If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, you may be suffering from burnout. When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care—let alone do something about your situation.
The unhappiness and detachment that burnout causes can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health. But burnout can be overcome. There are plenty of things you can do to regain your balance and start to feel positive and hopeful again.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
To deal with burnout, turn to other people
When you’re on the road to burnout, you can feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. There are positive steps you can take to get your life back into balance and overcome burnout. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.
Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress
Since the face and heart are wired together in the brain, talking face to face with a good listener can help to quickly calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors; they just have to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without being distracted or judging you.
Opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship.
Tips for combating burnout with positive relationships
Invest in your closest relationships, such as those with your partner, children or friends. Try to put aside what’s burning you out and make the time you spend with loved ones positive and enjoyable.
Try to be more sociable with your coworkers. Developing friendships with people you work with can help buffer you from job burnout. When you take a break, for example, instead of directing your attention to your smart phone, try engaging your colleagues. Or schedule social events together after work. Just remember to avoid hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain.
Connect with a cause or a community group that is personally meaningful to you. Joining a religious, social, or support group can give you a place to talk to like-minded people about how to deal with daily stress — and to make new friends. If your line of work has a professional association, you can attend meetings and interact with others coping with the same workplace demands.
If you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and expand your social network.
The power of giving
Being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure and can help to significantly reduce stress as well as broaden your social circle.
While it’s important not to take on too much when you’re facing burnout, helping others doesn’t have to involve a lot of time or effort. Even small things like a kind word or friendly smile can help lower stress—for you and the other person.