They also share useful tips on how they overcame it.
By Rubani Sethi
Ever find yourself feeling drained? A loss of motivation where your job feels increasingly stressful? And then you resort to unhealthy ways to cope with how you’re feeling? Well, I definitely have at some point in my life.
What I’m describing to you are the signs and symptoms of burnout, which according to Very Well Mind (www.verywellmind.com) is defined as “a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability”.
It is important to identify the feeling of being ‘burnt out’ to be able to prevent or recover from it. Suffering from burn out for a long period of time can contribute to a reduction of quality of life and put you at higher risk for developing depression. As most of us are grinding at work on a daily basis, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask members of our community who felt burnt out at some point in their life how they identified the feeling, how it affected them, and how they combatted the feeling.
Counsellor in training, 28
I think anhedonia is the word for what I felt. I wasn’t enjoying any activity that I was doing and felt down for most of the day, every day. For example, I enjoy being outdoors and there was a time when I just didn’t want to be outside anymore because I was stressed out about work. This was heartbreaking for me because it made me realise that my current routine was negatively affecting who I was.
There was more than one factor causing the burnout. Firstly, I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing for the majority of the day. My mindset was usually “I can’t wait to go home and rest”. This drained a lot of my energy. Then, after a long day at work, I wasn’t incorporating any self-care activities into my day. Instead, I was continuing to work or plan for the next day to reduce my anxiety. I also didn’t have a support system with the energy to listen to me vent. So I worked myself into a routine of hard work and no self-care.
My behaviour was most affected because I had built a system that was not working for me, but I didn’t have the motivation or energy to get out of it either. I would have trouble waking up in the morning and I wouldn’t treat meals as a time to relax, instead they were other tasks to complete. My friends and acquaintances often told me I was doing too much because at the time I was working a full time job and also started a learning centre of my own.
After this was when I paid attention to myself and realised that my worth is not measured by my productivity. I needed to take care of myself too. Some of the things I did to beat the feeling included making a time grid, doing self-care activities at least once a day, and I stopped bringing work home. Home should be a place for rest. Check that you have at least four or five people in your support system. Make sure to ask them: “Do you have the energy to listen to me vent today?” because they may be having a tough day too.
One of the best things to do when you are burned out is to figure out what you prioritise in your life, and how you are spending the majority of your time. Ask yourself if you are making time for self-care (however that may look like for you).
Student Mentor, 24
I never understood when people said they felt burned out from their work or school because I have always been able to manage my time well. However, after I started my master’s degree in counselling psychology while also trying to balance out my time for my
work, my internship, my family, my boyfriend and myself, that’s when it got to me.
Some days I would feel emotionally drained (not in touch with them), some days physically (fatigue and body aches), and some days behaviourally (inattentive and lethargic). I usually look forward to the things I need to accomplish in a day but when I feel burned out, I just want to hit pause and delay everything. I personally feel more drained when I have to leave the house because I’ve been so used to doing everything online since the outbreak of the pandemic so everything seems like a lot more than before.
When I notice these changes, I generally take some time off for myself where I do little things I enjoy like exercising or yoga. I came to realise that this will be a constant cycle as long as I plan to balance everything, therefore, one advice that I can give is to listen to your body, pay close attention to your mind, and hit pause every now and then so you can come back with your full force and energy.
ANCHALEE (ASHWEEN) SUDECHAWONGSAKUL
Customer Success – Consulting, Manager at Nielsen IQ, 27
With the ongoing pandemic and new normal, there has definitely been a huge shift in all our lives, especially the concept of work from home. From my experience, work from home blurred the lines between my personal and work life. Career has always been my priority so I would allow work life to take over the majority of my time, even if it compromised my physical and mental health. This led to burn out.
Of course, at that time, I did not understand what I was feeling but I felt a lack of motivation, constantly feeling that I was letting myself down, feeling guilty to ‘rest’, and it was extremely challenging for me to complete any task, even minor ones. I had insomnia as well, which resulted in me having really low energy and feeling like being in bed the entire day. However, I decided that I needed to do something about it as it was affecting all aspects of my life.
It led me to look into wellness such as setting a proper morning routine, journalling, as well as breathwork. I also did a course on gut health to understand how I could use food and exercise to improve my mood and energy levels. After incorporating these into my life, I started seeing an improvement, and continue to do so today. I also started setting boundaries between my work and personal life and learned how to manage my time better. In order to avoid burnout, I do think it’s important to set boundaries, proper time management, look into finding a hobby that allows you to take your mind off things, exercise often, and eat well.
Strategy & Consulting Recruiting Lead Thailand at Accenture South East Asia, 28
Being part of Accenture SEA – a Management & Technology Consulting organisation, people are considered the most precious asset. Working as a Strategy & Consulting Recruiting Lead, in a fast-paced environment, there are often times when the workload becomes unmanageable. Working between 8am and late at night had become a norm and picking up this habit was a bad idea. During this phase I often found myself easily agitated by the slightest noise. Being burned out not only impacts an individual’s emotional behaviour, but further aggravates other issues related to health and the psyche that can manifest as binge eating to get through the day or sleepless nights as a result of anxiety.
However, over time, as I better understood the workload, I became flexible with my workaholic routine and decided to not proceed with any office work after 7pm at least twice a week, as well as ensuring my weekend calendar was clear. This allowed me more time to enjoy leisure activities such as my nightly jogs, football, etc. I often look back and tell myself it is okay to initially go in on full throttle, but at the same time it is also okay not to be okay.
Everyone is replaceable, but with time comes better work ethics and organisational skills like time management. It is always good to seek help when needed, rather than to think the world’s burdens lie on your shoulders. Always remember to put your own self-care above anyone else’s interest to ensure you can continuously maintain the same energy day in, day out, while also ensuring that you work smart, because having a successful-work-life career is like a marathon; slow and steady wins the race.