Burnout is a very common syndrome. Yet, many people who feel tired and exhausted to the point of feeling incapacitated don’t know that they are experiencing this serious problem. Most often, it is brushed away as “extreme fatigue,” “feeling overburdened,” or “inability to cope anymore.”
Until recently, the word “burnout” was a term used more by psychologists than lay people. However, with so many of us now feeling this way about the work overload that we have to carry, this word has entered the average person’s vocabulary. But its gravity is yet to be fully understood.
After extreme stress, there comes a state of breakdown. It’s when your body and mind refuse to cooperate anymore – and you feel as if you have entered a space where numbness takes over and becomes chronic. The more you try to work yourself out of it – by distracting your mind or trying to bury yourself in more work – you fall deeper into the pit.
Can you help yourself out of this situation, or do you need the help of a therapist? There are ways to care for yourself if you experience early symptoms. But when you’ve tried everything without relief, or you feel you are getting worse, then the help of professional therapy is strongly recommended. Here’s more about how to help yourself recover when you see early-stage signals, so read on.
The World Health Organization describes the syndrome as “… resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
According to Ashley Abramson, writing about the American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being Survey in 2021, their findings were as follows:
“79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue – a 38% increase since 2019.”
According to the Gallup Panel Workforce Study conducted in 2022, teachers at schools seemed to have the highest rates of deep exhaustion right now, caused by the disruption in education due to Covid-19. In previous surveys, the highest rates of the affected were found in the healthcare, business and finance, and social services sectors.
According to Mayo Clinic, some of the classic symptoms include the ones below:
Sufferers may be challenged to find the energy to complete even simple tasks. The syndrome can cause people to feel emotionally drained, without any positive emotions … or they may feel disengaged from their work and surroundings. Personal relationships may also get affected due to a lack of motivation, poor communication, and less available time for interacting or bonding with others.
Being beset by such levels of debility can lead to decreased productivity and performance at work, with a troubled connection with bosses and coworkers. Very often, there could be a pile-up of unfinished work that can feel like a mountain that’s hard to climb. Procrastination can further cause missed deadlines and a feeling of betraying the office team.
Long-term stress, allowed to accumulate, can increase an afflicted person’s risk if there are already chronic health conditions such as obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension. When these ailments combine with other hereditary factors, they can all have a multiplicative effect on the heart. High blood sugar symptoms, cholesterol side effects, blood pressure control, and obesity management call for immediate diagnosis and treatment, which often get neglected by people who do not have the energy even to visit the doctor for regular tests and prescriptions.
According to a paper by Sheila A. Boamah et al, in the National Library of Medicine, “ … business burnout and work-life balance are closely related”. It is because of a lack of balance in one’s work and personal life that this meltdown has a chance to occur. When you are pressured by the tensions at the workplace, you feel forced to work long hours without adequate time to rest, relax, or engage in activities outside of work.
Further, when you cannot effectively separate your work and personal life, you may find that work-related stress seeps into your home and personal life. This could cause you to feel overwhelmed and unable to revitalize yourself, or enjoy other activities or quality moments outside of work.
Since work-life balance going out of proportion is often the foundation on which such extreme stress gets created, this has to be the first thing you aim to correct for relief and recovery.
There are many other simple things you can do to assist your recovery from such a distressing state … here are some practical ideas.
Eat healthful food ¬– like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain cereals, unsaturated fats, and lean proteins – and drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. This kind of self-care will renew your immunity and energy levels. Add some good daily exercise routines outdoors that you can safely practice (with your doctor’s nod). Begin to breathe deeply, oxygenate your body, and drop the artificially-lit and poorly-ventilated interiors of your office for the air and light available in Nature.
According to Crystal Raypole, writing in Healthline, it’s typical for people with nervous exhaustion to blame themselves for how things have come to pass. If you have noticed that you feel guilty for having brought this plight onto yourself, it’s time to give yourself a break. Learn the art of being compassionate and considerate to yourself. It’s common to be so led by the general milieu of work targets, fierce competition, and achievement-chasing that we all forget the core values of simple happiness, well-being, and vitality. Become your own best friend and put yourself and your life above every other goal.
If you think about it, even a machine needs rest and repair now and again to keep it working in optimal condition. Do you give the same importance to restoring your body and mind and all the systems involved in your health? Being alert to symptoms of illness, getting regular medical checkups done, speaking to your doctor for reassurance, and taking your medications on time … these are all ways to show yourself that you are mindful of how well you are. Most people who suffer from mind-body collapse often say they feel alone and unable to cope due to a lack of support. The greatest support you need when you feel that way is your own support … before you get others to help you.
Burnout can be overcome at the initial stages by alertness to the signs of accumulating stress and a loss of verve. Try everything you can to set things right through good food, exercise, self-care, self-compassion, and attention to your health. Aim to get your life spiraling upwards again by paying attention to the health of both your physical and emotional heart. Stay heart-healthy. Be a Zinda Dil.