It’s become pretty common to toss around the phrase, “I’m burned out!” Not feeling like getting out of bed for that early morning workout? “I can’t today. I’m burned out.” Or your 9-to-5 job is sliding toward an 8-to-6 plus weekends? “I need a vacation. I’m burned out.”
People tend use the phrase as a general way to explain lack of excitement or spark, but what does burnout really mean? How do you know if that’s what you’re experiencing? And if it is, how can you conquer it?
What Exactly Is Burnout?
Burnout, whether in reference to your career or a passion project, is your body’s reaction to constant stress. It’s a chronic state of feeling as though everything is too much and the demands placed on you are too great. Whether the demands are unavoidable or related to goals you’ve set for yourself, when you feel burned out you no longer believe you’re capable of achieving what you need to.
Symptoms of burnout manifest differently in everyone, but there are a few clear indicators what you’re experiencing isn’t a temporary waning of interest.
Consistent, atypical anxiety, depression and irritability can be indicators of burnout. In addition, physical and emotional fatigue even after adequate rest may be a sign you’re burned out. Most consistently, though, burnout shows itself as a clear lack of interest in what was once highly enjoyable.
Basically, when you’re burned out, what you once loved loses its luster. This feeling is frustrating and exhausting — but it’s not permanent.
How to Conquer Feelings of Burnout
If you’ve determined that what you’re dealing with is, indeed, burnout, are you doomed? Not at all!
If ignored, burnout may negatively impact your health and happiness (not to mention job performance), but if you integrate these four small actions into your days, you can rediscover your lost passion and prevent burnout from happening next time.
1. Slow Down!
Fortunately, the trend of busyness seems to be on the decline. People have begun to realize that being constantly in motion doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always being productive. In fact, being a whirlwind of work and achievement most likely won’t make you a success. For the most part, it doesn’t do anything other than spark feelings of fatigue and frustration.
The key here is reminding yourself that life is a marathon, not a sprint. You might even choose to make that your mantra. More isn’t always better. More, when it leads to burning out on what you’re doing, often results in quitting. When you pace yourself you’re able to build endurance in a way you never could if you were going full-throttle.
2. Take a Look at the Big Picture
Burnout can occur when you’ve grown too close to whatever it is that’s depleting you. Consider the last time you worked on a large project. Envision all the various pieces and facets of the task. Now pile on top of that the many hours required to complete the entire thing. How did you feel as you worked to see it through to its conclusion? Worn out? Stressed? What emotions surfaced when you were smack in the middle of it? Overwhelmed? Burned out?
Whether it’s work-related or a personal goal, the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, pause, step back and scrutinize the larger picture. When you make the conscious decision to take this higher-level approach to your life, it both combats and prevents feelings of burnout.
The aerial view — no matter the scenario — highlights where you’ve invested the majority of your time and shows you where your efforts might be better spent. This tactic also reveals places or pieces of goals or projects where demands may be entirely self-imposed and potentially eliminated.
3. Seek Out Success Stories
As much as people want to believe that their experiences are completely different from anyone else’s, that’s simply not the case. So use this fact to combat burnout.
Burnout is often the result of an overwhelming sense that you can’t fulfill the demands placed on you or the requirements you’ve imposed on yourself. There’s absolutely no better way to re-energize when you’ve hit the wall than by identifying with someone who’s been where you currently are and succeeded.
This act of searching and finding reinforces the fact that your feelings are a natural part of the achievement process and offers you an opportunity to see how others persevered. Whether success stories are learned in person or found in print, the power of this approach to eliminating burnout works in everything from accomplishing career goals to sustaining New Year’s resolutions.
4. Spotlight Small Steps
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! When it comes to conquering and preventing burnout, your brain and body respond to this same approach. Feelings of stress and depression associated with burnout arise when a task appears overwhelming or a goal too vast.
A way to combat these feelings once they’ve set in is by reminding yourself that any long journey is really just a smattering of small shuffles added together.
Feeling like giving up on your goal of losing 50 pounds? Stop, back up and instead make the objective to simply lose one pound at a time. Depleted and anxious over an unfinished 30-page paper? Pause and prompt your brain to reframe the problem and take it one page at a time.
Setting yourself up for success in this fashion not only prevents chronic stress associated with burnout, it reignites your joy in the process of achieving your goals.