Are you working consciously?
A(nother) necessary story about burnout.
It’s Tuesday. The day I’m exhausted by work already and dread thinking about how I’ll reach the pinnacles of Friday. All for the two-day gasp of air we dive into like we’re dehydrated from freedom. With how hard we celebrate the weekend in our western working society, comes from how difficult the week truly seems to get.
Ultimately, I can dream about how I’d spend 38 hours of my week in other ways, but with what I cannot change right now — I can change my perspective and in hope lessen the feeling that work takes control or takes most of my creative waking time. A reminder is that the experience work gives us moulds and supports us greatly in ways more than just financially. Work acts like a way of life we don’t have much choice in but the job we do, we choose to be part of our lives. Living consciously is a mindful topic I adhere to — of what you bring into your life, but something that bypassed my attention during my overachieving work blur is working consciously.
Work burnout is an on-going journey, that seems to build up only to be identifiable when it’s too late. The symptoms are near unrecognisable from what we call our “busy” days of being stressed, tired, frustrated by others, meeting expectations and hitting urgent deadlines. It’s just work, right? Or so, what most of us continue to know as just a busy day, week or past few months and dangerously, the norm.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demand.
There are many definitions I’ve come across of burnout, these two sentences fundamentally sum it up. Though, everyday aspects of this are:
- lack of support,
- feeling undervalued,
- pushing yourself to work harder,
- feeling empty on accomplishment,
- hopelessness in seeing positive change,
- disengagement for things you used to care about,
- depression (which unleashes lack of motivation, isolation and withdrawal),
- forgetting to shower or eat,
- trouble sleeping,
- feeling physically achy or tired even though you haven’t moved much.
Burnout is a gradual long-term pain that stealthily goes unnoticed until the stirring lull becomes unbearable — knowing repetition is just around the corner again. The near worst confusing part is experiencing the items above unknowingly, or maybe partly recognising them but instead innocently continue with the same days either way. Which in time, appears a new meaning of exhaustion.
Bumping into my own experience of burnout, my relaxing hot baths, rolling positive affirmations to drown any misbeliefs, the blow-off-steam runs at lunch or after-work didn’t work anymore. They’d revive me at a minimum on a day-to-day basis, but I still felt like I was crawling on the dirt path — somewhat getting somewhere but just covered in s**t. The space I’d give myself at the weekend with calmness, gratefulness, friends, deep surfacing conversations and identifying my own emotions was a realisation rollercoaster, not knowing when the drops and turns would become resonating.
Identifying early signs of burnout is assumably like recognising your child has a runny nose and could lead to sickness, or noticing a friend is dating someone with toxic behaviour and they may get hurt, we naturally become over-protective for those we care for. So why forget to care for ourselves in the same way? Why do we feel the absolute need to push ourselves and “power through” for the days we struggle until it’s Fri-Yay?
… We believe in ourselves.
We believe it’s just another day.
We believe we can just get through.
We believe we need to work harder to achieve.
We believe reaching midweek is a great feeling.
We believe it’s time for a drink.
And, the stress embedded into our everyday lives, just simply becomes difficult to see when it secretly evolves into a deceptive burnout monster.
The inner force of belief we hold and use against ourselves is invisibly dangerous and the same time powerful. Sensing that, this strength can be elevated to turn burnout around or prevent it happening. Surely with some thoughtful tweaking, we can ensure what we’re powering through with, makes our mental health stay afloat.
Where we position our current can-do attitude can be displacing, so if it’s a matter of diverting this positive flow to an earlier point and identifying the signs of stress, we can play on safer land and continue to work effectively.
I used to proclaim work isn’t my life because I have so many other aspects of life to pay attention to. However, work is life because it’s not just work, it’s a large part of life and how we use our knowledge and motivation to grow. Our time ultimately makes up what life can be. With how work makes us feel, is how we allow our life to be.
Ignoring our needs occurs too easily, especially if you don’t know what to identify, or don’t realise the need for something, or even know what you need to find ways to get it. Our autopilot is one of our brilliant skills but if our daily is ignored and not conscious, we’re barely human anymore.
We do as humans need to let some things simply be. Agreeably, not everything in our externals can be controlled (like a pandemic lockdown). It’s almost too generic to write that ‘balance is important’ because we cannot measure what we need. To identify is more accurate.
Identifying our emotional outcomes from what’s coming in — helps us know how much we should be letting in to continue to cope. Understanding stress levels means we can at first be grateful it energises us — than the negative way it may panic us. We can be more creative with our time and task management. It’s the first awakening sign for change. If those stress levels start effecting personal life outside of work, surfaces disengagement for what you cared for before, numbed emotion or dread — there’s the signal that prolonged on-going stress has silently seeped into burnout territory.
Sharing this experience pushes me to alert friends and colleagues to recognise consistent tiredness, shifts in mood over time, to encourage work breaks (a week or two may not even be enough) and to notice what’s happening inside yourself with your usual everyday life. It’s a journey only you can ride and smoothen out.
In order to be able to speed up, we must first slow down. 🙏
Living Consciously: https://zenhabits.net/wake-up-a-guide-to-living-your-life-consciously/
10 Ways To Be Mindful At Work: https://www.mindful.org/10-ways-mindful-work/
Burnout treatment and prevention: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm
Affirmation Babe: https://affirmationbabe.com/