Burnout is a common emotional experience, most often discussed in the context of the workplace. Many companies and offices promote self-care activities to prevent burnout. However, burnout can happen outside of work, too – and it’s just as important to take care of when it does.
What is burnout?
Burnout describes an emotional fatigue that impacts physical, cognitive, and social health. Burnout looks differently for everyone. However, people who become burnt out generally feel this way after a prolonged period of intense effort, especially when there isn’t a sense of fulfillment or a sense of social connection. Even when someone feels like their work or their relationship is meaningful at one point in time, burnout can occur when there isn’t enough time to rest and recover.
When burnout happens, you might find yourself thinking:
- I can’t do this anymore
- I’m not interested in what I’m doing anymore
- They’re my best friend but I don’t want to talk to them at all
- I don’t want to be here anymore
- I’m so beyond caring
- I hate my job
- Why did I even come here
- I just want to be alone
At times, these thoughts are normal - sometimes, they’re even appropriate. However, when you begin noticing these thoughts happening on a daily basis, you might be slipping into a period of burnout. The same is true if these thoughts aren’t characteristic for you or if they’re negatively impacting your daily routine.
Prevalence of burnout
Burnout happens in all professions, all types of relationships, and all family structures. Burnout happens to people of all ages, identities, and backgrounds.
A study conducted by Indeed found that 52% of a surveyed population reported experiencing burnout in 2021. Millennials and Gen Zers experienced burnout at a higher rate, around 58-59%.
It’s highly likely that most people will experience burnout at least once in their lives. Those who live with high stress levels – as a result of economic hardships or racial and identity-based discrimination – may experience burnout more frequently than others. One protective factor against burnout is the ability to take the time to take care of the self. For some, self-care on an impactful scale may not be an option.
Symptoms of burnout
Burnout can be markedly obvious – think shouting profanities at a car that drove a little too closely to you. Burnout can also be inconspicuous and imperceptible. You might go weeks without feeling close to anyone or feeling void of all emotions, and only realize that it’s burnout when you talk to someone about it.
People who feel burnt out can feel:
- Apathetic towards everyone, even those that they love
- Disengaged, even in things that they normally care about
- Bored with daily life
- Depressed mood, including heavy feelings of sadness
- Fatigued or emotionally exhausted
- Unappreciated by those around you
- Anxious about little things
The emotional toll of burnout can also impact your physical health. People who are going through burnout might find themselves suffering from headaches, stomachaches, weight loss, weight gain, and decreased energy levels. Burnout can also impact your cognitive functions, debilitating your memory and executive functioning.
Burnout is a result of prolonged stress. By taking care of yourself and working with a therapist, you can avoid or heal burnout.
Therapy for burnout
Many therapists specialize in treating burnout. Self-care is a key component to all mental health journeys, as is de-stressing and relaxation practices. Therapists who treat burnout encourage clients to express their thoughts and feelings. They’ll also encourage their clients to engage in self-care practices, whatever that looks like for them. By educating clients about burnout, including what signs to look out for when trying to avoid burnout, therapists ensure when the next period of excessive stress happens, you have the tools you need to get through it.