Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion resulting from prolonged periods of stress. It has often been associated with demanding jobs and high-stakes professions wit poor work-life balances. But burnout doesn’t just happen in the workplace – it can be caused by long-term involvement in emotionally draining scenarios like being a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness, struggling to fix a toxic relationship, or juggling finals, assignments and extracurriculars at the end of a hectic semester at school. It can affect anyone, and can lead people to feel overwhelmed, disengaged, and disillusioned, which can spiral into a sense of hopelessness, cynicism, and resentment.
Burnout doesn’t just take a toll on your mental health – it also has ripple effects on other aspects of life. It can reduce productivity both in a professional and personal capacity. It Impacts relationships with loved ones and can cause people to withdraw from social engagements. It can also affect our physical health – prolonged periods of stress can cause elevated levels of stress hormones in the body which over time can lead to high blood pressure, high heart rate, increased blood sugar levels, and overall poor health outcomes. It can even negatively impact the immune system and increase vulnerability to illnesses. Chronic stress can also disrupt sleeping patterns and cause eating disorders, anxiety, or depression.
Recognizing and mitigating the effects burnout is therefore crucial to leading a healthier life – here are a few ways to restore the balance and keeping stress to a minimum.
Take a break: Trying to power through the endless list of tasks, obligations, and responsibilities when you are constantly feeling burnt out can be counterproductive and a recipe for disaster. Taking a break can give both your mind and body some much-needed reprieve from your troubles. Going on a vacation to get a change of scenery or even allowing yourself a staycation and engaging in self-care can help you feel more energized and hopeful. Scheduling in short breaks throughout your day can also help mitigate stress on a daily basis. This in turn can improve productivity, keep you motivated and optimistic and help you be the best version of yourself.
Re-evaluate your priorities: When we get caught up in chasing our ambitions, we often forget what our original goals were and may not realize if they have gone off-track. If you’ve been feeling burnt out from pushing yourself to pursue your goals, it may be wise to pause and reassess if your endeavours are still worth it, and if your plans still align with your personal values and life circumstances. It they’re no longer in sync, then it is worth re-evaluating and perhaps reprioritizing your focus and attention to seeking out newer interests that add meaning and value to your life. You never know, you might stumble onto a new passion or opportunity that you hadn’t explored before! Also, consider the people you in your life – do they encourage, support, and motivate you, or do they add negativity to your life, take you for granted and drain your energy? Surrounding yourself with the right people can have a huge impact on your life and outlook.
Make a change: If you recognize that you’ve been dealing with burnout, then it’s safe to say that something in your life must change before you can move forward in a healthier way. Of course, change of any kind can be scary. No matter how miserable we are, we often hold on to what we are familiar with, instead of dealing with the uncertainty of something new. You don’t have to make sweeping changes in your life all at once – small adjustments in your lifestyle and behaviours over time can lead to incremental improvements in regaining a healthier balance in your life. Whether it is communicating your professional capacities at work, setting intentional boundaries that protect your physical and mental wellbeing, or even blocking off time in your schedule for self care – all of these can positively impact your life, if you continue to actively maintain them. Once things feel less overwhelming, you’ll feel more confident in moving on to making bigger changes.
Reach out for help: If juggling too many priorities is what contributed to your burnout, then letting go of the notion that you have to do it all, and by yourself, can be very liberating. Just the pressure of needing to keep up appearances can sometimes add to stress and anxiety. It’s okay to reach out to your spouse/partner, friends, family, neighbors, or even your community and rely on them for assistance and support when you feel overwhelmed. If you are struggling to cope or make positive changes by yourself, consider speaking to a therapist or a life coach who can work with you to establish some healthy lifestyle practices.
Learn to manage stress: It goes without saying that there will always be an element of stress in your personal or professional life – therefore, learning to manage it effectively so that it doesn’t negatively impact your health and wellbeing is a crucial life-skill. Practicing deep breathing and relaxation techniques, exercising regularly, meditating, actively practicing self-care, engaging in hobbies and interests that bring you joy, spending quality time with your loved ones or even some alone time to reconnect with yourself – these are all ways of balancing out the negativity in your life and keeping your stress levels to a bare minimum.