Ooooh BURN!: A Culture of Burnout


It’s Sunday night and you groan and moan as you dread tomorrow being Monday. It never used to be this way, you used to be able to handle the juggle of work and life responsibilities. You feel disconnected to your work and have trouble finding the energy to get through the week.

We have a burnout epidemic. We are TIRED. Burnout is a unique type of stress that is compounded with physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Just think of how often you you see “Thank God It’s Friday”, “TGIF” or “Ugh Mondayzzz”, “Hump Day!!” posts you see on social media. It’s not simply tiredness and stress that come with burnout; its cynicism, lethargy, depression, and a likelihood to cause accidents on the job. Burnout can be caused by repetitive long hours, blurred boundaries between work and home life, lack of social support at work and home, working toward goals that don’t resonate with you, and a lack of self-care.

What is so twisted, is that we are a society that PRIDES itself on our high level of burnout!  We compete with each other to one up each other’s “work ethic”. We have blurred our lines between work and home. More and more people are bringing their work home with them to fit as much as they can into a single day.

How many times have you gone into work, taken conference calls, written reports, answered emails, created schedules for staff, ON YOUR DAY OFF? I know I have done it. What makes us so prone to burnout? Why as a culture have we embraced burnout as the norm? I saw a friend who lives in Germany say that her company held a meeting to reinforce that people take time off and when they are off the clock that they not answer emails. The Spanish have midday siestas! How have other countries embraced the benefits of self-care but America seems to be lacking?

Three big signs of burnout are:

Feeling ineffective, like nothing you ever do is good enough.

Feeling cynical, apathetic, resentful, frustrated, or angry all the time.

Utter exhaustion, withdrawal, and even emotional withdrawal from your partner and/or your kids.

You can experience burnout from school, work, parenting, and even caregiving. Here are four ways to combat burnout:

  • Replace perfect with “good enough”.  Instead of trying to make everything perfect, re-adjust your frame of thought and try and settle for “good enough for now”.
  • Have a sounding board or outlet. Try and find a support system to bounce ideas off of, for example, co-workers, friends, or loved ones. If you find a group or person that you feel can be your vulnerability outlet, you can ask things like “is this normal?” “I feel this way, have you ever felt that?”  and seek support to help you cope with job/life stress and feelings of burnout.
  • Evaluate your options. Do you have the option to work from home? Can you ask for extensions? Can you hire a babysitter or trusted relative to take the kids for a night out of self-care? Are there any ways you can rearrange your schedule to allow more time before deadlines? Could you take a vacation? Practice being assertive with your boundaries in your work/life balance.
  • Assess your interests, skills, and passions. Take an honest assessment of your thoughts and feelings and determine if this is really the right job for you. Are you living along side your value system and surrounding yourself with things that enhance your character strengths? If I value creativity, but do not surround myself with it or at least have an outlet available to it, I might not feel inspired or at my best. If you find that your job or life is not living up to those values, can you find a job that is less soul sucking or make time for these values in your life?

Many people have come to accept the fatigue, depression, and cynicism as part of life with a job/tiny humans/caregiving. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t use effective tools to help the quality of your down time, help to establish good boundaries, and to be assertive. If you notice that you are feeling burned out, try some self-care strategies to reduce immediate stress (think of activities that make you feel good, productive, and feel centered). If that doesn’t seem to work, practice being assertive and creating boundaries at work. For instance, consider giving yourself permission to tell your boss that you need to have lunch where you do not answer emails regarding work or setting limits so that you can be at your most productive for the company’s benefit.

Finally, remember that things can change. Nothing stays the same forever. You can get through this! If you feel like you can’t, you can always seek the help of a professional or loved one to help you make some serious changes or reassessment in your life.

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