definition: the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
Overworked or exhausted, especially to the point of no longer being able to maintain a particular level of performance or dedication. If you keep working nights and weekends, you’re going to get burned out.
The past six months have been challenging for nearly everyone around the globe. Here in Israel, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of change that has affected our lives in so many ways. Political upheaval, corona lockdowns, recoveries and relapses have all impacted our daily routine, leaving some of us feeling like we’re trapped in the film “Groundhog Day.” We’re stressed, exhausted, confused, lack motivation, and have a serious case of ennui. According to the definition, our energy has been reduced to nothing, and we are no longer able to maintain our usual level of performance.
In other words, we are burned out and are having a hard time refueling.
I think most of us know that this supposed “new normal” isn’t going anywhere so quickly and is really not so normal. So while we adjust, there are some things I’d like to suggest to relieve the pressure and get you to start feeling invigorated again.
Recognize burnout for what it is
Part of recognizing burnout is knowing its cause and realizing that it is normal to experience it when under stress.
I’ve listed a few reasons above that apply to our current situation, but during “normal” times, people mostly experience burnout in the workplace. The Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health identified ten likely stressors that can result in burnout. Many apply to the way we are feeling now: random interruptions, pervasive uncertainty, mistrust and unfairness, lack of control, unclear policies and no sense of direction, job ambiguity, inadequate feedback, feeling unappreciated, and no communication. How has the lockdown affected your employment? Are unclear policies and lack of direction about the corona crisis getting to you?
Sometimes it’s harder to identify and easier to ignore the stressors, and our response may be to eat it, drink it, scream it, or twitter the feelings away. There is a lot of talk online acknowledging that mindfulness and meditation and self-care are better long-term approaches. This includes taking a moment to be with your discomfort. It will help you identify the source of your burnout and act to relieve it.
Don’t be a victim. Take positive action
Once you identify the source of your burnout, clearly define the problem.
Most of us are currently working from home and have to deal with constant interruptions — from children, partners, the telephone/tv/washing machines, and the distraction of being at home. For those of you not used to working from home, combining work and home life is stressful, and we can only deal with so much. While the interruptions are inevitable, recognize the reality of your situation and learn to accept it. If you do, much of the stress associated with those constant interruptions should be relieved. This is always an “aha” moment for many of my coaching clients! When they give themselves permission to say “no, I am not available right now,” and literally and figuratively close the door, they become more productive and feel more in control.
The other “aha” moment happens when my coaching clients realize that they always have a choice over their attitude. We can play a simple game called “have to vs. choose”. A simple choice of words can move you from feeling like a victim to feeling empowered. I can choose to say “no”. I can choose to talk to my boss about my schedule and I can choose to have a positive attitude.
Prevent future burnout
A few suggestions to avoid having this awful and debilitating feeling again:
- Slow down. Take a deep breath and drink some water. Meditate for 5 minutes. Give yourself a break. Before you start on your next project, let it simmer, and make sure it’s clear in your mind. Create – and stick to – a reasonable schedule. You may have to overcome your tendencies to jump right in, but remember to breathe!
- Rely on support systems. Make time for yourself. Meet (or Facetime) friends once a week, the ones who let you vent. If you find your issues are bigger than that, perhaps you should seek professional help. Even now and perhaps especially right now, companies offer mentor programs and assistance in the form of an executive coach.
- Assess your goals and priorities. Make sure that your life is heading in the direction you want. The best example I have is this: A client of mine recently decided that he wanted to be both successful in his career and spend time with his family. For him having a successful career meant working long hours and missing out on family dinners. When we adjusted the vision, clarified the intentions, and aligned the beliefs, it became obvious that both were possible.
What we learn from burnout
As a society, we have very little control over many of the stressors impacting our lives. Changes in what we can/cannot control is perhaps the most pervasive and universal impact of coronavirus globally thus far. What we can control, however, is our response.
Neuroscience tells us that our brains are wired for survival. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, unconsciously we are always concerned with our long-term survival.
When you feel burned out, you go into survival mode or “flight-fight-freeze” mode. With more at stake, you are bound to be less effective. Burnout is a painful, energy-sapping feeling, but it provides an opportunity to reassess the things that will satisfy you. It’s a chance to examine if you are your own worst enemy, or if something in your environment can be changed for the better. It is an opportunity for you to examine your limiting beliefs and exchange them for beliefs that will deliver a life filled with success, happiness and vitality.