How to Identify Burnout and What to Do About It

Guest Post - Laura Brassie

I am super excited to welcome back Laura Brassie from Ivory&Pine. She will be posting once a month with Mental Health advice from an expert. Her advice is incredibly helpful and it comes from a very educated background, which is an important trait when you are getting health advice online.  

She is a professional therapist and founding blogger of Ivory & Pine. She loves helping people maximize their potential, embrace their identity, and clarify their purpose. She knows so many wonderful and beautiful women who struggle with life’s deeper questions, who want to move in a direction and can’t figure out where to start, or who aren’t sure which direction to take quite yet. She hope to speak to that through Ivory & Pine. A few very important things to know about Laura… She love coffee… she could probably take it through an IV. She does not love spiders. She’s a Colorado girl with Indiana roots. She’s a vicarious dog owner thanks to boyfriends and roommates. If she couldn’t live in Colorado, she’d be somewhere by the ocean. She randomly learned how to play the ukulele in college. Most importantly, she loves Jesus and wants to love others like He would.

 

Burnout is one of those sneaky, awful things. It creeps up on us after long or intense periods of stress. It can cause symptoms similar to depression, anxiety, or even PTSD. It makes living intentionally super difficult. It can even create physical health problems. Overall, burnout totally sucks, and I think everyone is at risk for it to some degree in our busy culture. But if you don’t know what signs to look for, you likely won’t be able to prevent burnout! Let’s talk about how to spot signs of burnout and what to do about to both prevent and treat it.

Signs of Burnout

Burnout almost always comes gradually, typically from periods of chronic stress or un-fulfillment It’s usually related to work or school, but could also come from other commitments/obligations, relationships, or family concerns. I really do think burnout is preventable most of the time, so it’s good to learn how to spot it coming before it’s a full-blown problem. Here are some of the top signs.

1. You’re chronically exhausted

If getting a good night’s sleep makes no difference in your energy level during the day, it could be something more than sleep deprivation. Something else to look for is if the situation keeps you up at night through anxiety or strange dreams.

2. You’re chronically unmotivated

I’m guessing that whatever it is that is causing burnout, it was once a good thing in your life. It’s a job in your field, a professional passion, something that provides income, an activity you once loved, whatever. But now you find that you’re never motivated for the work. You truly couldn’t care less about your performance anymore. This is especially difficult when you work directly with other people. You may no longer have any empathy, compassion, or desire to benefit those with whom you work.

3. There is no more joy

Again, whatever it is that’s causing burnout was probably once good. But now you don’t even know why you loved it. You were once passionate about teaching, and now you hate kids. You loved painting or music, but years of forcing your passion into income makes you hate the passion. In the midst of exhausting and difficult medical school, you’ve lost sight of why you ever wanted to be a doctor. Forgetting why something is good is definitely a red flag.

4. You’re already stressed as soon as you start your day

You walk into work, regardless of what the day may bring, already anxious. Just being there stresses you out. You don’t notice the good things that happen, only the things that confirm how bad your situation is.

5. You feel depressed (and never used to)

If you have a history of depression, it obviously might not only be burnout. But if you don’t and now find yourself with a depressed or sad mood, low energy levels, sleeping way too much or too little… it could be related to burnout. If you find that you are having thoughts about harming yourself from this situation, please seek professional help at a local emergency room or mental health crisis center immediately.

6. You’re desperate for a way out, but feel trapped

You know the main stressor (work, school, etc.) is the problem, but you don’t know how to get out of it. This has gradually caused feelings of being trapped or without options, which has made you even more bitter toward the stressor.

What To Do About It

1. Change the circumstances, if you can

Sometimes, the only way to truly fix burnout is to eliminate the stressor. It may feel impossible, but in many circumstances it can ultimately be done. We often get ourselves into survival mode, and there’s really not much else we can do to grow and thrive until that stressor is gone. However, if you realistically can’t eliminate the stressor (or can’t right now), here are other ideas.

2. Find supports

You’ve gotta have people in your life who get you. I really value time with my other therapist friends. There are aspects of our jobs that are really difficult to understand if you don’t do them yourself, and other therapists just get me, especially those who are or have been my coworkers. You may want friends in your profession too or it may not matter to you, but regardless you need people who can understand and who you can be your true self around.

3. See a counselor or coach

Seeing a counselor can be really helpful to both prevent and treat burnout. They can help you identify what’s going on. Burnout can be disguised as depression, anxiety, and secondary trauma, to name a few. A counselor can help you figure out the most likely cause for your symptoms, and offer suggestions from there. It’s also great just to have protected time to talk and process, especially to someone who is objective and not otherwise involved in your life.

4. Make extra time for self care

If you’re struggling with burnout, self care is like 10,000 times more important!! You have to do it! Burnout will only get worse if you don’t slow down and take care of yourself. Once you’re in the midst of burnout, self care isn’t just about maintenance. You need to cut other things out of your life so that you can devote more time to rest. It’s not just about pampering yourself; it’s about understanding how your soul is doing and addressing that.

5. Plan breaks into your day

Giving yourself little breaks to decompress during the day can make a huge difference. Imagine if sports teams never got to take time outs or half time… they’d be so exhausted every game! Performance would go down and morale would sink. The same is true for us. Sometimes it can be difficult to take little breaks. I know from experience… I work in an ER and eating lunch is an accomplishment, let alone additional breaks. But I’m preaching to myself here too. Just take 5 minute breaks here and there. Stretch. Walk around for a minute. Step outside. Anything to help you recharge and get back in the game.

6. Process the course of burnout

If you’ve hit burnout or feel it coming on, it’s really important to figure out why and how it happened. If you have no idea how you got to that place, it’ll be really difficult to treat it and prevent it from happening again. Take time to meditate, journal, or talk through with a trusted person. Determine where it started. This could be when you realized the situation isn’t a good fit for you, when you started getting overwhelmed, when you lost passion for what you’re doing, or a particularly stressful situation. Whatever it is, you need to identify this and how it gradually got worse.

Identify circumstances, but also think about how you let it continue. Did you struggle with self care? Did you lack supportive relationships? How far did you push yourself? There are always a lot of factors put together that lead up to burnout. Give yourself grace for your part in it, and allow yourself to be hopeful for change.

Back to You

If you’ve read through this post thinking, oh my gosh this is me… it’s time to start seeking help for burnout. If you can relate to a few of these, you may still be in a good place to prevent full-out burnout. Either way, I hope you can take these tips and maximize them for your own self care. If you have thoughts on burnout, let us know in the comments!

Thank you so much, as always, to Randi for inviting me to guest post on Life’s Simple Adventures!

 

If you liked this post, check out these!

11 Natural Ways to Fight Anxiety & Depression

Mental Health Myths you Really Need to Stop Believing

How to take care of your Whole Self

 

 

 

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6 comments
  1. These are some really awesome tips! I definitely need to implement these.

    1. All highly suggested!

  2. Great post! I’ve been burned out before, and these are exactly the things that helped me. Thank you for helping people get out of the burnout stage and into the thriving stage!

    1. Oh it’s the worst! Anything we can do to help! The credit for this one goes to Laura over at ivoryandpine.com 🙂

  3. What I do if this happens is that I take a break, basically doing nothing(related to work) for an entire day. It’s difficult, especially if your schedule is full of unfinished tasks, but it always helps me and motivates me. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Everyone needs a real day off now and then!

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