Burnout: What It Is and How to Overcome It
Burnout. We’ve all heard of it, but what is it? We live in a world of hustle and bustle where we are constantly trying to work harder, be better and achieve more. Burnout is the result of striving for this unattainable state of perfection. It is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can lead to feeling overwhelmed, cynical about your work, relationships and life in general. In short, burnout can sometimes make you feel terrible.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, you’re not alone. Burnout is real. But let’s address how to prevent it, overcome it and put your mental health first. Everything else will fall into place.
Burnout: Is It Self Inflicted?
Smartphones, e-mail, social media, and the internet – all things our modern society seems built around, and all great tools when used properly. However, these resources may be the downfall of our mental health.
Between comparison culture, side hustles and the “always on” mentality, we are constantly putting more pressure on ourselves than we could possibly handle. Some people now feel the need to be available and responsive to work e-mails at all hours of the day, respond quickly to every text message and post on social media as soon as anything even remotely interesting happens to them. After all, everyone else is doing it…
This creates a sense of urgency that wasn’t there during the age of our ancestors, and it’s taking its toll.
So, is burnout self-inflicted? In some cases, yes. We are the ones who put the pressure on ourselves to be more productive, more interesting, more engaged, more anything. But burnout can also be caused by our environment and societal expectations.
Growing Societal Demands: How it Leads to Burnout
What is the purpose of technology? Some may say it’s designed to make life easier, save us time and make people more productive. Think back to the invention of the washing machine or vacuums. These were designed to save time for the average housewife (women were typically in charge of the domestics during this time).
Think about how much faster it is to vacuum than to sweep or how convenient it is to throw clothes in the wash instead of cleaning them by hand. Surely this saved women of the era lots of time, right?
Unfortunately, no. As technology made these tasks easier, society’s standards got higher. Now, houses had to be cleaner, shirts had to be neater, and no time was saved at all.
This is very similar to what’s happening today. We are inundated with new technology, productivity tools, messaging systems and social media platforms, all of which make life easier in some ways. But our societal demands continue to grow.
So even though we may be able to answer work e-mails faster or spend more time on social media connecting with far-away friends, our standards for what is “acceptable” have just gone up along with it.
How Can We Avoid Burnout?
If burnout is the result of growing societal demands and increased personal expectations, how can we possibly overcome it? Some may say to get more organized, practice time management, or learn to say “no” more often. While these are all great tips, they don’t really address the underlying problem.
We need to take a step back and assess our lives. Are we happy with how we’re living? Or do we feel like we’re constantly under pressure?
If it’s the latter (and it probably is), we need to learn to take a step back.
How To Prevent Burnout
1. Admit Defeat
This may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to avoid burnout is to admit that you will probably never be able to get everything done that you want to. It is simply unrealistic to think that you will ALWAYS check everything off your to-do list every day. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. Once you admit defeat, you will feel a weight fall off your shoulders. It is OK to do what you can and not do what you can’t. In fact, it is the only way.
2. Create Boundaries
In order to protect your time and energy, you need to create boundaries for yourself and from yourself. This may mean turning off work e-mails after a certain time or refusing to answer texts after a certain hour. It may also mean setting rules for how often you check social media (maybe only twice a day instead of every 20 minutes).
3. Take Time for Yourself
It’s so important to take some time each day for yourself, without any obligations or stress. It doesn’t matter if you have a to-do list the length of your arm. You cannot pour from an empty cup. That is to say, you need to take care of yourself before you can tend to anything else.
4. Remember the Productivity Paradox
Some people think the more productive they are, the more free time they will have. However, the truth is the more productive you are, the more work you will give yourself (or your boss, family, or friends will give you). Think about it: if you can handle more, you will do more – either subconsciously or not.
Prioritize Your Mental Health With Mile High Psychiatry
Your mental health comes before everything else. If you are feeling burned out, anxious, or depressed, please reach out for help. We are thrilled to offer a flexible Tele-Psychiatry program that is simple and accessible to the entire State of Colorado. The providers at Mile High Psychiatry offer the resources and support you need to get back to your best self. Visit our website or request an appointment online for more information.