What is a Burnout And How to Beat it?


Burnout was a term coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, the American psychologist.

It was used to refer to the consequence of extreme stress among “helping” professionals, such as doctors and nurses.

Cut to 2019, people in every profession are feeling the heat of a burnout. So much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared it to be a clinical medical condition.

WHO gave the following warning signs to look out for:

1.     Feeling of exhaustion or complete depletion;

2.     An increase in mental distance from what you do, and becoming cynical about your work; and,

3.     A major drop in the quality of work

Via Lattice

Via Lattice

Particularly for women, the “you can do it all” culture acts as a huge blindspot that prevents them from identifying these hints.

Now that we know what a burnout is and how we can recognize it, let us see how we can avoid it.  

1.     Slow down

First things first, slow the hell down, human!

Overworking yourself is usually the reason behind most burnouts. Therefore, slowly take your foot off the gas.

What I usually do when I know I have reached my limit is to switch off notifications of all kinds for an hour or two.

Too much of information in too little time makes our brain feel out of control, which in turn stresses us further. It is this stress that over time results in a burnout.

So nip that weed in the bud. I know you won’t believe me when I say this because you have taught yourself otherwise, but that email or text can wait a while.

2.      Put your mind to something else

The art of reading is disappearing, but that does not only hurt literature; it also hurts wellbeing. Reading helps us focus our mind on a world that we are not a part of, and therefore, none of our problems lurk there.

This is not escapism, it is the cheapest and the most enriching vacation. You enter into a new world, to return to yours more alive and relaxed than before.

Another way of putting your mind into something else is drawing or coloring.

I, personally, picked up a bunch of mandala adult coloring books, last year, and I kid you not how helpful they have been. It is engaging and yet not tiring – the best kind of mix!

3.       Therapy is not a bad word!

It’s 2019, and yet I have to introduce therapy into a conversation around mental health this way!

Most people still shy away or change the topic as soon as it is mentioned. We need to talk about it, folks!

Did you know loneliness registers as physical pain in the brain? I am not saying this, the NIH is!

But what has loneliness got to do with a burnout?

Well, according to a study conducted in Britain, in 2014, companionship is what most people crave at work. But companionship is missing.

Result? People are pushed toward the black hole of burnout.

Solution? Therapy!

Talking to a therapist can help you identify burnout triggers that your brain is too tangled to catch on its own.

Also, the therapist is the best person to tell you about how severe the burnout is. And so, they can help you deal with it accordingly.

4.      Develop a self-care routine

Being overworked and overstressed, you come last on your list of priorities. It is time to change that.

Taking care of yourself has to be done on a daily basis.

Remember, the burnout is the final reaction of the body and the mind when they cannot take it anymore. But the stress is building up every day, and so needs to be taken care of on a daily basis.

What self-care ritual suits you depends on the kind of person you are. So yes, it has to be designed to fit your needs.

Here’s what I do – I start my day by meditating for 30 minutes, and I end it the same way. Meditating helps me assimilate all the information without me even knowing it.  

Deep breathing and other breathing exercises have helped me too. As soon as I change the pattern of my breathing into something calmer, my mind immediately responds the same way.

Yoga is the third weapon in my arsenal of self-care! I have been practicing yoga for almost 10 years now. And the love between us has only grown with each passing year.

5.     Know your support system

When you are completely exhausted and burnt out, just self-love does not do. You need more love to heal better and faster.

In such situations, you should turn to the people you can trust the most.

Why trust? Because you are vulnerable right now. You cannot open up to people who don’t make you feel comfortable.

Also, it isn’t advisable to discuss something so personal with those who can use your words against you.

My family and my three closest friends are my go-to people. Whenever I know my boat’s rocking I know who to call.

You too need to identify your folks.

And remember the song Lean On Me by Bill Withers? Yes, you need to be there for these people when they need you too.