A common issue many of us face is rushing and trying to do everything, a surefire path that can lead to burnout – feeling totally exhausted and overwhelmed. But why do we keep pushing ourselves to the edge? And how can we step back to find a healthier, more fulfilling path?
In this article, Dr. Neha Sangwan, Internal Medicine physician & Author of ‘Powered by Me’, shares a guide to burnout recovery. She shares tips for recognizing burnout’s warning signs and strategies to not just cope, but thrive in our hectic world.
“One of the most important things we need to do for each other is find the courage to say ‘Are you okay?’ Because we’re swimming in a world of stress, moving so fast that maybe we’re not seeing what others can see more clearly.”– Dr. Neha Sangwan
The Triad of Burnout
Have you ever felt so tired that no amount of rest could fix it? Have you started seeing your job or daily tasks in a negative light? Or have you ever felt like you’re just not accomplishing anything meaningful anymore? If these feelings sound familiar, you might be experiencing what Dr. Neha calls the ‘triad of burnout.’ This consists of 3 key components:
- Exhaustion – This isn’t just your regular end-of-the-day tiredness. It’s like feeling empty and drained all the time in all aspects: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s like your energy is a battery that just won’t recharge, no matter how long you rest. This kind of deep-rooted tiredness can touch every part of your life, leaving you feeling constantly worn out.
- Cynicism – Here, you start feeling disconnected and negative about things you usually care about, like your job or hobbies. It’s like waking up one day and realizing that you just don’t care as much anymore, or everything seems pointless. This isn’t just a fleeting bad mood; it’s a persistent sense of detachment and dissatisfaction.
- Ineffectiveness – This is about feeling like you’re not getting anything meaningful done. You might feel like you’re falling short at work or in personal projects, even if you used to be on top of things. It’s a frustrating sense that you’re not living up to your potential or achieving your goals.
When you start feeling all these things, it’s like a big red flag waving at you to slow down and take care of yourself. When these three elements come together, they create a tough cycle that’s hard to escape. But understanding these signs is the first step to burnout recovery.
Three Phases of Burnout
Just like a storm doesn’t hit without warning signs, burnout also builds up in stages. Understanding these stages can help you catch the warning signs early and take action. Let’s break down the three stages of burnout into simple terms.
- Alarm Phase- This is the initial stage where the signs of burnout start to appear. In this phase, you might experience increased stress levels, irritability, and anxiety. It’s like your body and mind are sounding the alarm that something is off. You might have trouble sleeping, feel on edge, or find yourself reacting more emotionally than usual. It’s the stage where your body is trying to cope with the stress but is starting to show signs of strain.
- Chronic Adaptation Phase- Here, your body and mind start getting used to being in a constant state of stress. What was once an alarming level of stress now becomes your new normal. You might find yourself feeling numb or indifferent towards things that used to matter to you, withdrawing from social interactions, or relying more on unhealthy coping mechanisms.
- Exhaustion Phase – This is the most severe stage of burnout. You’re not just tired; you’re deeply exhausted, both in body and mind. It feels like you’ve hit a wall, and even small tasks feel like huge challenges. You might feel hopeless or struggle to get anything done.
Recognizing these stages is key to stopping burnout in its tracks. If you notice these signs in yourself, it might be time to slow down and take care of your well-being.
How to Cope with Burnout
Ever thought about how taking care of yourself could actually help the world? Dr. Neha shared a super cool idea called ‘Me, We, World.’ It’s like a three-step plan to burnout recovery: start with yourself (‘Me’), spread the goodness to people around you (‘We’), and then watch it ripple out to the bigger world (‘World’).
“Build sustainable habits that help you be better because not only will it help you but others, too. Like [Dr. Neha] said, ME, WE, WORLD. That’s what we need to start to focus on.”– Anil Ramjiani.
Taking care of ourselves is the first step towards creating a ripple effect of positivity and change. Start by taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. This could mean getting enough rest, eating well, exercising, or engaging in activities that relax and rejuvenate you. It’s also about understanding your limits and not pushing yourself too hard.
Once you start taking care of yourself, extend that care to your relationships. One of the most important things we need to do for each other is find the courage to say ‘Are you okay?’ This involves improving communication, offering support to others, and also being open to receiving help. Creating a supportive network can significantly reduce the feelings of isolation that often accompany burnout.
The final step is to look beyond yourself and your immediate circle. Find ways to contribute positively to your community or the world at large. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; even small acts of kindness or volunteering can create a sense of purpose and fulfillment and minimize the effects of burnout.
By combining these approaches, you can effectively work towards overcoming burnout. Remember that focusing on actions rather than trying to control uncontrollable external factors is crucial to fight burnout. Concentrate on what you can change or influence, and try to let go of stress about things beyond your control.
We’re trying to control a world that has gotten more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. You actually do not control anything other than your actions. Why not live differently?– Ashish Kothari.
These steps to burnout recovery is a great reminder of how important it is to be aware of our own feelings and to understand our emotions when dealing with burnout. Cultivating this self-awareness allows us to understand our needs and limits, and to take proactive steps towards self-care. Equally important is emotional intelligence, which involves not only understanding and managing our own emotions but also being attuned to the feelings of others around us. Remember, it’s okay to keep up with the demands of today’s world, but do so while staying mentally and emotionally healthy.
Dr. Neha Sangwan, Internal Medicine physician and author of ‘Powered by Me’, shares a guide to burnout recovery. She shares tips for recognizing burnout’s warning signs and strategies to not just cope, but thrive in our hectic world.
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