Ah, let’s talk burn out—I can guarantee most of us know the feeling, but what does it really mean? According to helpguide.org, burn out is “a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress”. Understanding what it looks like can be difficult, as we all have different reactions to stress. Here are some misconceptions and some tips on recovering from it.
- Burn out is only an issue for caregivers.
When a lot of people hear “burn out”, they likely think of nurses, social workers, and teachers. The reality is, anyone in any type of job or career is susceptible to it. Not all burn out is work-related—struggle in your personal life and a lack of personal care can also lead to this condition. People with perfectionistic and more Type A personalities may also find themselves with more intense levels of burn out, as their expectations of themselves are higher.
- Burn out always looks the same.
Because we are all so different, we won’t all react to life’s stressors in the same way. There are, however, some patterns that can be indicative of burn out. An individual may experience any combination of these symptoms, or may have a completely different reaction altogether.
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling detached
- Increased substance use
- Change in sleeping or eating habits
- Poor emotional regulation
- Burn out and stress are synonymous.
Stress certainly leads to burn out, but feeling a moment of stress does not mean you are burnt out. Stress often gives us an anxious feeling, a feeling of pressure and a need to over-perform. Burn out is the result of experiencing these feelings for too long—to the point where there is nothing left to give.
- Take it seriously.
It’s not you being “weak” or failing if you’re struggling with this issue. Just because a coworker or friend seems to be handling something with more ease does not mean there’s something wrong with you. We all manage and experience stress differently.
- One size doesn’t fit all.
Some need to lean more into their loved ones, while some will need a significant increase in alone time. Neither of these are inherently right or wrong—it completely depends on the person. The most important thing is to recognize what your need is in order to recharge and recover.
- Give yourself grace.
Recovery requires you to be kind to yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t expect to be over your feelings of burn out in a day. Be accepting of yourself when you look in the mirror and when you’re tackling life’s responsibilities.