Is it only me or do we need a better way to deal with and talk about burnout? It is so common these days that perhaps people seem to underestimate its impact on our minds and bodies. The symptoms of burnout are often visible but are either explained away or attributed to other things going on in our lives. The concept is very often associated with the workplace, but it is far from the only place. We can also experience burnout from household demands, relationship obligations, and living abroad. The area of our life where we experience it does not have any bearing on its severity. No matter what creates burnout symptoms, it is essential to give recovery the attention it deserves.
What is burnout?
The term burnout is used so much in popular culture, perhaps we should take a moment to define what we’re talking about here. WebMD sums it up best calling it a form of exhaustion that results from “excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress”. With that in mind, it probably isn’t difficult to apply that state to various life situations. Burnout creeps up on you and manifests itself in multiple ways. This is why it’s important to understand what the symptoms of burnout are to identify and address it quickly.
Symptoms of burnout
Many of the common features of burnout can appear without warning. Often it starts with a stressful period of time. When the moment passes, the stressful feelings remain. Then physical, emotional, or behavioral symptoms may start to emerge. Maybe you always feel tired no matter how much sleep you get or it has been several days since you were able to sleep soundly. Perhaps you are so irritable that the littlest things set you off making it difficult for others to be around you. In general, it is characterized by reaching a point where it feels pointless to care about something, and there is no motivation to make an effort. The relationship between stress, burnout, and depression is hard to overlook.
Why is burnout so common?
The symptoms of burnout are sneaky. These are such common everyday emotions, and in short spurts, all of the symptoms are totally normal. The problem is when the symptoms persist and get in the way of our daily responsibilities. Even the people around us may not realize they are witnessing the symptoms of burnout until we are deep into it. Too often, it reaches a point where an employee abruptly quits, or a loved one experiences a medical emergency. As Americans, we generally aren’t conditioned to look out for our well-being. Hopefully, that is starting to change in a meaningful way. I can certainly remember the conditions that would allow me to stay home from school growing up – and it most definitely did not include feeling blue.
What does recovery look like?
Like many things, recovering from burnout is not a quick fix in every situation. Sure, sleeping and exercising more will certainly help, but it may not be enough. It can take months to shake off the effects of burnout. Talking to a professional can help you identify the sources and triggers of your stress so that you have the tools to move forward. Other tips on how to address the symptoms of burnout can be found here.
So many adults are experiencing burnout. The past few years have certainly not been easy. You don’t have to be working a high-pressure job for it to creep up either. The realities of expat life – creating a home in a foreign land, forming friendships, experiencing the expectations of your new home versus the realities, and adjusting to changes – can also create the conditions for burnout. The key is recognizing it and taking the steps to get back to feeling like you.