Surviving Burnout

One of the most fundamental and important parts of living is trying to find the right balance to help us feel our best. We constantly try to adjust aspects of our personal, professional and financial lives to try to find what works best for us. Whether someone is living in poverty or has bottomless financial resources, everyone can experience burnout. Burnout is what happens when we are not able to find a balance – we are exhausted and feel empty despite our best efforts.

Burnout can cause people to feel like nothing matters, to give up and maybe even behave more recklessly. Because it can be so all-encompassing, it is important to take time to examine aspects of our lives we may be able to change to escape feeling burned out. For some people, this may look like a change in their career – maybe a different boss? Or a different field? Others may look to promote changes in their health – maybe adjust their exercise regimen? Or stop smoking? Emotional health can also be a factor – is there a mental health issue that needs to be addressed?

Sometimes recreational or creative activities can help reduce burnout and can help direct people towards a sense of purpose. It is important to feel like you are able to invest your time and energy in things that are important to you. Our personal lives and the relationships we have with others can also be a source of burnout. Maybe it’s time to improve our friendships? Or to reconnect with a distant relative? Maybe even end a toxic relationship?

The energy we pour into relationships can also be a source of burnout. It is generally easier for us to experience frustration connected to our loved ones. We may even find that we can be kinder to strangers than we are to the ones we love the most. Some of our frustration is likely related to a decrease in our tolerance. When we invest a lot of time and energy and someone who is important to us, we get to know a lot about their positive and negative qualities. As we spend more time with them, we have less tolerance for their negative qualities and may spend more time focused on those. Some strategies that may help include the following:

  1. Taking a break can help give us a new perspective about ourselves. When we go out into the world and pay attention to how we treat others, especially acquaintances or strangers, we may be able to appreciate the politeness or generosity that we share with them. This can help us appreciate positive qualities in both ourselves and our loved ones.
  2. Make an effort to focus on the positive qualities that made that person a valuable part of your life in the first place. If you imagine what your life would be like without that person, we are more easily able to feel gratitude as opposed to contempt. Doing this on a regular basis can help make it easier to tap into the reasons they are so important to us and all of the ways they make our lives better.
  3. Spending time together with other people can sometimes be helpful. We tend to be slightly different people when we are having dinner with our boss than dinner with our childhood friend. In the company of other people, you may find yourself being even more polite to both them and your loved one.

These suggestions help us work towards being our best selves, which may help us avoid burnout. Taking regular assessment of ourselves helps keep us accountable and reminds us to make different decisions if we aren’t happy with our current decisions.

For Help: 

If someone you know is experiencing difficulty, let them know they are not alone and you are willing to assist them with finding the help they need.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is powerful in helping others seek the help they need.

If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health assistance, you can access a local crisis program, such as Carilion’s CONNECT (540-981-8181), go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.   Remember, it’s better to get help for yourself or someone else if needed.  Getting help is better than the alternative.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley and Psychological Health Roanoke have qualified and experienced clinicians available to help you and your family. Psychological Health Roanoke provides EAP benefit services to Family Service employees, including a monthly newsletter with timely tips like this.