2014 was the biggest transformation year for me. I quit my job at the peak of my corporate career, I sold my house and left my 13 years of marriage. I was at the lowest point of my life and walking out seemed to be my only way to survive life.
Fast forward to today, after years of personal and spiritual development, I can identify that I was experiencing burnout in 2014 and it turns out that my story isn’t uncommon. In fact, many millennial women are experiencing burnout especially, career / job driven burnout before they even turn 30.
So what exactly is Burnout? Dr Sherrie Bourg Carter, describe burnout as state of chronic stress that lead to:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Cynicism and detachment
- Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
At the severe degree of burnout, you are losing the ability to perform effectively in work and life areas and feeling overwhelmed with daily tasks even a daily routine. Burnout is not some type of disease that happens overnight, it is a repetition of commitment, stress, and exhaustion.
Burnout comes with a hefty price tag, it can cost you your health, career, relationship and happiness. A chronic sufferer would even consider suicide as their best way out of this situation.
Here are the symptoms that you suggest you may be experiencing a burnout:
- Depleted or low physical energy
Stress is emotionally and physically draining and will lead to a depleted energy. If you constantly feel tired and struggle to get out of bed every morning to face the day, then it’s a clear indication that you suffer from burnout.
- Frustration, cynicism or emotional exhaustion
Do you feel apathy or hopelessness? Or do you feel like what you are doing doesn’t matter anymore? When you notice that you become more pessimistic that you used to be or increasing negative emotions like anger, frustration, etc then you are most likely be suffering from burnout. Though, everyone experiences negative emotions at times but it’s important to know that when these becoming unusual for you.
- Lack of motivation
The other indication of burnout is a lack of motivation, or not feeling enthusiastic about work or life in general. You may feel that no matter how hard you try or how much effort you put into what you do, you will not receive positive results. You are no longer playing to win but playing not to lose.
- Slipping job performance, or increasingly absenteeism at work
When experiencing burnout, your productivity at work and job performance may start to decline. Because a burnout tends to happen over a prolonged period of time, you may need to take a long term view by reviewing your performance over a year or more. This would help to distinguish if you are in temporary slump or experiencing more chronic burnout. The other indication of burnout is that you are more absent from work as stress avoidance mechanism.
- Cognitive Problems
Chronic stress can interfere with your ability to focus as our attention spans become shorter and your mind is occupied with negative thoughts and emotions. You may also find that you become more forgetful and it’s harder to remember things.
- Less investment at home and work
Withdrawal from interpersonal relationship or having more conflicts with other people such as getting into arguments is another sign of burnout. You may also find that you are less tolerant or easily irritated by others.
- Not taking care of yourself
When you suffer from a burnout, you may have the tendency to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, smoking, or unhealthy diet. This kind of behaviour is an unconscious defense and a way to numb unprocessed negative feelings.
In the early stage of a burnout, you may struggle with falling asleep for a night or two in a week. This issue may develop into insomnia, as you start to lose ability to switch your mind off from work or life commitment at rest time. And no matter how exhausted you are, you still can’t sleep.
- Lowered immunity to physical illness
Prolonged and high levels of stress will lower your immune level. Your body is very intuitive and responsive to your feelings and emotions and will send the message on what its need. In this instance, your body may send message that comes in the form of increased susceptibility to colds, flu, and other minor illnesses. Overtime, this could develop to more serious physical illnesses.
If you are experiencing any of the above, please take it seriously as it should be treated as a wake up call that your current lifestyle needs some adjustment. The first step is learning about what causes stress in your life and the degree of it. Then workout a plan to manage your time, energy and expectation on self and others.
A Burnout can lead to a series of serious mental illness and you cannot expect that it would just go away like flu. It requires an effort to overcome and get your life back on track. If you are struggling to overcome on your own, then seek help through self help program or experts.