In today’s society, people are expected to be productive all the time. Excelling at work, hitting deadlines, having a social life, all whilst trying to keep your mental health in check. It’s no surprise that in 2021, 79% of working people reported feeling burnt out. The term burnout refers to being in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, most commonly caused by long-term stress in a job or role that is draining – whether that be physically or emotionally (or both).
The issue of burnout in society has become so pervasive that in 2019 it was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. It is characterised by three main symptoms:
- Feelings of exhaustion and depletion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity in relation to one’s job
- Reduced professional productivity
If left untreated, the effects of burnout can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, low mood, and even depression. However, don’t fret! It doesn’t have to last forever. It can be overcome and even prevented from repeatedly happening if the right measures are put in place.
By implementing a good routine it is much easier to avoid hitting burnout. Beginning every day with a simple to-do list is a great first step and helps to feel on top of things. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones can lessen the overwhelm too, and it means that on tougher days where productivity is slow, you’ve still got a sense of achievement.
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is also key to preventing exhaustion and feeling overworked. It’s recommended that a person goes to bed and gets up at a fixed time every day, with adults needing between around seven to eight hours of sleep. Putting electronics away 30 minutes to an hour before going to sleep is also recommended.
Exercising is one of the most beneficial things a person can do for their wellbeing; it’s free, it gets the endorphins rushing, and there are so many ways to do it. Though it’s recommended that a person gets 150 minutes of moderate activity done a week and this might seem like a lot (breaking it down into five 30 minute sessions makes it slightly less daunting) evidence shows that any amount of exercise is beneficial for the mind. Even if it’s just going out for a walk or a cycle a few times a week, it helps to lift the fog.
Boundaries in all their various forms are integral to preventing burnout. Working from home? Make sure you separate your workspace from where you relax. Working from bed is a recipe for disaster, and the lack of boundaries between work and home life makes it hard to switch off. Instead, try to create a workspace at a desk, dining room table, or any available space that isn’t where you sleep.
It’s also important to implement boundaries with the people around you. For example, your friends have invited you out after an extremely busy work week. It’s the last thing you want to do, but you fear what they might think if you don’t come. It is fine to say no! It isn’t rude, or selfish, in fact, it’s a really healthy thing to do. They’ll always be other social occasions, and they’re a lot more enjoyable when you actually want to go.
Recovering from burnout:
Feeling unmotivated about work? Are you procrastinating more? Finding yourself getting irritated or emotional over the smallest things? These are all signs of burnout. It might be time to do some damage control to help recuperate those energy levels.
Rest is productive! Taking intentional time to rest is the best way to reset. Doing something that requires minimal brain power like watching a comfort show, reading a book, or even just sitting outside in the sun is essential to recharge. Setting aside time to do so will also prevent big bouts of procrastination, as you’ve given yourself permission to have a break and do nothing.
The term ‘self-care’ gets thrown around a lot, but in reality it refers to any small act that helps to preserve or improve one’s health. This could be anything as simple as treating yourself to a long bath, cooking your favourite meal, or taking vitamins or CBD to keep your health in check. CBD is effective at reducing stress levels, and can be easily implemented into a daily routine with minimal effort. Acts of self-care can be as simple as keeping hydrated and eating balanced meals too.
Burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, incapable, and all-round a bit rubbish. When feeling like this, the worst thing to do is to isolate yourself further. Sometimes reaching out to a friend, family member or loved-one for a talk about how you’re feeling will lift some of the weight from your shoulders. Feeling overworked is unfortunately extremely common, but it means that the people around you are likely to empathise with how you’re feeling, and perhaps even offer some advice.
Finally, be kind to yourself! Humans are not machines built to work 24/7, and feeling overwhelmed or burnt out at some point in your life is pretty much inevitable. Living in a capitalist society means we are constantly bombarded with the message that we must be productive to be worthy, but this is unsustainable and pressure-inducing. Making time for yourself is never anything to feel bad for.