Burn out: How to Journal Your Way Out of Work Fatigue
Burn, baby, burn… as a song lyric, it’s great to sing along to. But when it comes to your rapidly deteriorating work-life balance, getting burnt out is bad news. What is burnout? What does it mean when you’re feeling it? How can it be stopped, reversed and, ultimately, prevented? And how might journaling be able to help you overcome the worst effects of burnout?
By the end of this blog, we’ll answer all your questions about burnout — what it is, what it does and why we encounter it — and hopefully provide you with some meaningful solutions, too.
What is burnout? Often times we describe ourselves as burnt out when we’re tired, overworked or overwhelmed. We apply burnout to both our professional lives and our personal matters. Our descriptions of burnout often overlap with feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability. But did you know that burnout is a diagnosable mental condition with quantifiable signs and symptoms?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as: “A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
The classification goes on to describe three specific parts of burnout: complete professional depletion or exhaustion, reduced work accuracy, and feeling mentally distanced from your job duties and responsibilities — resulting in a cynical or overtly negative job outlook.
Feel familiar? If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you might be suffering from burnout. However, it’s important to differentiate between regular work-related stress and burnout. So, what are the differences?
Unlike burnout, stress is not always a bad thing. Stress is a temporary physical response to conditions that force us to act under pressure. When we are stressed, we usually work harder and faster, or we delegate tasks that we cannot accomplish. That’s the classic fight or flight response working as it should. With stress, we feel as though we are in a state of “heightened awareness,” focusing on many different tasks at once, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that we will not be as stressed once we work through a temporary busy period.
When we are burnt out, the opposite happens. We disengage, detach and slow down. Any new task or responsibility, no matter how small, feels like too much. With burnout, additional work might cause emotional instability: a new project or minor work inconvenience might make you cry, disengage, “explode,” or give up. Whereas stress is a useful self-defense mechanism, burnout causes total depletion.
Spotting the differences? Good. If you feel as though you’re not just stressed, but truly burnt out, keep reading.
What does burnout signify?
If you’re burnt out, you’re likely experiencing too much sustained stress and responsibility at work. Perhaps you work in a “fast-paced” environment, such as an advertising agency, a law firm, a hospital or in a government position.
At first you were probably able to keep up. After all, you’re high functioning, organized, thoughtful and thorough. Maybe you were able to work at your peak performance for months or years before feeling stressed.
But then something happened. Your responsibilities became too vast or too frequent, leading to an unending, unmanageable workflow. Some project or responsibility came along and broke you down. You had your first “work-cry.” You started to see yourself disengaging. You no longer cared to do your best work. Maybe you even experienced other mental health symptoms that walk hand-in-hand with burnout: anxiety and depression.
You knew in your heart that this wasn’t you. Something was very wrong. And now you’ve discovered that it’s more than stress, anxiety or even depression — a serious change needs to happen at work in order for you to feel yourself again. So, what can you do?
How can burnout be remedied by journaling?
Journaling is a proven stress-reliever. For centuries, smart people have turned to journaling to help them consolidate their thoughts and work through internal problems. Journaling can help you prioritize your workload, navigate your emotional response to stress, and plan out how to avoid burnout in the future.
However, it’s going to take more than stress relief and planning to solve a problem like burnout. Maybe you need to have a serious conversation with your boss about your workload and how to better manage it. It might be that you need to let go of responsibilities in your life that are just too much to tackle right now. Or perhaps you need to make the difficult, but necessary, decision to quit your job. If that’s the case, you may end up searching for a new career, or finding a new workplace with a better work-life balance.
Don’t put burnout on the back burner
Of course, major questions about our professional lives are not always easy to answer. As such, we often put them off, leaving our mental health on the back burner — and getting more and more burnt out along the way.
That’s where The Journal That Talks Back comes in. It’s a service that lets you journal when you want, as much as you want. Then a qualified professional reads your entries and responds with important insights and feedback. By journaling with a qualified responder who assesses your journal entries in near-real-time, you can get immediate feedback on your thoughts and feelings about burnout.
A qualified responder will not simply empathize with you. Instead, they will challenge any negative feelings that brought you into a state of burnout in the first place and offer new ways to approach your work-life balance so that you can avoid burnout in the future. They will act as your advocate instead of an enabler for continued burnout. They will be the outside conscience you need in your corner in times of burnout, helping you make hard decisions to get the true career satisfaction you deserve.
So, if you’re feeling really, truly burnt out, don’t let it sit on the back burner any longer. Check out The Journal That Talks Back and break out of the burnout loop.