Preventing, Dealing with, and Growing from Burnout
By Bea Macalalag
Succeeding World War II, the post-war era persuaded numerous global leaders to conscientiously restore individuals, in all their emotional and psychological complexity (Hoffarth, 2016). Powerful leaders wanted to reinvent the economic scene, rising above outdated, work-related views and instead, making way for self-actualizing, management ideas. In rebuilding the business realm, leaders greatly emphasized the importance of employees developing deeper, more personal connections with their work. This type of emotional investment brought about a new underlying implication — burnout.
So, in 1974, Herbert Freudenberger, a German-born American psychoanalyst, introduced the term, “burnout” to describe gradual emotional depletion, loss of motivation, and reduced commitment. (Freudenberger, 1974). He said that burnout affected the “dedicated and committed,” those who “feel a pressure from within to work and help… and a pressure from the outside to give.” Today, the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) by the World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes burnout with three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
Preventing Burnout: Mindsets to Avoid.
Tolerating unhealthy mentalities increases your susceptibility to burnout. Some of these mindsets to avoid include:
1. Equating personal value to productivity levels
Some people often get excessively engrossed in measuring how much they are able to accomplish because it helps them feel fulfilled. The further they are consumed by quantifying their productivity, the less likely they are to stop. Remember that your worth is not measured by your achievements, and take time to be proud of yourself.
2. Fear of showing personal needs and emotions
When people rely on you for leadership and quality work, the pressure to perform well may sometimes feel incessant and overwhelming. You might forget that you can rely on others as well. Remember that you are human and are allowed to show it.
3. Neglecting health boundaries
Being too fixated on achieving work can cloud one’s sense of rationality and cause them to disregard other aspects of life. Do not lose touch with what keeps you healthy and moving forward; prioritize your own needs.
Dealing with Burnout: To-do During.
When it has reached a point of no return, burnout can sometimes be inevitable. What should you do when you realize that you are burnt out?
1. Take a step back.
Put some distance between you and what caused your exhaustion. Give yourself enough space to collect your thoughts and emotions, then take the time to find your rhythm again.
2. Say yes to your mind’s desires.
Determine what your brain needs in order for you to rest thoroughly. Acknowledge that you deserve care from yourself, and say yes to what will help your health at that moment.
3. Seek support.
If you feel the need for it, directly ask for help from people who will support you in the right ways. Allow yourself to share your burdens, and lean on the people you trust who will help you.
Beyond Burnout: Lessons to Learn.
After experiencing burnout, here are some points to help you ponder and reflect on what you felt:
1. Give up what seems like an “opportunity.”
Think about what caused your stress and exhaustion. Were you motivated by these things before? Were you pursuing those things for the right reasons? Clearly delineate what you actually care about, so next time, you avoid throwing yourself into things that might burn you out.
2. Keep your expectations realistically in check.
Think about everything that led up to feeling burnt out. Were you misleading yourself with excessively optimistic goals? Were you being too ambitious? Try not to blind yourself with romanticized views of your work life or overly idealistic perceptions of progress.
3. Reflect and take action.
Think about why you lost motivation and energy. Is your work helping you feel both professional and personal fulfillment? Is your work rooted in a deeper sense of purpose? Reflect, and make space in your life for what is actually meaningful to you.
Burnout will always be hard. Preventing, handling, and growing from it is no easy feat and will require numerous difficult conversations with yourself. Nonetheless, dealing with it properly is of utmost importance. As Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Hoffarth, M. (2016). Executive Burnout. Business History Review, 90(4), 701–708. doi:10.1017/S0007680517000046
Pigni, A. (2016). The Idealist’s Survival Kit: 75 Simple Steps to Avoid Burnout. Parallax Press.
World Health Organization. (2019). Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases
Freudenberger, H. (1974). Staff Burn-Out. Journal of Social Issues, 30(1), 159–165. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1974.tb00706.x
About the Author
Bea Macalalag is currently a twelfth-grade student at De La Salle University Manila, specializing in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She began in KadaKareer as a research intern. Other than inclusive education, she is also passionate about service leadership, mental health, and environmental sustainability.