When I was finishing college, I wanted to help people. I was getting a degree in human services to do just that and I had as much fervor as you can imagine a wide-eyed, smiling college graduate might have. It was time to make a difference for the sake of those who were unable to help themselves. I was embarrassingly naive when I heard of the burnout in the field, thinking I wouldn’t become the same way. I went in with a lit flame and not as much consideration for my time, my worth, my own self-care, and my needs, and it was a fast recipe for burnout. In hindsight, burnout was the gift that gave me conscious awareness of self-care. It was the message to rest that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, and it could be sending you the same message. It is especially important to listen to these messages now, as many of us are experiencing quarantine burnout specifically.
Causes of Burnout
There are many causes of burnout, but they are mainly centered around the time, energy, intention, and boundaries you set for yourself. If you are doing too much, your body will let you know. Your body will give you clues like cognitive decline, physical symptoms, and through your emotional well-being. If we ignore these symptoms, we may head straight for burnout. With quarantine being a regular part of our present day society, there may be new angles with which we are burning out at a rapid pace. Homeschooling children, working from home, caring for loved ones; we are being required to adapt to new ways of self-care for the sake of our health. Whether it is long periods of grief, overworking, or care-taking, it is essential that we find ways to honor our need for rest.
We are not meant to be in a constant state of fight or flight. Our bodies have an incredible ability to take on sudden stress with the intention to protect our well being. When the tiger approached our village in the past, our bodies would pump adrenaline in order to be our strongest, fastest self. However, when in that state of stress, or fight or flight, we aren’t able to relax and recover, or rest and digest. Therefore, stress lowers the immune system and impacts the way we absorb nutrients, our quality of sleep, and our overall health.
Signs Of Burnout
It is pretty typical to be tired after a long day. However, when we are constantly tired and find ourselves craving extra caffeine and constantly exhausted, something may be off. It is ideal to maintain a healthy balance of momentum and work, and then rest and restoration. However, when we find that nothing is satiating our need for rest, it might be an indicator that we are burning out at a rapid pace.
You Can’t Rest
The crazy thing about our bodies operating in overdrive for extended periods of time is that when we do take time to slow down and rest, it isn’t as easy. Our minds are racing and our sleep quality declines. Sleep deprivation becomes more prevalent. We can’t sleep well, which exhausts us more, which increases sleep deprivation. This vicious cycle can begin when we don’t honor our body’s need for rest.
You’re Experiencing Physical Symptoms
When we are burning out, our natural appetite rhythms become distorted and interfered with because of the constant high levels of stress we are in. We also may experience a decrease in libido. Take notice of these physical symptoms, because they are needs and desires that give us life. If we have lost our desire and need for them, then the life that we are living is sending signals that it is unsustainable, which could indicate burnout.
You’re Easily Agitated
When we aren’t practicing self-care and are running in overdrive, it is widely known that this lack of rest could cause us to become quite agitated. Kick this up a notch to being in a chronic state of stress, and we will notice that our impatience with ourselves and inability to slow down and honor our boundaries can cause us to do the same with others.
A Message – Slow The EF Down
Burnout is your body’s way of telling your ego that something has to change and we cannot continue at this pace. Your body is telling you to take a break. Begin by meditating or taking more time for yourself. Oftentimes, it is an unwillingness to recognize the need for the change that brings us to burnout in the first place. Therefore, it isn’t always easy to acknowledge. However, when we recognize that the signals our body is sending our soul are worth listening to for the sake of our health, we can heed our own advice and slow down. When we slow down, we can reevaluate what needs to change in order for us to continue on in a sustainable way.
Sharpen Those Boundaries
Boundaries are a healthy part of emotional intelligence. It is important to know and understand our worth and let our yes be a yes, and our no to be a no. Understanding that saying no can be a healthy way of taking care of ourselves is key to building the sustainable life you want to live without burning out. If you need to say yes to hanging out with certain friends but not others, no to family members, or no to a job, there is always a gentle and firm way of communicating our boundaries. The more we responsibly own our boundaries, the easier it is to respect the boundaries of others.
Time For A Sabbatical
If burnout has overtaken your mental, physical, and emotional health, maybe it is time to take a step back from what you are doing. Spend a weekend alone, step back from helping in your usual ways, or begin to ask for help in other areas. If you can take a sabbatical from work, this could be an incredible gift. While not every situation allows as much wiggle room as others, it is important that we learn to communicate our needs and boundaries in order to protect our well-being and thrive in a balanced way.