Are you constantly exhausted?
Are you currently finding it hard to enjoy anything?
Are you feeling distracted, disinterested, and wishing others would stop telling you to take a break?
Burnout is a real phenomenon. Defined as an occupational syndrome, it’s becoming increasingly common because of our highly complex, complicated, and stressful lives, where there is no end in sight to the relentless grind of always doing, thinking, doing, and thinking.
Worse still is if you are disbelieved when you share your concern you’re burning out.
“Suck it up Princess, we’re all stressed. You’d better get used to it.”
“You’re not stressed, you’re depressed. Why don’t you see your GP and get a prescription for some antidepressants?”
“What do you mean you can’t cope? In my day we worked far more hours than you do, and we never complained. We expected to work hard.”
The problem other than burnout going unrecognised or unacknowledged are some of the myths around why it happens, who is at risk or that it only occurs in the workplace.
Occupation, as our Occupational Therapist daughter will tell you is, in addition to being the activity commonly described as a job or work, includes those everyday activities we undertake to function in life. Occupation includes those things that we expect to be able to do, want to do or need to do.
Like taking care of your newborn baby.
Like being involved in care of your ageing parents.
Like helping your friend whose child is living with a disability.
Occupation covers many situations.
Experiencing burnout is more than just feeling horribly tired, it is a complete exhaustion at the physical, emotional, and mental level.
The worst aspect of burnout is when you stop caring, about all those things you normally care deeply about.
You simply don’t have the energy or capacity to care anymore.
Your world weariness has painted everything a dull grey.
You may be wondering how to recognise the warning signs or how to recognise it in others.
You think you are burning out and want to know how to deal with it, and fully recover.
You want to understand what more can be done in the workplace to make burnout redundant.
The reason why understanding what burnout is (and isn’t) matters so much, is because it is entirely preventable, it can cause massive disruption to lives and it’s a miserable thing to endure or for others to see you with.
Because when you have the energy, the motivation, and the delight in being able to do those things you want to do and do well, it feels great. And when you feel great you feel healthier and happier and who doesn’t want to have a bit more of that?
The solution isn’t hard, but it will take your willingness to commit to understanding and identifying burnout.
- It involves getting the right support from those who also understand what is happening. These may be professionals, members of your family or close friends.
- It requires acceptance of what is, and that recovery takes time, often far longer than you would like, but it can’t be hurried up.
- It also requires some self-reflection and review of your own behaviours and existing workplace practices. What needs to change? What could be done differently, to reduce the risk of recurrence?
- It’s about remembering you’re human and as such you have physiological and psychological limits just like everyone else.
- It’s about remembering too, that your body and mind is remarkably good at healing.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more about burnout and how it can affect you.
I’m curious to know. Have you had experience of burnout?
If so, I’d love to hear your story if you’re willing to share.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If thriving in life and work is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.