Consider this - you are a machine. An amalgamation of different parts, tightened by screws, nuts and bolts, kept running smoothly by a fresh coat of lubricant applied first thing in the morning. You run all day, constantly working. At some point of the day, your gears start feeling rugged. The internal friction overpowers the coat of lubricant. The resultant heat makes it impossible to run anymore. In the event that you’re still forced to run, the heat eventually creates enough friction to jam your gears completely. The damage remains permanent. No amount of lubricant or repair work can undo it.
Sounds familiar? That’s because it most likely is.
Our brain and body can only handle feeling overworked and overwhelmed for so long. If you consistently experience high levels of stress without taking steps to manage or reduce it, exhaustion eventually takes over — leaving you emotionally and physically burned out.
The term “burnout” stands for literally what it means here - something perishing due to a constant burn. A fire that completely ravages an object, albeit slowly. Human exhaustion is a perennial example of a burnout. When we take stress in our daily lives, it starts leaking into the various aspects of that daily routine. It affects our general functioning and disrupts any sort of rhythm we may have formed in said routine. As mentioned above, exhaustion leaves you completely sapped of energy, and while people may think of it as a purely physical phenomenon, the mental and emotional aspects of it tend to run unnoticed.
Since burnout happens gradually, you might not notice symptoms immediately. But once it takes hold, it can affect your ability to function across all aspects of life. W.H.O. recognizes ‘burnout’ as an official syndrome stemming from chronic workplace stress. Our always-on capitalist culture simply isn’t working, and it’s taking a toll on people’s mental health across all industries.
There lie a number of factors that come together to lead to eventual burnout. Stress, exhaustion, a lack of constructiveness, peer pressure, professional responsibilities, so on and so forth. We might think of these as individual demons, but the fact of the matter is this - they all when in tandem, push a human being to his/her absolute tipping point. For this exact reason, finding the necessary help before you reach a dead-end is immensely necessary.
Exhaustion is a key factor of burnout. It feels extremely stressful and taxing to be constantly running on empty. This is why it’s so crucial to be able to recognize when we’re nearing emotional exhaustion, so we can work toward a solution and prevent hitting a point of no return.
So here are a few ways to identify the signs and to deal with burnout.
Written by Rushil Mullick With inputs from Neha Tiwari, Clinical Psychologist