in your life. You feel irritable and defensive all the time. You don’t feel like reaching out and connecting with others.
- You don’t sleep. Whether because you are always up worrying at night or you are too busy to sleep, you are at increased risk for burnout if you aren’t sleeping enough.
- You are always in a hurry. It seems like you never have enough time to do what you need to do and you are always in a rush, wherever you are going.
- You’re highly self-critical. When you’re burnt out, you might feel like there is a critic in your head, constantly telling you that you aren’t enough. You constantly worry that you won’t live up to your own or other people’s expectations.
- You have no energy. You feel exhausted all the time, both emotionally and physically. At the end of the day, you feel completely drained and like you don’t want to do anything.
- You are always sick. Whether it is the flu, an upset stomach, or headaches, you always seem to be feeling physically run down. Your immune system seems like it can’t fend off anything.
- You feel the need to numb your feelings. Whether it is through drugs, alcohol, caffeine, or sugar, you feel the need to go to external substances to numb your feelings when you are tired and feeling low. You may lean on your coping mechanisms, whether it is watching too much TV, eating sugary carbs, or chugging caffeine, to get you through the day.
- You aren’t accomplishing as much as you used to. You have seen a slump in your performance, whether through your quality, quantity, or general productivity. You are expending energy without seeing any payoff.
- You never take breaks. Whether it is a vacation or a five-minute break from work, you never stop. You can’t remember the last time you took a day off to do something relaxing or fun. You never take a break at work to get up and walk around, get water, or chat with a friend. You don’t do anything for yourself to rejuvenate, such as cooking a delicious meal, reading a book for pleasure, or spending time outdoors.
- You never exercise. You might feel like you have no time to fit exercise into your life, or when you do have time, you are too exhausted to do anything.
While everyone has days when they feel overloaded, when you have burnout, this is a constant state. Burnout happens gradually over time. It may start with a sign or two listed above, and then slowly, you start to identify with the whole list. If you notice any of these above signs, it is an indication that you need to slow down and address the problem.
Stress Versus Burnout
While constant stress may cause burnout, they are not the same. Stress is characterized by a feeling of being overwhelmed; however, under the surface, stressed people still believe that once everything is under control, they will feel better. People with burnout, in contrast, have given up. They no longer care and feel empty and unmotivated. They aren’t hopeful that they will ever feel better. Think of stress as drowning in demands, while burnout is being dried up. People generally notice when they are under a lot of stress, but people with burnout often don’t notice it. Stress is also bad for our health, but it tends to be worse for our physical health; burnout is more detrimental to our mental and emotional health.
Causes of Burnout
Burnout is most often caused by high job expectations, but anyone who is overworked can experience burnout. Additionally, there are lifestyle choices you can make that cause burnout, as well as certain personality traits that predispose you to burnout.
Professional Causes of Burnout
- Having very little or no control over your work
- Not being recognized for your hard work
- Unreasonably high job expectations
- Monotonous work
- High-pressure job environments
Lifestyle Causes of Burnout
- Not taking time to socialize or relax
- Working all the time
- Not having close friendships or other relationships
- Taking on too many responsibilities
- Insufficient sleep
- Not exercising, eating unhealthily, and leaning on unhealthy coping mechanisms
Personality Traits Associated With Burnout
- Need for control over everything
- Type A personality
If you recognize the signs of burnout in yourself, you may wish to just push through it, but this will only cause further damage to your mental and physical health. You may feel helpless, but you have more control than you realize. You can take steps to rebalance your life and rediscover who you were before burnout.
If you are experiencing burnout, you may have avoided or just stopped reaching out to your friends and family. When you are exhausted at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is engage with others. However, social contact is extremely important to easing stress. Talk to someone you trust about what you are experiencing. They will not be able to make all of your problems go away, but just being heard can do a lot to ease the burden. When you open up to your loved ones, they feel closer to you and honored that you trust them enough to be honest.
Invest in Relationships
When you invest in your relationships with your spouse, family, friends, and children, you not only have their support during difficult times; you also have an outlet of positivity in your life. Prioritize taking time away from the source of your burnout to spend it with people who love and uplift you. Make sure that the people in your life know how much they mean to you, and set aside special time to bond and enjoy each other.
Develop New Friendships
Whether you feel you already have a support system in place or not, making new friends is a great way to renew your lease on life. If you are experiencing job burnout, it may be advantageous to make new friends at work. This way, you can commiserate with and comfort each other in times of extreme stress. Alternatively, you could join a community group that interests you and meet people outside of work.
Find Value in What You Do
If you feel unappreciated at work or like your work doesn’t matter, think about what value your job adds to the world. Additionally, focus on the things that make your job enjoyable, even if it is just eating lunch with your coworkers. If you find that there is nothing positive or fulfilling in your work, it may be time to look for new work.
Look for Satisfaction Elsewhere
If there is nothing that satisfies you in your job, look for other areas of your life from which you can derive satisfaction. Focus on what brings you joy, whether that is your friends, family, or interests. Prioritize making a life for yourself outside of work or whatever is causing your burnout.
Take a Vacation
If you are experiencing burnout, it is imperative that you take time to recover. Taking a vacation is a great way to relax, unwind, and take a beat to think about what is really important to you. Use the time off to take steps to recover from burnout.
Exercise is not only good for your physical health, it offers great stress-relief properties. Something as simple as taking three ten-minute walks a day can drastically improve your mood. Alternatively, find an exercise class that you are curious about, whether it is a HIIT workout or a kung fu class. This could make it a both a social outlet and a way to improve your health and mood.
If you are experiencing burnout, there is hope. Come to our men’s health clinic if you need help with your physical or mental health, and we will connect you with the resources you need. Contact Men’s Vitality Center in Tucson today!