Burnout: What It Is & How You Can Fight It
Burnout: What It Is & How You Can Fight It
Whether you’re young or old, two decades into your career or diving in headfirst, life is going so well – until all of a sudden, it’s just not. You spend all day working super hard, dip out for a quick dinner, and then head home and continue the hustle, whether it’s a side project or more work from your day job. Maybe there’s something amazing going on that your friends insist you have to check out, except that this keeps happening every single night. (At least, that’s how it feels.) Then comes a day when you realize how incredibly tired you are all the time. You keep working, but it’s lost the meaning. You’re always on edge, feeling cynical toward everything, and wondering why you even bother. What is going on?
What is burnout?
If you’re feeling this way, know that you are so not alone. One Gallup poll that surveyed 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of them feel burned out often or always, while 44% feel burned out sometimes. That’s so close to half that it’s scary.
It’s common these days for women in particular to experience job burnout before they even hit 30. After all, not only do women work all day, but coming home often means preparing dinner, taking care of extra work around the house, or anything else that needs to get done. That list is endless!
Burnout is total exhaustion – emotional, mental, physical – due to chronic stress from a demanding schedule. In medical terms, it’s also known as adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands, which are right on top of the kidneys, play an important role in hormone production, particularly cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones with direct links to stress. When we’re stressed out, our bodies pump out more cortisol and adrenaline to help us deal, but when we’re experiencing burnout, the hormones are unable to keep up. Our stress levels are running circles around the hormones that help manage them, slowing the hormones down and messing up our bodies in the process.
Other signs that you’re experiencing burnout include the loss of a sense of purpose, inability to recognize your own personal accomplishments, negative feelings toward your workplace, decreased productivity, difficulty concentrating, and increased irritability.
What causes burnout?
Burnout has two main culprits, both interrelated but expressed in individual ways, too: 1) being overworked and 2) the ever-increasing pressure of living in the age of the perfectionist.
Being overwoeked can come from a job that demands too much of you, from you yourself demanding too much of you, or both. Many people now work both a day job and a side hustle; the day job pays our bills, and the side hustle fulfills our dreams. But that can lead to persistent 80+ hour work weeks, and it’s hard to feel good about your dreams if you just don’t feel good, period.
The other major reason is the mounting pressure to do everything, all the time. Our inundation with stimulation and dependence on technology are intimately connected to this reason.
As a result of these pressures, we also feel major guilt when we take a break. Feeling guilt over doing nothing is so common, but it’s so wrong. We all feel guilt for different reasons, but if this one applies to you, it’s time to do your best to give it up. It’s harming your self-worth for absolutely no reason. Besides, you’re never really doing nothing; when you take a break from the fast-paced nature of our lives, what you’re actually doing is recharging.
How do we avoid it or remedy it?
The most obvious answer is to slow down. Stop trying to do everything. When possible, leave work on time rather than staying late to finish something that can definitely wait until tomorrow. Very few tasks are on such a tight deadline that you can’t just wait until the next day.
If you have an extremely demanding work schedule, see if you can take some time away (although that’s obviously not an option for everyone). If your job is sucking all of your energy without much reward, it might be time to consider looking for a new job.
Some more specific solutions can fall under the umbrella of self-care, so we’ve put together a list of our best tips to beat burnout.
Recommit to sleeping well, eating right, and being active.
When you have no free time, it can be so hard to do any of these things. But it’s a vicious circle, as lack of sleep leads to worse sleep, compounded by a poor diet and low energy. Learn more about how sleep impacts your health so you can take better control of yours. You know the importance of a good diet as well, so focus on whole foods, leafy greens, lean proteins, and good fats to give your body the best fuel. Lastly, activity is one of the greatest stress reducers of all time. Find something you love – whether it’s kickboxing, aerial yoga, or simply going for a walk on your lunch break every day – and it’ll be that much easier to stick to it.
Step away from technology.
Put the phone down and back away slowly. Not only does the light from the screen interrupt your ability to have a restful sleep, but social media apps steal your time while your email app makes it impossible to disconnect from the office. Set boundaries so that you’re never on your phone during mealtimes, only check your email at a specific time, and make your bedroom a tech-free zone.
Treat yourself to a spa day.
One of the most important elements of self-care is to treat your body with the respect it deserves. Use a PTO day as a “Self-Care Day” and book an appointment for a spa, massage, facial – whichever treatment you like best! (Or go crazy and do them all.)
You can take it a little easier by doing your own at-home spa day with your favorite Erno mask, a bottle of wine, and a friend if you feel like having company. Try our Pore Cleansing Clay Mask if you’re in the mood to cleanse and purify; our Exfoliate & Detox Hydrogel Mask if you’re in the mood to detox; our White Marble Dual Phase Vitamin C Peel if you’re in the mood to exfoliate; and our Hydra-Therapy Skin Vitality Treatment if you’re in the mood to soothe and plump your skin.
Learn to say no.
If you’re the kind of person who works so hard that they start feeling burned out, you probably don’t say no enough. You love to get things done. But every time you agree to something, you’re upping your stress levels. You don’t have to say no to everything. But you also don’t have to say yes, either. Pick and choose what’s truly most important to you, and resist the urge to just please the person who is asking you. Don’t let the fear of missing out pressure you into overexerting yourself.
Practice self-care through art.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to nurture your creative side. If you’ve been drawn to painting but never tried it, step back from work-work-work, buy a canvas and some paints, and give it a whirl. You don’t have to be the next Picasso in order to get satisfaction and even relaxation through art. Writing, drawing, taking photographs – if you’re not sure which form of creativity is right for you, give them all a try. You never know what you’ll discover in the process.
Burnout is too real. If you’re feeling more exhausted than usual and aren’t sure why, your extremely hectic schedule is probably the culprit. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your body. Treat it well, and it’ll make all the difference – but a pink mask or two can’t hurt, either!
Note: Burnout is very similar to depression, with comparable symptoms including sleep issues and loss of interest in things that previously engaged you. If your burnout feels like more than just the exhaustion of keeping up, you should consult a professional.