Burnout is a common symptom of pushing ourselves too far or too fast.
Which leads to extreme exhaustion, feeling emotionally wrung out. In previous articles I've talked about mental burnout, in this article I want to focus on emotional burnout, how to overcome it and how to prevent it from becoming a pattern.
The most important thing burnout has taught me is:
Burnout is your first sign that you need to change your life.
Researchers from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry and Black Dog Institute have carried out studies on 1,019 people and listed the most common factors affecting people experiencing burnout:
Emotional exhaustion (lack of empathy) and fragility Reduced performance Anxiety/stress Depression and low mood Irritability and anger Sleep disturbances Lack of motivation or passion Lack of concentration, memory loss or brain fog Withdrawal from others Physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea and low libido
These are red flags that let you know that your lifestyle is making you sick.
Burnout is classified as an 'occupational phenomenon' by the World Health organisation*, however, I disagree with this limited classification, I've experienced workplace burnout but I've also experienced the same mental burnout from attempting to write a book (very different to writers block) emotional burnout from prolonged highly emotional states and spiritual burnout which I discuss later.
Why do we burn out?
Our bodies and minds are not built to withstand unrelenting pressure or stress.
I've found that emotional burnout can occur when you give too much of yourself emotionally, when you have spent time grieving or have experienced a traumatic event like a relationship ending.
I've also noticed that being highly sensitive to the world at large or being an empath can lead to emotional burnout. Empaths are highly sensitive to the emotions of others and can even unconsciously process or feel others emotions and pain in their own bodies.
Feeling everything all the time can be exhausting and many empaths need quiet time away from people to recharge and release the build up of emotions that they are carrying.
Emotional burnout can leave you feeling numb, unable to cry, you may appear to lack empathy towards others, disconnect or dissociate from others, lack spark/passion/sex drive, or even just feel 'meh' (neutral - no emotions)
The best way I could describe how I felt was like I was a rusted out jerry can (fuel can) - a bone dry emptiness like I had nothing more to give to anyone, not even a drop to myself.
A deep exhaustion that left me without spark or care.
Burnout is a red flag that you are lacking Self Love
Whoa, I know this is a big statement.
Think about it; a person who has a healthy self love takes good care of themselves, they have emotional intelligence and recognise when to take time out and maintain a healthy work - life balance.
Self Love is having strong emotional boundaries in place so as not to take on other peoples problems or be easily drawn into emotionally charged drama.
Self love is the ability to say "no" to others in order to leave enough fuel in the tank for yourself.
When you love yourself, you will naturally have love and empathy for others because you have not allowed yourself to become so low and drained - "emotionally burnout".
There are other instances in which I've encountered emotional burnout:
Traumas that involve high states of emotions like shock and grief from traumatic events such as unexpected injury or health scare, fighting for survival, the ending of a relationship or grieving the loss of loved one. These are just some scenarios in which your emotional body is under prolonged stress.
Prolonged emotional stress can feel like nerves shot or on end, emotional high alert, panic, fear and high anxiety, crying for hours or days at a time, emotional extremes like a roller coaster (I'm sure you could name more)
eventually you just get to a point where you feel absolutely exhausted and wrung out
In this case, I have learnt (the hard way) that time and a safe space is needed, to feel the emotions as they surface rather than suppressing them.
Vigorous exercise can also help to move big emotions through the body. Being careful not to eat your emotions, consume a lot of sugar or caffeine as this can make it feel worse.
It's easy to want to separate and withdraw from others in these times.
To want to be alone with the feelings or feel reluctant to talk to others. So if you don't feel you can't reach out to a friend, reach out to a professional who specialises in emotional well-being. There is a suggestion list at the bottom of this article.
I've called this one spiritual burnout but if that doesn't resonate with you, think of it as a lack of meaning or purpose in your life.
I've found this type of burnout to be deeper and more profound than the others (Mental & Emotional Burnout).
I think that spiritual burnout (and I would love to hear your experiences) leaves you feeling disconnected with life, discontent, depressed, like your life has no meaning or you are not living with passion.
You may even want to 'check out' of life.
I've noticed in myself and even in my friends, that after feeling this way for a while, some people start seeking 'the missing element' in their life.
They may explore religion, community service, knowledge, travel the world, learn a language or pursue a dream, try new foods or interests, take up meditation or yoga.
These distractions tend to work for a while, even a few years, however from my personal experience as a Life coach, I've found that it is not a singular missing element from your life that is causing the burnout,
what you are really seeking is your true self.
Your true self no longer wants to live the life you have been raised and conditioned into.
Your true self wants to live in accordance with your values and beliefs even if this means breaking free of traditions, toxic relationships, careers that you are no longer passionate about, parental expectations or societies conditioning.
Your true self wants real self expression without the masks, barriers, fears and games that we keep in place in order to conform to the roles that we live by. Your true self wants creative freedom, to be honest and truthful.
The problem with spiritual burnout is that whilst you continue live within the conditions that have created the spiritual burnout, it never really goes away it just sits beneath the surface as a constant dissonance with your life.
... until you start to live as your true self.
To read my post on Mental Burnout go to my blog section on balancemyworklife.com
for help with burnout:
For 24/7 mental health and crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For the latest research on Burnout visit Black Dog institute www.blackdoginstutite.org.au
For crisis, trauma or depression support Quest for life has a retreat centre and programs. Located in the southern highlands of Sydney www.questforlife.com.au
* The World Health Organisation has this to say about 'Burnout'
28 MAY 2019 - Burn-out is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition.
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
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