Feeling exhausted on a Wednesday morning might well reflect a stressful everyday life, but recognizing the feeling as being ‘burnt out’ can be life-changing and point towards a serious condition.
Many people work under constant stress, which can evoke symptoms of burnout. For instance, burnout is characterized by physical complaints such as headaches, exhaustion, concentration problems, and sleep problems, as well as psychological burdens such as loss of motivation and negative feelings towards the job. Often, a burnout sets on gradually, so it can be difficult to identify and address the symptoms. Sometimes, it only takes a little nudge to tilt us off balance. Many people report a moment of realization, after which they decide to quit their job or take a break.
Waking Up from Hustling
Most individuals suffering from a burnout have been working in overly demanding work environments or working to build a lifelong career. Growing responsibilities and performance pressure can cause constant levels of stress, which does not allow people to let go of their job for just a second. Most ‘burnt out’ individuals report not being able to switch off, even when on vacation or at home with family. When the career slowly starts taking over the personal life, when meaningful relationships are being neglected, or when physical complaints (e.g., headaches, sleep deprivation, muscle pain) are being ignored – this is when a burnout is slowly sneaking in. Or already sneaked in for that respective matter. There is this underlying societal norm telling us to hustle, to work hard, if we want to be successful – be it at the cost of relationships or your own wellbeing. Is that really true though? ‘Burnt out’ individuals often arrive at a point where they ask themselves ‘What am I doing to myself?’. There is a moment of realization, when the job or career is not so rewarding anymore.
The process of gradually building negative feelings towards the job, instead of producing feelings of reward, often leaves individuals in despair. The thought ‘How much longer can I take this?’ changes to ‘I can’t do this anymore’. Thus, the decision to turn away from the job, and to take care of oneself instead, is made.
Waking Up to a New Career
With the realization that one might be struggling with a burnout, not everyone is able to return to their job and continue with ‘business as usual’. After recovering from a burnout, some people choose to go into a different direction career-wise. Taking time for reflection during the recovery period after a burnout can be highly beneficial.
- Why did I choose my former job?
- Was it rewarding in any way besides getting paid?
- What do I want to get out of a job?
- Can I be myself?
- Who am I and what am I doing?
Recovering from a burnout is a challenging period, in which individuals may question their identity, work ethics, and goals. Many people report finding more meaning in life after recovering from a burnout. Reasons include changing careers to less profit-driven and more reward-driven jobs, putting more effort into meaningful relationships, and finding oneself in a journey of self-realization.
Ways to save yourself before it’s too late:
- Know your personal limits to set healthy boundaries
Do you need a break? Maybe you can try to arrange your work hours in a way that allows you to breathe and lay back. Maybe take on less roles and responsibilities, because the more you take on, the more of your energy is consumed.
- Self-care: Know what relaxes you and embrace it!
What do you need to take a break from the constant work pressure? Find out what helps you relax and forget about work in your free time. Take time for yourself, no one else will give it to you!
- Rely on a healthy support system
Don’t let your work life overshadow your relationships. Talk to your friends and family, meet up and enjoy the time you have together!
The experience of a burnout can make people reflect, find themselves and change careers. Despite all the suffering related to a burnout, there is a bright side to it. It can be a wake up call to escape the clutches of a highly stressful working environment. It can be a wake up call to find yourself. It can be a wake up call to change careers and find what’s meaningful.
If you feel that you can benefit from professional support on this issue, you can book an appointment here.
Ronja Sina is an intern at Willingness. She graduated with her MSc in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology from the University of Groningen.
Perry, L. (2018). Burnout & Boundaries: Knowing when enough is enough. Retrieved on August 17th from https://fullerlifefamilytherapy.org/burnout-boundaries/
Saner, E. (2021). ‚A career change saved my life’: the people who built better lives after burnout’. Retrieved on August 19th, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jun/08/a-career-change-saved-my-life-the-people-who-built-better-lives-after-burnout