How to Recognize & Recover from Burnout
Have you felt exhausted and irritable lately? Do you feel like you just don’t have time to slow down and catch a breath?
In our fast-paced, technological society, it can be far too easy to push ourselves too hard. With pressure from nearly every angle to be successful in almost every way, it sometimes feels like being overwhelmed is the new norm.
But it’s not.
Burnout is real and it can be dangerous. When you don’t take any time out for yourself to reorient and address your needs, you’re at risk for burning the candle for too long at both ends and ending up in a waxy mess of a puddle.
When your body, mind and emotions are so frazzled that you can’t think straight and you lose focus and mental clarity. Chronic stress can lead to illnesses and a frazzled, unfocused mind could even lead to accidents.
Achieving your goals and working hard are great things to aim for but recognizing the signs of burnout could potentially save your life.
What is “Burnout?”
Burnout occurs after a period of chronic stress that results in being emotionally and physically exhausted, anxious, listless and even depressed. Those experiencing burnout often feel cynical, hopeless, detached or insecure about their performance.
When experiencing burnout, you can’t fully function at work or in your personal life effectively, as if part of yourself is on autopilot. Burnout isn’t something that occurs quickly, it builds up slowly over a strenuous period of time.
Signs of Burnout
In the beginning of burnout, one of the most common symptoms is a persistent but manageable feeling of tiredness. You may simply feel like you don’t have as much energy as you used to. As burnout increases, feelings of emotional and physical exhaustion, dread and feelings of being completely drained occur. It can be hard to even get out of bed.
Despite the persistent exhaustion, the stress of burnout can vastly affect sleeping patterns, making it difficult to get a decent night of sleep. As burnout worsens, it may feel like sleeping is impossible.
Brain Fog & Memory Loss
This begins as a mild lack of focus or bouts of forgetfulness but can get bad enough that working or concentrating on any task proves nearly impossible. As focusing becomes harder, it’s easy to fall behind with responsibilities, which only adds to the stress.
Burnout can cause heart palpitations – or a racing heart – increase in blood pressure, stomach pain, chest pains, dizziness, loss of appetite, headaches and fainting. As your body becomes weaker, your immune system follows suit and infections, colds and illnesses are more likely. Any physical symptoms should be addressed with a medical professional.
Tension, nervousness and anxiety are common signs of burnout. The symptoms may present as mild in the beginning stages but can lead to full-blown panic attacks.
You may start off feeling sadder than usual, but feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, apathy and worthlessness increase when burnout peaks.
Irritability, detachment, loneliness, negativity and other emotional disturbances are further signs of burnout.
How to Recover from Burnout
The first step to recovery from burnout is addressing the problem. Ignoring the fact that you’re physically and emotionally overwhelmed will only make the symptoms worse. You have to start by committing to taking care of yourself first and foremost.
The process of recovery might take a while – likely longer than you’d prefer. You won’t simply be able to heal yourself and get back to working hard within a week. Part of the process is learning what your boundaries are and how to set them to prevent burnout from happening again in the future.
Ask yourself why this happened. It may seem obvious for some, but for others, burnout seems to have mysteriously occurred, often because they don’t realize how hard they’ve been pushing themselves. Ask yourself what areas you could afford to cut back a little to allow more time for healing and relaxation. If you can’t prioritize your mental and physical health, this exhaustion is likely to repeat itself.
Start a journal for recording emotions and feelings of stress. If you haven’t kept a journal before, this could seem intimidating. You don’t have to record your deepest, darkest secrets, nor do you have to write every day. But writing your thoughts and feelings out is an excellent way to take some of their negative power away. Self-expression is a must for emotional balance and centering. Get creative during this time of healing.
Simplify your life in the areas where that is possible. If there are activities that you don’t enjoy and that you don’t need to participate in, cut them out of your schedule – at least for the time being. It is imperative that you make “me time” for yourself. If it’s only your job causing you stress, consider trying to find another one. While job searching is certainly not fun in this economy, your job is not worth the cost of your mental and physical health.
Get back to basics. You’ve been so stressed that you’ve probably long been neglecting your body. Simple activities such as exercise and getting a good night’s sleep can work wonders for a frazzled body. Exercise is also a great way to induce tiredness, thus battling the insomnia that accompanies burnout.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your family and friends when you need help. Asking for help takes courage and strength, and you should be proud of yourself for knowing when you need to delegate.
Seek Professional Help if You Need To
Therapy can be an excellent way to address many emotional and mental problems, and burnout sometimes requires the attention of a medical physician. Listen to your body, trust your intuition, and seek professional help when necessary.
Remember, while success is great, your mental and physical health should be your number one priority.
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