An image of notebooks, pens, coffee, and electronics on a wooden desk.

BURNOUT, AND HOW TO ESCAPE IT

The overwhelm at the end of the day sinks you into the earth, pushing you to that feeling which you hoped you wouldn’t feel again. It’s too much, maybe I can’t do it, maybe I really screwed it up today. You feel you did too little, and somehow too much.

Some days, we want to run towards the horizon line, never looking back. Towards, towards, something which we don’t quite know, but we’re sure that it’s there. We think, at least, that we want to run towards something, but really we are a child, sprinting away from the monster of our responsibilities. Like children, we are afraid, of something indescribable lurking, not under our bed, but somewhere in the recesses of our mind.

We go and go, through our daily activities, sometimes hasty phone calls, other times quick-fire emails to people who deserve more of our time. We are shocked when people don’t spend enough time on us. We recall the day of frowns, short tempers, that time we didn’t even get to contribute to the conversation. Meetings, coworkers, clients, customers. We don’t have to recall the news, it is delivered to us on a constant basis. The news refuses to lie dormant, for fear of no longer being relevant, and instead is forever present, sitting in our pockets, blasting from our television sets, interrupting us hourly on the radio.

Our minds are full of things which we need: that item we’re going to buy with the next paycheck, the movie we meant to watch a month ago, the notes we are supposed to write, the new societal standards to live up to. We think, if we can only eliminate a few of these aspects of frantic preoccupation, then can we take the road away from burnout, forever?

Perhaps not. After all, burnout is not simply the culmination of physical events and stressors mounting to an inevitable climax like a horrible tuneless orchestra. It’s something more complex, so difficult to explain that we avoid it instead and try to pass everything off as fine, as though fine is ever an indication of our best-lived moments.

Burnout, simply, is the result of setting too-few boundaries for yourself. It is the ultimate pain which comes from believing that giving your all, all of the time, is the way to succeed, the way to please others. Contrastingly, the way to success IS through boundaries. Strict boundaries on time, consumption, work, and personal life. Boundaries can be difficult to develop, but once in place they enable us to spend more positive time in our work and personal spaces. Boundaries allow us to step away from conversations which aren’t going anywhere, they allow us to recognise early when a work project schedule needs amendment. Most importantly, setting our own boundaries allows us to recognise others’ needs, their boundaries, and to respect ourselves in our work and personal relationships.

How often do you experience burnout? What boundaries do you need to set?

Featured image: Daria Obymaha via Pexels.

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