Burnout. It’s a word we’ve been hearing a lot lately, followed by lists of “self-care ideas” like taking a long walk, a day off work, or a bubble bath.
But what if burnout is actually a cycle that will continue repeating itself, no matter how many face masks you do or PTO days you take? What if the small moments of reprieve only serve to keep you in the burnout cycle?
Okay, enough doomsday talk. There is a way out, and we’re here to point you in that direction.
First, it’s important to understand that burnout doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it happens over a period of prolonged stress. If you’re in the midst of burnout, you most likely experienced a period of uncertainty, followed by work/life imbalance. Over time, this imbalance leads to burnout – extreme fatigue, loss of motivation, detachment, helplessness, self-doubt, you get the idea. Sounds fun, right?
Whether you’re in full-on burnout mode or feel like you’re headed that way, the escape route is pretty much the same: reflection and disruption.
Step 1: Reflection
Even though we often hear about burnout as a workplace issue, it can occur in any area of life (or Success Sphere) where you’ve experienced prolonged stress.
One of the reasons burnout occurs cyclically is that we often aren’t able to identify it’s root causes. We think we’re taking action to address it, and while we may experience brief reprieves, if we don’t address the root causes, we will constantly find ourselves in a cycle of burnout.
Even though we often experience the symptoms of burnout (ie. lack of motivation, self-doubt) in our professional lives, the reason may not be as simple as the job or role we currently have.
For example, the pandemic introduced a plethora of stressors into our lives. One area many of us experienced stress was in our relationships. Being at home 24/7 with your partner, your children needing to be homeschooled, or the sudden lack of social activities/outlets all are examples of relational stressors you may have experienced in the early days of the pandemic. So is it surprising that many of us, at the same time, began to feel less motivated in jobs we enjoyed before the pandemic? Prolonged stress in one area can manifest in ways we might not expect, because all areas of our lives are deeply connected.
This is a somewhat simplistic way of looking at it, but if you’re not emotionally and spiritually well, or you’re experiencing a lack of physical well-being, you may find yourself in the midst of burnout.
When we say “self-reflection,” we mean reflecting on your well-being in all spheres, not just the sphere where you feel the most immediate symptoms of burnout.
Step 2: Disruption
Escaping burnout requires more disruption than four days of PTO or a weekend trip to somewhere relaxing. It requires true disruption of your day-to-day life.
Disruption looks different for each of us. It may mean leaving a job or starting a new career path. It might mean leaving a partner or a toxic friend. It could even mean moving to a new city.
By engaging in self-reflection and looking deeper at your emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical well-being, you will gain clarity on what “disruption” means to you.
One of the reasons why the burnout cycle is so hard to escape, is that burnout makes us feel unmotivated. And we need to be motivated in order to take action against burnout.
First of all, it’s totally okay to feel unmotivated, overwhelmed, and anxious about these steps. It can feel easier and safer to just stay where you are. Be patient with yourself.
This is where your support system comes into play. Without external support, escaping and healing from burnout can feel like an impossible task. Don’t attempt it alone! One of the main reasons we created Joy Society was to provide our members with a constant network of support on their journey to true well-being.
Burnout sucks, and it sucks even more when we think we’ve fixed it by taking that much-needed vacation, only to be back in the trenches weeks later.
Escaping the cycle can feel impossible, but there is hope.