Burnout is something that most of us have experienced at least once in our lifetimes. Having experienced burnout several times, I know how easy it is to suffer from burnout as well as how dangerous it can be. I therefore want to use this blog post to therefore talk a bit more about burnout and refer to my own experiences as well.
An important thing to note is that there is no one single cause of burnout. In a good number of cases, burnout is a result of constant and unrelenting stress or pushing yourself too hard, but burnout can also result from other things as well. Some common symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, lack of energy and reduced productivity. This may all seem obvious, but it can often be hard to work out the cause of burnout, and when you have reached the point of burnout. However, if it is left unaddressed for a long time, burnout can sometimes interfere with your ability to carry out everyday tasks.
My experiences of burnout have mainly come during my time at university. Although I would say that university was the best 4 years of my life, there were a lot of stressful moments. For me, the constant stress and pressure lead to burnout in the majority of cases. One example I particularly remember was at the end of November/start of December, where I had 3 assessment centres for graduate jobs as well as a deadline and a dissertation presentation in the space of 8 days. Fair to say that was extremely stressful and gruelling, and travelling from Warwick to London and even to Reading multiple times in that period drained me even further. This inevitably led to burnout at the end of it all. The thing that comes to mind when I look back on the times where I suffered from burnout was that I sometimes treated burnout and stress as if they were the same thing, which meant that there were times where didn’t take burnout as seriously as I should have done.
Another thing I learnt about my own experiences with burnout is that it is incredibly easy to reach the point of burnout. One reason why it is so easy to reach the point of burnout is that some of the signs of burnout are the same as the signs of stress or having a bad day. Having stressed or having a bad day is perfectly normal, and it’s usually nothing to worry about as long as it is something you can control and handle. Therefore, the fact that there are overlaps between the signs of burnout and the signs of stress means that we often think we are just stressed where in fact we are suffering from burnout. Another reason why it is so easy to reach the point of burnout is because it can be hard to admit to ourselves that the signs of burnout are there when they occur. One thing that has happened to me more than once was that the signs of burnout were there, but I refused to admit that to myself, and kept pushing myself because I felt that taking a break would have been bad. Whilst that may have worked well for me in the moment, burnout eventually took its toll.
One thing that people sometimes underestimate is how dangerous burnout can be. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is incredibly easy to reach the point of burnout, but when you reach that point, the consequences can be huge. Burnout can have a detrimental impact on your physical health but it can also impact other areas of your life. When I was struggling with burnout I sometimes got irritated at other people for no reason, and I know instances where some of my friends performed worse than expected due to burnout. This clearly shows that burnout can not only impact your physical health, it can also affect other areas of your life such as relationships, career and lifestyle. Therefore, burnout is not something we should underestimate.
When it comes to preventing burnout, I don’t think there is a clear-cut solution which will guarantee you avoiding burnout all the time. However, from my experience, the best piece of advice that I would give is to try your best to notice signs that tell you that you are at the point of burnout, and then do something about it. Some people work 13-hour days, whereas other people have times where they have a lot on at once, so sometimes burnout is inevitable. However, realising when you are reaching the point of burnout and doing something like taking a walk or taking an evening off can take the edge off and help a lot. I also think having effectively self-care strategies that work well for you can help massively, which is another reason why I think self-care is so important.
What sort of things help you when you have reached the point of burnout? What sort of things result in burnout for you? Comment on the comment section below!