I’ve been putting off writing this article for as long as humanly possible. This isn’t because I have nothing to write about or because I just don’t feel like it. It’s because at this very moment, there is not a single thought in my mind, yet there are a million thoughts in my mind. Quite frankly, I am burnt out. So, please bear with me as I try to string my thoughts together.
What is burnout?
If you’re like me and always feel the need to achieve as close to perfection as possible, have overextended yourself socially, academically, and/or professionally, or have felt as though there are a ton of things to do and not enough hours in the day, then it’s likely that you’ve experienced burnout. Just like nearly everything else in life, burnout is something that comes in unique forms for each and every person.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the term burnout was created in the 1970s by Herbert Freduenberger, an American psychologist. The term was often used to describe the consequences of being in high-stress situations or professions, specifically “helping” professions. Over time, however, the reach of the word ‘burnout’ has broadened drastically, and often, this term will be used by individuals to describe the consequences of self-sacrifice.
So, the question then becomes, what is the difference between run-of-the-mill exhaustion and burnout?
While exhaustion is a consequence of stress, it is also one symptom of burnout. On top of exhaustion, someone who is experiencing burnout will likely experience two other areas of concern: alienation from obligations and less-adequate or decreased performance.
It is common for someone experiencing burnout to distance themselves from work activities or isolate themselves from other events and people in their life. They may become cynical in their views towards their obligations and will, essentially, shut down. In addition to this, this person will also find themselves producing less adequate work, or performance that is obviously different from what is typical.
Symptoms of burnout can also manifest themselves in depression. If you experience these symptoms in addition to low self-esteem, hopelessness, constant negative thoughts and feelings, etc., reach out to a trained professional to provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
How i experience burnout
Now that it’s hitting the middle (almost end) of the semester, burnout is hitting me hard. I have absolutely zero motivation to go to class, start my work, or attend events on campus that are important to me. Personally, I experience burnout around the same time every year. Right now, it’s spring (but not really feeling like it), and we’re deep in the trenches of school work. At this point, all of my creativity has flown straight out of the window, and I can’t keep my schedule straight to save my life. My brain is working overtime, but it’s also starting to shut down.
For me, burnout manifests itself in a lack of motivation and an avoidance of obligations or work. My burnout is evident when I just can’t get myself to get stuff done, which is often the result of a lack of creativity or a developing pessimistic attitude. I find that hosting or attending events on campus becomes a real chore for me and is often impossible because of the amount of schoolwork I have piling up.
Burnout is all too common in my life and not something that I have completely figured out. It can take me days, weeks, or even a month to get out of a slump. Living life like that can be hard and sometimes makes the burnout even worse. If you’re like me, I don’t like to ask for help, and I’ve always been the one that people come to for help and not the one that goes to people. Over the years, I have had to learn to let people in to help me through burnout and any other mental health struggles I may be having. Although it’s been a strange adjustment, I really rely on my support system to give me advice or, honestly, just to let me vent. For lack of a better term, burnout is ugly and gross, and in order to come out on the other side, you will have to go through trial and error to find the ways to cope and the people that help.
Ways to beat Burnout
Luckily for me, burnout often manifests itself in the same way every time it happens. Therefore, I have started to figure out ways to help myself beat burnout. Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Treat yourself! When I’m feeling burnt out, I will do one of two things: buy some flowers or treat myself to a cafe coffee. Both of these things never fail to make me happy and often help to start to pull me out of a slump.
- Walk away. I often find myself feeling super stressed and anxious if I pull out my work and just stare at it. If I know that I won’t be productive, sometimes it is best for me to just walk away. I like to do something else that’s productive like doing my laundry or going grocery shopping because that still feels productive to me, but there are also times where I just sit and scroll on my phone, or take a walk. Whatever you do, just walk away and give yourself time to breathe.
- Go outside! I know this sounds cliche, but being outside (especially in the sun) is so helpful in clearing your head and getting a refresh!
- Have a slow morning and evening! Try to accomplish most of your tasks in the middle of the day. By doing this, you will be able to sandwich your day with peace and relaxation while also being productive.
- Put yourself first. You are the only person who knows what you need. If that means you need to take a rest day, take a rest day. Give yourself grace, and take care of your mental health first.
At the end of the day, we will all likely experience burnout at multiple points in our lives. It is so normal and, thankfully, something that is talked about openly in society. Lean on those around you and remember to put yourself first. If it won’t matter in five years, then don’t give into the stress it may cause you now. You got this!