The Focus On You

Self-Care Is A Lifestyle

Category: Mental Health (page 1 of 13)

 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.”

 

 

 

Codependency: A Dysfunctional Love Story

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. 

A hypothetical story about two fictional characters to help illustrate the dangers of codependent relationships.

Characters:

Minnie – The Codependent  

Alicia – Minnie’s girlfriend

Minnie and Alicia have been in a monogamous relationship for 3 years. They met at a nightclub and instantly hit it off. Alicia gave a sob story over a few beers that night about her recent woes. Alicia and Minnie both happened to be fresh out of relationships and didn’t intend on hooking up with anyone that night.

Minnie fought with her better judgment and immediately started dating Alicia. (1st Red Flag). She admitted that she really needed time to heal from her last relationship and truly didn’t want to be alone. (2nd Red Flag). Minnie never really gave herself space between relationships to lick her wounds or adjust to being single. (#3).

Alicia was a bit of a hot mess when she started dating Minnie. Her finances were a wreck, she had been kicked out by her last 2 roommates and her parents were tired of her drama. Minnie felt compelled to “rescue” Alicia and figured she could help her get back on her feet. She had always been the more “stable” person in her relationships and thought she would be a good influence on her.

Their relationship was great for the 1st year and Alicia found a steady job as a barista near their apartment. Oh, did I forget to mention that Alicia moved in 2 months after they met? (#4).

Nevertheless, they forged a strong relationship, met each other’s parents and hung out with Alicia’s friends almost every weekend. Little did Minnie know that Alicia was horrible with budgeting. She attempted to hide calls from loan companies and still owed her old roommates for utility bills.

Minnie was starting to bury her own secrets as well. As she was helping Alicia rebuild her credit (and her life), Minnie’s credit card bills weren’t being paid on time. She was afraid to say “no” whenever Alicia asked for a loan or asked to cover their check at dinner. (#5) Minnie had a laundry list of complaints that she never talked about with her girlfriend. Alicia would throw guilt trips if Minnie said “maybe” to anything and never showed appreciation for all the times that Minnie helped her out. Minnie secretly wished that Alicia would get a better paying job to help with their debt. Plus, Minnie felt taken advantage of at work because everyone dropped their projects on her desk.

Minnie had so many needs and wishes that no one asked about. She wanted to visit her family this Christmas, go to the beach over the summer, cut back on hosting functions at their apartment and spend more time doing self-care. It felt like Alicia was running her whole life. When she thought of the alternative, being alone, she shook off her resentment (Huge Red Flag) and tucked her feelings deeper into her soul.

Alicia commented one time that Minnie didn’t seem her old “happy” self and the only time she communicated with her was through anger. Minnie admitted that the only way she could be heard was if she yelled. She didn’t have anyone to talk to because most of Minnie’s friends were dealing with their own drama and wouldn’t bother to listen.

As a matter of fact, Minnie realized she couldn’t really lean on anyone because she was considered the “rock.” (Red Flag). Heaven forbid if Minnie had a problem! She was the one who saved everyone else! (That’s a red flag too but I lost count).

Sound familiar???

So why is this considered “dangerous?”

Anytime someone loses a sense of self or loses their voice, it can easily spiral to a mental health crisis or crappy coping skills (Drinking, drugs, excessive spending, unhealthy eating behaviors, risky sexual patterns, etc). Supporting someone means that you shouldn’t suffer financially, emotionally, spiritually, legally or physically. Minnie appeared to be dragged down and wasn’t speaking up to set limits with her partner.

Open communication and respect are essential in any relationship – intimate partners, parents and children, siblings, work relationships. Taking advantage of someone isn’t a sign of respect.

Personally, in my work with addicts I have had clients like Alicia who were shocked to realize how they manipulated their partners. When they learned about codependent traits they wondered if their partner was with them for love or for “necessity.” Codependent people tend to be addicted to others. They have trouble living alone, staying single and tend to attract needy people. Codependency is a desire to be accepted, at the cost of burying your own voice or needs. Click To Tweet

I don’t want you leaving this post thinking that this hypothetical relationship is doomed. In fact, if Minnie was open to detaching from “rescuing” people, could stick to her boundaries and honor her needs, she could have a healthier relationship. Alicia would have to learn to save herself and be willing to compromise with Minnie’s needs.

Minnie’s codependence doesn’t end by leaving a relationship. She will carry those traits and patterns into all of her relationships if she doesn’t realize how to detach, learn self-acceptance and be consistent with her boundaries.

What other help is there for people who have codependent traits?

Professional therapy, Codependent Anonymous (CoDa) groups, Al-Anon (if your partner or family member has substance dependence), Boundary training and books.

One of the best authors and best books on this subject is Melody Beattie’s Codependency No More. I swear by it, recommend it to almost all of my clients and have only heard praise for her teachings.

 

Codependency may seem like a harmless addiction because most codependent people can’t imagine saying NO to others. The argument I hear is, “What’s wrong with helping people?”

My answer to them is always met with silence.

“So who’s helping you?”

Focus on you, learn to say no and save yourself for once.

 

 

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