Identifying Burnout and How to Prevent it.
Updated: Sep 18, 2022
One of the biggest factors that influenced my decision to pursue Reiki, was my experience with burnout in my early 20's. My depression hit an all time low and I started having panic attacks. Taken from an excerpt of a blog post I wrote in 2018 titled 'My experience with Depression, Anxiety and Reiki'..."It got to the point where I could no longer force myself to leave the house to go to a job that I did not love. I started to develop pain in the left side of my chest that became so severe I thought I was having a heart attack and ended up at the hospital on more than one occasion. Tests revealed that everything was normal, I had a clean bill of health, there was no explanation for the chest pain but that didn't stop it from occurring." When the diagnosis finally came, I was told the cause of my issues; my anxiety, overwhelm and fatigue - was stress. "You are too stressed out," the Doctor said. As if that in itself was enough of an explanation and they sent me home.
At the time, I had no idea what burnout was. It wasn't a term I had heard used in the context of describing stress, a state of being or exhaustion, before. It wasn't until I began self healing with Reiki and pursuing different forms of holistic health and alternative wellness that I began to understand my experience.
So What is Burnout exactly?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical or mental exhaustion, depersonalization and diminished sense of personal accomplishment that can occur as a result of prolonged or excessive stress. It can manifest itself in several ways - disinterest in work, feelings of dread or boredom, restlessness, inability to focus, depression, lack of productivity, deterioration of social connections and personal boundaries.
What does Burnout feel like?
Many people experience burnout as a feeling of exhaustion, fatigue or depletion. Feelings of overwhelm, being emotionally drained or on edge are also common. Often a loss of interest and motivation or being unable to meet expectations and the demands of daily life can occur. Burnout can lead to a decline in feelings of personal competence and a diminished sense of accomplishment. This can effect how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with others - creating feelings of helplessness, being hopeless, negative, resentful or detached, until you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
If you find yourself in a state of burnout, don't beat yourself up. It's okay. In a culture that defines success as self-sufficiency, over-independence and isolation, being in a state of burnout is unfortunately more common than we are led to believe. Remembering to practice self compassion can prevent you from further adding to your feelings of overwhelm or low self worth. I know from personal experience that it is easier said then done but as feelings of doubt, shame, guilt or other self sabotaging beliefs and behaviors come to light, the more you are able to soften and the deeper you can go into your experience and self healing.
We can then prevent burnout and even start to reverse its effects, through wellness. According to the National Wellness Institute (n.d.), "Wellness is a conscious, self directed and evolving process of achieving full potential. Wellness involves programs of self-care, which are learned, proactive, deliberate, purposeful and continuous activities to reduce stress, avoid burnout, prevent illness and injury, and live a more balanced life."
In other words, a self care practice is vital in order to maintain well-being and balance. Wellness can be achieved through many activities that promote proper care of our physical, mental and emotional states of being, while taking into consideration our social, occupational and spiritual practices as well. By spending time nurturing these areas of ourselves and our lives, we can begin to restore a state of ease, happiness and peace.
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