Burnout: how to avoid it and whether a vacation will help if you are already “extinguished”

Burnout is a 21st century problem. It is often confused with harmless fatigue, but they are not the same thing. How to understand that you have burnout, how to work with it and whether a vacation will help – Maria Danina, Candidate of Psychological Sciences, founder of the Psychodemia project and practicing psychologist, tells all this at a free webinar on the Burnout course.

They brought a short extract from Maria’s webinar. Catch useful thoughts and tips (get the full version for free at the link).

What is burnout

Burnout is a consequence of the gap between what the environment requires of us and who we are and what we have.

Burnout is a cumulative condition.

Imagine a rubber band. If we stretch it in a moderate format, in accordance with the capabilities of the elastic, it sooner or later returns to its original state. If we stretch it often or very strongly, the elastic band can no longer take its former shape. That’s how burnout works.

There are three criteria by which burnout can be defined:

  • Exhaustion – physical and mental. When a person feels that he is incredibly tired: it is hard to get up in the morning, sleep is disturbed, there is a rapid fatigue from any tasks, concentration of attention is lost, the person begins to focus worse on the task, and makes a large number of mistakes.
  • Emotional withdrawal. A person wants to retire, he does not want to communicate with anyone, he begins to shake from people, he becomes aggressive, begins to conflict and more often breaks down on loved ones.
  • Decreased professionalism. A person does not feel the meaning of what he does. He does not want to do tasks that he was normally able to solve before. There is a feeling of impasse and the understanding that he can no longer cope.

It is important to distinguish burnout from depression. Very often these conditions are confused or confused. Depression is characterized by the fact that a person experiences a feeling of guilt, his self-esteem decreases, suicidal thoughts appear. There is no such thing in burnout.

Who is most likely to burn out?

Burnout is about the gap between what is required of us from the outside and what we are. That is, it is a state that is between a person and his environment. We can’t blame a person for their burnout. This is a story about the interaction of two factors.

We also cannot say that people with certain personal characteristics will definitely burn out. Or people who work in certain areas will definitely burn out. It’s still quite a complex combination of two factors: who I am and what is expected of me.

Who is prone to burnout? At risk are people who:

  • forced to combine many roles (employee-family man-parent);
  • face every day the suffering of others (for example, doctors. Those who constantly see pain, fear, death);
  • they cannot control their life (for example, a person suffering from a chronic disease who cannot plan any events in life. Or a parent whose life is subject to the regimen of a child);
  • forced to care for others to the detriment of their interests (those who care for chronically ill, relatives);
  • do not feel safe at work (there is a risk of dismissal or the company, for example, does some unethical things with which the person does not agree);
  • trying to meet high standards.

How to understand that this is burnout, and not laziness?

There are a huge number of beliefs in the world about how to behave, work, be a brave guy or a brave girl. This makes it difficult to notice the first signs of burnout: when you can solve the problem with the help of simple means, without the help of psychotherapy.

However, I would like to say about laziness separately: in psychology there is no such concept. Laziness is what we cover for many different problems, because of which we do not do something.

At the level of mental mechanisms, laziness as such does not exist. We have: competing motivation, fatigue, misunderstanding, decreased control and executive function. Lots of processes that we label laziness. Here you need to understand what is happening inside a particular person.

The key is prevention

We live in an era where there are few supports, a lot of uncertainty and demands. And also – in a capitalist society, in which the high value of productivity and efficiency. This encourages us to get the most out of ourselves. So, theoretically, everyone faces burnout. The main solution to this problem is prevention.

Remember how you used to write about stress resistance in your resume? Now we need to write about the skill of working with burnout.

How to get started with burnout?

It must be said that there is no single way to get out of burnout. But the first step is to stop and figure out what’s going on.

Usually people immediately jump at some solutions that seem appropriate: meditation, vacation, yoga. Yes, these are great ways, but they may not be relevant in a particular situation.

Burnout can happen from underloading or from the fact that a person does not feel fulfilled. For example, a young mother sits with a child: her whole life revolves around serving his interests, she yearns for her professional identity, wants to return to work, but cannot do it. And if we offer her to meditate, this will not solve her problem.

It is very important to review:

  • your environment;
  • your relationship with yourself (what do you expect from yourself and what do you think about yourself);
  • your resources (perhaps you have helpers whom you do not notice);
  • ineffective behavior strategies (for example, you try to drown out your feelings by eating or watching TV shows).

Only after you have identified these 4 things, you can begin to solve the problem: on your own, by reading books or seeking help from a psychotherapist. After that, you will be able to draw up an effective plan that may help you. But without this analytical work, unfortunately, nothing will come of it.

What to do next to reduce the chance of burnout?

Of course, I advise everyone who has the opportunity to seek professional help. Because you can put on notebooks, keep a diary of your burnout and get to the bottom of its causes. But with a psychotherapist or psychologist, this is much easier to do.
It is useful to study books on collective behavioral therapy. There you can find answers to questions and solutions. Here are books that can help you.

  • “Burnout” by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
  • “At the Peak” Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
  • “No Stress” Mithu Sideways

You can also take a course on burnout (we are planning a new stream). There, we first find all your burnout factors, and then draw up an individual strategy based on these factors.

You need to work with burnout in a complex way: individual practices, such as sitting, breathing or relaxing, will not work.

How to work comprehensively?

Notice the indicators of burnout, know and eliminate the factors that cause this condition in you. For example, “catch” the thoughts that arise in you when you are stressed. You need to write them out for yourself and note when they begin to appear. And at the moment when there are a lot of them, analyze the situation: analyze what happened the day before and led to this state.

to accept what you can’t control. To any phenomenon, we can take an observant position and look with curiosity at what is not subject to our influence. And also – to accept the feelings that we have.

Work on your beliefs and values that contribute to burnout. There are studies that show that people who are well aware of their goals and abilities are more protected from burnout than others. Clarifying these things helps build an internal framework that helps you be more resilient to stress and cope with difficult life situations.

Do not avoid the problem, take a proactive position. Often people, getting into some unfavorable situations, try not to notice them, avoid or move away emotionally. This only makes it worse. A person falls into a funnel of suspension, which twists more and more. It is important to acknowledge your feelings: this returns a sense of control over your own life.

Learn to manage emotions and resources. It is important to understand what resources you have: for example, support from loved ones or knowledge. When you understand what resources you have, it is easier for you to help yourself.

Is it possible to recover during the holidays?

A vacation can give a person temporary relief and help him recuperate. But then the person will return to the system that led to the burnout. So a vacation won’t help:

– every time the vacation will be needed more and more;

– you need to work with the causes and supporting factors.

How to rest?

There is an idea that a good rest is doing nothing. But in fact, the task of rest is not just to do nothing.

The challenge is to recover. And recovery is doing exactly the opposite of what bored you.

Leave must be taken. And choose depending on what you did the day before.

  • If you have been doing routine work and are tired of boredom and monotony, then you do not need to relax in front of the TV on the couch – you need a challenge. You need to stretch your muscles, set an ambitious goal, engage in development.
  • If your work speed is high, you need to recover by doing some kind of routine, something monotonous. For example, crochet or cross stitch.
  • If you work hard mentally, sit at the computer and look at the screen, exert yourself intellectually, then you need physical activity to recover.
  • If you are active and constantly moving somewhere, then recovery for you is a passive rest.

Figure out what makes you tired and do the opposite. This will give you the best result.

What if I don’t have time for rest and vacation?

A long vacation is not always necessary. The main skill in limited conditions is the skill of quickly switching consciousness and relaxation.

Learning to turn off:

– 15 minutes 4 times a day;

– alone with myself;

– in the full sense of presence in the moment;

– in touch with your body and emotions.

Spend those 15 minutes alone with yourself: without sounds, distracting gadgets, in complete silence, watching what is happening around you. Your task is to feel like an alien who first appeared on earth. He observes the outside world with curiosity and examines his sensations with surprise. Look around and inward. This contact with a complete disconnect from everything that happens is what triggers the express recovery.

Power works very efficiently nap is a fast sleep technique. In the morning, drink strong coffee, and then in the afternoon, from 14.00 to 16.00, lie down in an uncomfortable position and set an alarm that will wake you up in 20 minutes. And try to sleep for 15 minutes. At this time, the caffeine will begin to break down and at some point wake you up. The goal is to sleep no longer than 15 minutes, otherwise you will feel worse. Such an express sleep helps a lot in a situation of time pressure, when you need to relax, but, however, there is absolutely no time.

If in your life there is not even an hour for yourself, then something is clearly wrong. There is an urgent need to work with beliefs, explore what makes you give your life to the interests of others and ignore your own right to take care of yourself.

Where can you find the motivation to do anything at all?

Burnout is a kind of vicious cycle. To get out of burnout, you need to do something, but you can’t do anything because you have a burnout. Therefore, two reference points are important here:

  • the help of other people. Nowhere without her. It can be very specific: ask someone to buy you groceries or ask how you are feeling during the day, have guests over, cook dinner. Leaning on other people is one of the most important strategies for dealing with burnout;
  • the principle of small steps. When you do the most insignificant, but accessible action for you. For example, if you can’t exercise, then lift your legs up, stretch, whatever. And every time you take one small step, back yourself up with something positive. Say: “I’m good, I did it.” This principle, like burnout, has a cumulative effect: small steps help slowly but still spin the funnel back.

If you feel like you’re alone?

If a person has a belief that he is alone and cannot ask anyone for help, then the problem is in belief, not in reality. Because now the world provides us with a huge amount of contact with others. The only question is to allow yourself to use these contacts.

You will be surprised at how friendly the world is and how it responds if you allow yourself to ask, to speak openly that you are not well, that you are not okay. There will always be those who are ready to protect and support you.

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