The Focus On You

Self-Care Is A Lifestyle

 How To Recognize Burnout vs. Depression

“Ugh work is so depressing.”

“OMG I’m so burnt out on school.”

I’m sure you’ve heard these phrases before. I think most people have used the terms “burnout” and “depression” when they’re describing how tired they are. Since I cringe when diagnoses are used loosely, I want to discuss the difference between the two.

We know that depression doesn’t discriminate but burnout can have a profound effect on certain populations of people.

Who is likely to be affected by burnout?
  • Caregivers
  • Anyone with a job (seriously)
  • Helping professions (therapists, social workers, nurses, etc.)
  • Stay at home parents
  • Entrepeneurs
  • Creatives
  • First responders
  • Medical professionals
  • College students
  • Activists
Who is likely to be affected by depression?
  • Any human.

Although many of the signs of depression can mimic burnout, this ailment is directly linked to our professional or identifying roles. Anti-depressants can’t treat burnout. Depression is a serious diagnosis made by a licensed professional and can be life altering. It’s not an adjective to describe why you’re overworked or exhausted.

Many times burnout is driven by a person’s passion or obligation to someone else. Click To Tweet In young professionals, burnout is likely to occur when they walk in with 150% passion and drive, and their expectations are not met.

What are some of the signs of a person being burned out?

Tunnel vision: People who are burned out from their profession start to get narrow sighted. They may have forgotten why they are in this profession or why they are in school. They are also likely to forget what they’re grateful for. Tunnel vision causes someone to forget the compliment last week or the stellar deal they landed last month. The weight of their routine and daily stressors cause cynicism.

Overcomplaining: Unfortunately, burnout effects bleed into all areas of someone’s life. If they’re burned out at work, they’ll gripe about it at home, and vice versa. When someone starts complaining about everything, everywhere, it is usually a sign that they’re struggling somewhere in their schedule. This is harmful for helping professionals because a foul attitude affects how clients or patients are treated. As a helping professional I can’t roll my eyes or gripe out loud. I have learned to check that behavior and it’s usually a sign I need to adjust my schedule or increase my self-care.

Are You Ok?: If people you associate with start asking you this, beware. You’re definitely on the road to exhaustion. It may be wise to ask the person what differences they notice in you. If they can give helpful feedback, maybe they notice that you’re not eating, you’re cursing more, showing up late or you have snappy remarks. If you notice your “tells” then it won’t take a breakdown or one-on-one with the boss to make you snap out of your behavior.

Making More Mistakes: People who are burned out in their roles will put less effort into their usual tasks. Bosses will skip the agenda for meetings, parents will cook less meals, caregivers may neglect cleaning duties, etc. Studies have even shown that people with signs of burnout show different brain activity when doing normal tasks. Can you afford to make mistakes in your line of work because you’re not addressing your burnout?

How to deal?
  1. For caregivers in particular, find a way to delegate some responsibility or ask for respite. You need a break in your routine and even a few hours can make a difference. Find a way to change the routine with the person you care for. Watch a movie together, bring in exotic cuisine, rearrange pictures or furniture. Shake things up!

  2. If your burnout is work or school related, you could also benefit from a change of routine and scenery. Clean up the clutter in your work area, beautify your environment, add visual elements that promote peace, study in a new location, study at a different time of day, etc. The answer isn’t to quit your job or school. You have to make the time you spend manageable and fit it to your needs. And please assess whether you have vacation or sick time that is unused. I have been overwhelmed/burned out by my counseling schedule and had to plead to a former employer for an office day to catch up on paperwork. It may sound crazy but I actually looked forward to a day alone in my office, with some music and a schedule that allowed me to kill my stack of paperwork.

  3. Readjust your goals or projects. Maybe your burnout is due to poor boundaries. Are you taking on too much just to please someone? Did you take on a full course load at school just to prove to your family that you could handle it? For the sake of your mental health, you should reassess how much you’re willing to take on. Don’t martyr yourself when no one is going to notice or be supportive of your struggle.

Seriously, routines can kill us. Exhaustion and stress can lead us to the emergency room. No one sees what we go through except us. This means that no one knows what we need but us. Click To Tweet Unfortunately, it took being diagnosed with fibromyalgia to slow me down. And now I have no choice but to ask for help and to honor what my body needs. No one can heal me but me. And everyone deserves a break.

“Without self-correction we cannot thrive.”

 

 

 

How To Shift From Extremes To Sufficiency

This isn’t going to be a post about work/life balance.

This post will ask you to look at where you may be “off. “

Uncentered.
Living in extremes.
Living in a deficit. 

Let’s analyze a few things first.

I want you to imagine that you are trying to maintain your lifestyle, routine and responsibilities by standing on one leg. How hard would it be to manage your life PLUS self-care if you’re worried about falling over? How tired would you be at the end of your day? Every day would be consumed with trying not to fall. After a few falls you may decide to just stay at home. You would jump out of the race and say “forget it.”

If you feel that you hit life’s speed bumps harder than other people, this may be why.

I have worked with clients who live in extremes. Follow along and see if you relate. Some people do TOO MUCH for others. They always say yes, when they mean no. They get burnt out on helping others and feel taken advantage of. Maybe you set your standards too high and when they can’t be met, you take it personally. You jump into a relationship or job at 110 mph when no one asked you to. Yes, it’s your own fault if you start too strong, but maturity means that you can readjust the standards and keep pushing forward.

It’s possible to be doing TOO much at work. Depending on your career, its advisable to take a seat for a little while. Trying to impress others all the time can be draining. This is a case of the extremes.

Another extreme is being so burnt out that you shut down from life completely. You isolate, let phone calls go to voicemail and work hard at avoiding personal contact. In your head you feel its justified, especially if you’re like the person above who is burnt out. On the outside we can all see that its dangerous. I’m not saying that a weekend hibernation is dangerous but if you slow down to 25 mph every weekend and then have to speed up to 90 mph to catch up again, that’s a problem.

Living in extremes is dangerous. We never know what tomorrow brings. I’m not saying that we need to live our lives idly and wait for crises. If your lifestyle leaves you standing on one leg, what would it look like to walk on both legs and be more “balanced?”

Is the middle ground considered “sufficiency?” It’s not the extremes of survival or abundance. It’s being balanced, humble and living sufficiently.

How do you get there?

  • Look at your weekly or daily schedule and toss a few items.

  • What activities or rituals do you NEED AND WANT in your life? Have you neglected your health? Do you want to miss your friends or family? Fit them in. 

  • Who is draining you of energy? Fix that. Now. Who can help?

  • Has spirituality taken a back seat in your life? How easy would it be to make that a priority again? Remember that spirituality doesn’t always mean attending a place of worship. Connecting with your spirit could mean disconnecting from spiritual vampires or feeding your thoughts with nourishing writings, messages or sounds. How could you make that happen?

  • Start your morning with a gratitude practice (morning prayer, journaling, mindful exercise, grateful social media posts). Stop spending your morning complaining. You’re tired. We get it.

After reading “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod, I learned how changing one’s morning routine is about more than waking up early. As a busy entrepeneur, speaker and author, he doesn’t start his day at 110 mph. He spends his mornings with a few moments of silence, repeating helpful affirmations, visualizing what he wants to attain, exercising and reading. This may sound like a whole day’s worth of activities but he re-energizes his day by “boosting his potential” with these activities. Plus, he describes how he can combine silence, exercise and affirmations all within one activity- running.

Although the lessons from the book and the ideas mentioned above may feel like you’re doing “more”, it’s wise to pull out what’s NOT working.  How can you replace it with events, thoughts, people and routines that plant both feet on the ground?

How can you start living a more “sufficient” life this week?

Book recommendation:

 

 

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