Have you ever felt like you are running out of energy for life? I’m not talking about being tired after a long day, needing space after arguing with someone, getting stressed about bills, or worrying about what your boss thinks of you. I’m referring to a form of fatigue that creeps in slowly over time, somehow never fading and always getting stronger. It’s a phenomenon called burnout, a term seldom used in modern medicine, but a powerful word that reflects this problem.
Burnout is the process of dealing with chronic stress, anxiety, and mental or physical energy used that results in a person never seems to be able to ‘recharge’ and feel rested and relaxed. It’s like a single parent never having a break from caring for a newborn, who’s free time is used to think about laundry, dinner, rent, and a mind full of other problems. As you can guess, a person who is constantly ‘on the go’ will eventually run out of energy. Unlike normal fatigue, burnout doesn’t allow us a chance to rest and recover. Instead, we push ourselves harder and longer until we can no longer do much of anything. Our mind and body ‘crash and burn,’ so to speak, and we may find ourselves hating our life and seeing few options.
Fortunately, burnout can be recognized as it starts to develop, and we can learn how to deal with it. Here are a few things you can ask yourself to determine if burnout is happening to you:
- Do I feel that I have no energy or desire to do anything these days?
- Am I typically on ‘auto-pilot’ when I am working or spending time with others?
- Do I remember the last time I took a break and really enjoyed my time without worrying about something?
- Am I afraid that I can’t do my responsibilities anymore?
- Do I find myself fantasizing about quitting work or other responsibilities?
- Am I losing my temper easily, or have little patience with people I love?
Preventing and recovering from burnout are similar. Here are some options to address burnout:
- Recognize that you feel overwhelmed and need to do something about it.
- Try to prioritize needs, and put aside tasks are not imperative.
- Ask for help with responsibilities so tasks are not all up to you.
- Find time for small breaks throughout the day to relax you mind and body.
- Consider medication and/or mental health therapy for long term benefits.
A final note: Anyone can experience burnout, and it takes awareness, humility, and strength to recognize our limits so we can recover from burnout. If we ignore our self and our needs, our body will force us to stop, and we may wish we were had taken actions to prevent the damage.
Tony Schnotala, LMSW
Outpatient Therapist at Leonard Street Counseling Center