“Burnout” is being in a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. People who feel burnt out feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and find it difficult to meet the demands of their day.
In this article, instead of talking about what burnout is, we will discuss some of the reasons why people feel burnt out. These reasons are by no means exhaustive and they are more of an attempt to discuss reasons that are often not talked about in other articles.
Comparison with previous standards of performance
Some people would compare their current level of performance with their previous level of performance. For example, some people might say that they used to juggle multiple roles while still having the space to travel often, socialise actively, and meet their exercise goals. Not meeting the standards that they are capable of leaves them feeling inadequate.
In a bid to reclaim a sense of adequacy, they try to force themselves to do more. However, when they are unable to meet their perceived standards, they are left with feelings of guilt.
Punitive inner critic
Not meeting perceived standards of performance can trigger off childhood feelings of not being hardworking enough. Being told to strive harder, or being told off for being lazy, a child either pushes back, or internalises the messages to cope with the stress. This creates the underlying conditions for the punitive inner critic. The punitive inner critic, is the inner voice within some people who, is constantly looking out for their mistakes, and meting out harsh criticism as punishment. The punitive inner critic is like a harsh coach who only cares about pushing people to maintain their tempo, and does not care about exhaustion, choosing to see any excuses as weakness.
People who have a punitive inner critic within them find it difficult to give themselves the space they need to rest or heal, which further saps their energy levels.
Some people may not feel intellectually stimulated by the type of work that they are doing. They may also not feel that they have enough agency to make the changes they want at work. Having to continue doing a job that they feel bored at, creates a situation where each additional task becomes an added stressor, which contributes to the feelings of being burnt out.
Some strategies to try to relieve the feeling of burnout.
Know that you have the right to set boundaries to hold your time. When you set boundaries on your time, you are not pushing people away. In fact, you are holding the time to allow yourself the space to heal, so that you can be fully present when you are engaged with the people you care about.
Psychological self-care is giving yourself the space to do things that energises or helps you heal. It does not have to be a hobby, or what people would traditionally deem to be ‘productive’, such as learning something new.
Giving yourself the space to sit down with your thoughts, to rest, or staying in for the weekend, and not feeling guilty about it, is self-care in itself.
You need that space to rest. You deserve it.