There are days when I feel too motivated to restrict myself to ticking three tasks off my list. There are also days when I feel too sad and drained out to lift my tired body out of the bed. There are probably similar days in your life too— where you feel as though things are no longer under your grip.
If you have been scrolling down your social media feed, you would’ve probably noticed the massive number of likes mental health related posts have been receiving on social media. Yet, you feel as though something is truly wrong. You are probably a student who has been facing the brunt of attending online classes and staring at the screen since morning. You could also be someone who has been skipping meals, irrespective of being at home all day—- because you work from home due to the pandemic.
Common signs of a burnout one needs to watch out for
Burnout, which used to be a very new term years ago, has become a surprisingly common occurrence among every section of the population. Be it a student, employed individual, the employer, or even a homemaker… it affects everyone at some point in their lives.
In spite of remaining productive and completing assigned tasks on time, individuals hit their beds with a sinking sensation in their hearts. The satisfaction that once used to capture one’s heart after ticking a task off your to-do- list has been replaced by congestion in your chest.
A few months ago, I happened to attend a webinar conducted by Drishti. The webinar which had burnout among teachers and mental health professionals as its focus hit me hard—- because this is something that could be affecting my mother or father. Or rather, it could be something affecting me as well.
The symptoms of burnout may vary from individual to individual. Few common symptoms of burnout are listed below:
Lack of motivation
You might have been someone who used to get done with tasks on time before hitting the gym in the evening. You might also have been someone who used to enjoy each morsel of a meal. However, something has definitely shifted which has resulted in you feeling altogether different.
The initial motivation you had during the beginning of lock-down has vanished—- in short; you would rather stay in bed if you had the chance.
Unusual and uncomfortable physical sensations
If you have been experiencing tightness or congestion around your chest, dizziness, frequent headaches and indigestion with no other apparent cause, you could be on the verge of a burnout. Once you face the inability to cope up with rising demands, the unrest may spread to the body, thus making you feel ill both physically and emotionally.
Stress caused by monotony
Ever since the onset of lock-down across the world, people have been trying one way or the other to stay productive. Of course, this entails twenty hours of staring into the laptop screen for the sake of attending a workshop or for not missing out on a lecture. When individuals are not working, they are still worked up—- especially at the thought and reality of being confined to a single space with the same set of people.
In addition to the work stress, there is an additional stress-or now: The stress caused by the monotonous routine you’ve been following! Sooner or later, you may start noticing a dip in the number of lectures you wake up for, and the number of workshops you register for.
People who are on the verge of a burnout not only experience physical symptoms, but also several emotional symptoms. You may cry uncontrollably at the stress level that doesn’t seem to be under their control, and may even display a lot of anxiety all day, every day.
In addition, the amount of interest you once had in talking to your close friends and family has diminished. You spend long hours in your room without bothering to mingle with the outside world.
Have you ever found yourself thinking about work that’s pending or already done? Maybe, you have been finding yourself wondering whether you have done a good job with an assignment you were given.
Maybe you constantly think about the work that’s on your plate while sitting in front of food piled on your plate. If this is the case, chances of an impending burnout are high and you may want to keep a check on this.
According to WHO, burnout is caused due to work- related stress. A line of distinction has also been drawn by several organizations between busy work schedule and a burnout.
The factors that may cause burnout vary from individual to individual. However, there are still different ways in which this can be detected, so that sufficient help can be sought for. (To know more about common signs of a burnout and the factors that may be causing one during the pandemic, visit this link: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190610-how-to-tell-if-youve-got-pre-burnout).
How can you prevent a burnout?
Although burnout may catch up with you at some point or the other, it is still not something that cannot be avoided or handled effectively. Burnout is commonly viewed as a thing that affects employed individuals. Therefore, many researchers, especially working in the field of Psychology have come forward with several methods through which this can be tackled.
The field of Positive Psychology (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/positive-psychology) is increasingly used when it comes to therapeutic settings for stress management. According to this concept, focusing on the employees’ strengths and coping mechanisms would help them to stay grounded during the times of stress. Similarly, assigning tasks they are skilled at performing would also make them feel adequate during tough times—- instead of leaving them overwhelmed due to a clear lack of motivation.
There are other Positive Psychology interventions that can be applied during stressful times: Maintaining a simple thing such as a gratitude journal goes a long way in coping up with mental health related issues. Whenever individuals feel overwhelmed due to various reasons, they tend to focus overly on their weaknesses, overlooking their strengths. Therefore, jotting down one’s strengths on a notepad and being mindful of those may help. (To know more about other interventions of similar nature, visit this site: https://positivepsychology.com/positive-psychology-interventions/).
In addition to the above strategy, there are several self- care measures that can be considered if you are experiencing a burnout.
We often overlook the importance of spending time with ourselves. When was the last time you took time out for yourself after a hard day at work? If you are a student, do you remember taking fifteen minutes off to reconnect with yourself, amidst a pool of assignments?
If you haven’t, it is time to consider this: Make a simple meal or brew a cup of your favorite drink, snuggle into your bed, watch your favorite TV show for a while, and slowly, get back to work! You will feel more energized and definitely more optimistic.
Time management strategies
Burnouts can also be a result of ineffective time management strategies you may have followed to keep up with deadlines. It is important to realize that different strategies work differently for different individuals. Therefore, find one that works for you.
You are probably someone who functions well during night. In that case, figure out when you are the most productive. Once you have figured that out, try and get done with tasks when you are the most active, and rest during those times when you tend to feel lethargic.
Maintaining an achievement journal
People experiencing burnout during a pandemic hardly pay attention to their daily accomplishments. Instead, there is often a strong tendency to focus on whatever they couldn’t accomplish. Maintaining a notepad for noting down one’s daily accomplishments will help one to keep a track of individual strengths, while minimizing the focus on weaknesses.
Nourishment for both body and soul
We live in the era of technology where everything we do involves technological aid. Shopping? We open Amazon on our phones. Paying bills? Again, there is an application for the same. In the midst of drowning in the pool of technology, we fail to provide proper nourishment for our body. The number of missed or late meals increases as a result of work.
Therefore, making a mental note of the meal hour will help in sticking to the same. If you are at home working, ask a friend or a family member to remind you of the same. Although we often look into eating on time and sleeping early for the sake of our health, it is equally important to nourish one’s soul: Do an activity that makes you happy, go on a half an hour drive, or simply decorate your room with angel lights! These will definitely light up your evening.
Conclusion: Do what works for you
Although there are many methods we can adopt to make ourselves feel better during a burnout, it is also important to be mindful of the emotions. Sometimes, we may not even realise that we are on the verge of a burnout. We may get overworked—- because that’s something we have been witnessing since our childhood. The minute you start noticing a shift in your energy levels, be mindful of the same, and try getting that under control.
If you have been on a weight- loss journey, this may be easier to understand. Suppose you have been on a diet for three months and ended up cheating often throughout the fourth month. You either run to the gym and get back in shape or continue indulging on cheat meals.
However, it requires one to be mindful of the shift in eating pattern and weight to take either measure. The same principle can be applied into the situation of a burnout! Accepting that you are tired and experiencing a burnout is the first step towards spending time caring for yourself.
At the end of the day, burnout caused by stress may be hard to deal with, but not unmanageable. With sufficient support and awareness, it becomes easier to tackle stressful situations. To have awareness of different self- care strategies that can be followed, read this article https://thriveglobal.com/stories/5-ways-to-practice-self-care-when-you-re-feeling-burned-out/. This may also help someone in your life who has been spending a long time trying to get out of bed.