Do you ever feel like you haven’t “earned” your burnout?
Recently, I was talking to a friend who said she didn’t have the “right” to feel as burnt out as she did – that she hadn’t worked hard enough to feel so physically and emotionally exhausted.
It's a sentiment shared by many, but here's the thing: burnout isn't only about the quantity of work; it's about the quality of your connection to your work and your overall well-being. Your thoughts, emotions, traumas, lifestyle, and environment are all significant contributing factors.
Let's discuss what really causes burnout, and what you can do to de-stress and regain a sense of balance and peace in your life.
Values & Alignment
Research shows that we feel the most energized when we find purpose and meaning in what we are doing. On the flip side, we can feel depleted and burnt out when we don't take time to do the things that are inspiring or important to us.
Burnout often stems from a misalignment between our values and our work. When what we do doesn't resonate with our core beliefs, it can lead to a profound sense of emptiness and fatigue. Reconnecting with our values and ensuring they align with our daily pursuits is crucial for preventing burnout.
What you can do: Create some space and time to reconnect with yourself and reflect on your core values. Answer the question, “What's most important to me?” Adjust your tasks or find aspects of your work that align with these values.
Perfectionism and Recognition
The relentless pursuit of perfection coupled with a lack of recognition can be a recipe for burnout. The constant drive to meet impossibly high standards without acknowledgment takes a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. Embracing imperfection and seeking recognition are key steps toward a healthier work-life balance.
What you can do: Set realistic goals and celebrate small victories. Don't hesitate to communicate your achievements to others.
What you can do: Clearly define your work hours and communicate them to colleagues. Learn to say no when necessary to maintain your boundaries.
Balance and Social Support
Achieving a harmonious balance between work and personal life is crucial for preventing burnout. Cultivating a support system, both at work and in your personal life, provides a safety net during challenging times and reinforces a sense of connection and belonging.
What you can do: Schedule regular social activities or check-ins with friends and family. Share your experiences and listen to theirs.
The physical and social environment in which we work plays a significant role in our well-being. Toxic work cultures, lack of autonomy, and unsupportive surroundings can contribute to burnout. Evaluating and, if necessary, changing our environment is a proactive step towards a healthier work life.
What you can do: Create a personalized, positive workspace. Surround yourself with elements that inspire and motivate you.
Recognizing the intricate link between our mental and physical well-being is essential. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help foster a strong mind-body connection, enhancing our ability to cope with stress and prevent burnout.
What you can do: Start with short daily mindfulness exercises. Practice deep breathing or meditation to bring awareness to the present moment.
Thoughts and Emotions
Our thoughts and emotions play a pivotal role in our experience of burnout. Negative thought patterns and unaddressed emotions can create a cycle of stress and exhaustion. Developing awareness of your thoughts and emotions, practicing self-reflection, and seeking therapeutic support can be transformative in breaking this cycle.
What you can do: Keep a journal to track your thoughts and emotions. Identify patterns and consider seeking professional guidance if needed.
Bonus Practice: Turn Toward Your Emotions
Feeling exhausted at the end of the day? While there can be physical reasons for feeling fatigued (lack of sleep, dehydration, not enough movement, etc.) there are also emotional reasons.
High-intensity emotions like anger, fear, excitement, and exhilaration (yes, even positive emotions!) can all be depleting. Not to say that you should never feel these emotions, but it’s important to turn toward your emotions so you can choose how to channel them in a supportive and nourishing way.
Consider the following steps:
1. Pause and Identify: Take a moment to identify the underlying emotions causing exhaustion.
2. Acknowledge Without Judgment: Recognize and accept your emotions without judgment, understanding they're natural responses.
3. Mindful Breathing: Engage in mindful breathing to create a space between your emotions and reactions.
4. Journaling: Keep a journal to express and explore your emotions, gaining insights into patterns and triggers.
5. Choose Constructive Outlets: Channel emotions into positive activities, like hobbies, exercise, or time in nature.
Turning toward your emotions is an ongoing practice that requires self-compassion. By building awareness and implementing supportive strategies, you can cultivate a healthier relationship with your emotions, promoting greater resilience and well-being.
Traumas and Balancing the Nervous System
Unresolved traumas can significantly impact our ability to cope with stress and contribute to burnout. Understanding the effects of trauma on the nervous system and seeking therapeutic interventions, such as counseling or somatic experiencing, can be pivotal in restoring balance and resilience.
Tip: Explore trauma-informed practices, such as EMDR, calming breathwork, and grounding exercises to help regulate your nervous system.
The Holistic Path to Balance
To combat burnout, we must embark on a holistic path, acknowledging and addressing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. This holistic approach demands introspection – assessing what in our lives no longer serves us, identifying unmet needs, and aligning ourselves with our authentic selves.
Tip: Create a personalized well-being plan that includes activities for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment. Set aside time each week to prioritize these activities.
Burnout is a complex interplay of our connection to work and overall well-being. Whether rooted in misaligned values, relentless perfectionism, or neglected self-care, the journey to resilience demands attention to our holistic selves.
In acknowledging the impact of our environment, the significance of our thoughts and emotions, and the potential shadow of unresolved traumas, we uncover pathways to balance. From cultivating support systems to embracing imperfections, each insight contributes to a tapestry of well-being.
So, as you navigate the intricate dance between your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, remember that you deserve and are fully capable of living a thriving life. Using the steps above, you can reclaim your life and show burnout the way out. The power to own your life lies within, awaiting activation—one mindful step at a time.