In today’s society, there seems to be more pressure than ever before. We are ruled by the clock–to get to places on time, to make our deadlines, and to get as much done as we possibly can. Our employers expect us to be innovative, productive, and efficient. As parents, we are expected to raise well-mannered children, send them to the best schools, and feed them organic and nutritious meals. Thanks to technology and social media, we have become an instant gratification society. People do not have to wonder about things very long, as Alexa or Google are always there to answer our questions. Prices are continually rising, very little is for free, and it seems that we have to work harder and harder to keep up—whether it is with the Jones’ or with our own expectations. When we consider the overall picture, it is hard not to consider the emotional, mental, and physical toll that this type of fast paced society cultivates and perpetuates. A single word seems to sum it all up—burnout.
Burnout is the grand finale of a show laden with continuous and excessive stress. Burnout results in psychological and physical fatigue and exhaustion. A person experiencing burnout feels overwhelmed and is unable to keep up with their day to day tasks and responsibilities. Burnout is characterized by a constant state of tiredness and disrupted sleeping patterns. Burnout takes a toll on one’s body and every move is like walking through water. You try to forge forward while the water’s resistance keeps pushing you back. Burnout can impair concentration, impact eating habits, and result in physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.
Burnout can significantly impact a person’s mental health and emotional well-being, as it can give rise to depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem. A person experiencing burnout is often very hard on themselves, leading to self-deprecating behaviors and a lack of confidence. Burnout can result in a sense of detachment and feelings of inadequacy and ineffectiveness. In essence, the person is at a standstill, as their vehicle has simply run out of gas. They cannot move forward until filling up somehow.
Burnout is often experienced by type A personalities and high achievers. These individuals keep striving for perfection, often compromising and sacrificing themselves without realizing the heavy personal costs. Individuals can often experience burnout at work, especially if they work excessive hours, take on too much work, or put intense pressure on themselves.
Burnout does not happen overnight and usually develops over a period of time. Burnout is the culmination of stress over a long period and can almost be surprising when it occurs. A person becomes accustomed and immune to the high stress levels, until they can no longer handle it. Our bodies often try to give us warnings that we most likely ignore, until we can no longer ignore them. Burnout prevents us from moving forward, on personal, academic, social, and occupational levels.
If you are reading this and wondering, “Is this me?” it may be time to re-evaluate your life circumstances. Thankfully, burnout is not a fixed condition and can always be changed. Self-care and mindfulness goes a long way in filling up the proverbial gas tank. Taking time to yourself, slowing down, and recharging your batteries can boost emotional and mental health. Learning how to reduce stressors and figuring out how to navigate the ones that cannot be changed is critical in reducing feelings of burnout. Goals need to be looked at to determine if they are attainable, viewpoints need to be less negative, and you must be assertive when you need to be. And if life ever gets to be too much, embrace the society that we live in and simply ask Google or Alexa to help you.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.