Everybody goes through bad spells or slumps – days or even weeks of feeling down, demotivated and sometimes even a little depressed. But what happens when those feelings will not disappear?
Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, which leaves you feeling empty, permanently exhausted, and unable to cope with life’s demands. Like most things in life, burnout is not one size fits all – there are different types, including job burnout (which the World Health Organization includes in its International Classification of Diseases), caregiver burnout, and parental burnout, which has become more prominent over the last year.
Spotting the symptoms
Regardless of the type of burnout experienced, the symptoms are generally the same. Burnout may manifest physically in the form of fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, a disturbed sleep cycle, muscle tension, and even increased susceptibility to colds and flu.
However, there are also several psychological symptoms. These include:
- Detachment or emotional numbness
- Low mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of creativity
- Negative attitude
- Reduced productivity
- Loss of purpose
- Irritability, anger, and frustration
Ultimately, burnout can have far-reaching consequences on your quality of life. It can negatively affect productivity (at work or at home), keep you from enjoying hobbies and time with family, and even increase your risk for certain diseases, depression, and even suicide.
Ten tips for recovery
Mentally and physically, you can handle feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and overextended for only so long. If you are experiencing signs of burnout, here are some tips to help you recover and regain control:
- Take care of yourself first: reaching a point of burnout can bring up feelings of failure and a loss of purpose or direction, so it is vital to be gentle and understanding with yourself. Know that nobody expects you to be perfect and that it is okay to need and take a break.
Read more: Parental self-care
- Lower your expectations: it is easy to put pressure on yourself to try and tick everything off your to-do list during the day, especially when you are homeschooling. You need to realise that it is okay if you did not get to every activity, do every load of laundry, and reply to every email. It is also okay if your children had cereal for dinner.
- Share the load: you cannot do everything yourself, so do not be afraid to ask others – family, friends and even your children – for help. If possible, assign chores to your partner and children, and accept your friend’s offer to watch your kids while you go for a walk or take a nap.
- Laugh a little: laughter and play reduce stress, so goof around with your children, tell silly jokes, or watch a funny film. It will help both you and your children feel connected and less stressed.
- Stop multitasking: research has shown that doing too many things at once – e.g. making dinner while talking on the phone and mentally planning tomorrow’s homeschool schedule – actually makes you less productive. So, focus on one thing at a time.
- Get some air: if possible, get out of your house every day. All you need is to remove yourself from whatever is happening at home, so take a few laps around the block. Getting some fresh air (and exercise) will leave you feeling calmer and more positive.
- Take back control: burnout can make you feel as if your life is rushing past you and you cannot keep up. You can take back control by prioritising things – while some things must get done now, others can wait until you have more time and energy. Decide which tasks do not need immediate attention and set them aside.
- Express gratitude: whether you keep a journal or share what you are thankful for around the dinner table each night, expressing gratitude can help you gain perspective and get through tough times.
- Do a digital detox: technology makes us more accessible, which can be wonderful yet demanding. Try taking some time off from stressors such as phones and laptops, where there is the constant need to keep up with emails and social media.
- Speak to someone: nobody experiences burnout the same way. If you feel like your symptoms are out of control, speak to someone who can offer professional guidance by helping you identify causes, explore possible coping methods, and navigate any challenges contributing to burnout.