Burnout is a normal state of physical, emotional, and mental depletion that results from prolonged stress. It can result in a lack of motivation, reduced productivity, low self-esteem, exhaustion, and illness.
We’re working longer hours, take fewer vacation days, and retiring later than ever before. We’re trying to manage rising costs against stagnant wages. Many of us are feeling unsupported, whether it be at home, in the workplace, or from our politicians. Our kids are juggling more intense demands at school and on the playing field. Cyberspace has added a new level of FOMO, bullying, and envy that we’ve never seen before.
Stress can lead to burnout, when the conflict between our needs and the demands upon us simply becomes too much to bear. It’s important to note that one doesn’t have to have a tendency towards depression to experience burnout. When disappointment or dissatisfaction prevails, it can simply wear a person down.
10 Ways to Help Someone Cope with Burnout
If you have a friend or family member who is experiencing burnout symptoms, here’s what you can do to help:
Consider what your friend truly needs.
If you know what makes your friend tick, go with that. Burnout is an erosion of motivation. If your friend is emotionally exhausted, help him or her unwind and relax. If your friend has bottled up energy, do activities that might help to release some of that energy.
Give them strength.
People who are burned out may blame themselves of their current situation. In fact, being burned out can actually reduce someone’s ability to recognize burnout. Don’t wait to help until burnout symptoms include signs of an emotional breakdown. Support your friend now. Let your friend know that exhaustion and weakness are two separate emotions.
We humans are pretty good at recognizing fakes. In the workplace, for example, managers can try various psychological techniques to motivate employees. However, those techniques may backfire if they aren’t authentic. People are perceptive, and can often spot self-serving motives from a mile away. Assume that if you aren’t being real with your friend, he or she may see it too.
It should come as no surprise if your friend does not want to open up. It’s common for people dealing with burnout to stay quiet for fear of being judged negatively. Provide a safe space. Let your friend know that you understand, and that his or her wellbeing is your primary concern.
Encourage your friend to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Mental or emotional burnout can weaken the body, making us more vulnerable to illness. The connection is so evident that burnout has been clearly linked to obesity, insomnia, anxiety, depression, immune disorders, and even coronary heart disease. Though your friend may want to lay on the sofa and binge-watch Homeland while drowning in comfort foods, this is an
It’s no coincidence that we get tired when we are depressed. As we’ve already mentioned, burnout can take its toll both mentally and physically. Yet research shows that sleep, even a short nap, can improve information processing and therefore generate more tolerance for the tasks that could be leading to burnout. Your friend may need more sleep during this time period in order to reboot his or her mind and body.
Opt for good, not perfect.
Perfectionism can be both a blessing and a curse. It can actually hinder success, which then may lead to burnout. People who live in a constant state of fear of not measuring up to impossibly high standards could wind up with serious health problems. Point out to your friend that the bar may be set to an unrealistic standard. Without being condescending (in other words, no throwing in the old, “it’s the effort that counts,”) remind your friend that great is often more important than perfect.
Don’t dismiss your friend’s feelings.
Feeling anxious or pessimistic is a typical result of burnout. Even the most ambitious person could develop a cynical attitude due to brain changes from stress. So when your friend is having a moment, know that those feelings are not merely for your attention. Even if they seem out of character, acknowledge them as real.
Remember that burnout is contagious.
Take care of yourself while you are taking care of your friend. Studies have shown that one person’s burnout can rub off on others. Being with someone whose feelings of depletion are evident can increase your own stress hormone levels. Be mindful of this potential and check in with yourself too.
When people are exhausted from burnout they can have difficulties with their cognitive abilities. You may find that your friend is having trouble with paying attention or remembering simple things. Have patience during this time, as your friend could, quite literally, be coping with reduced brain function.
You are a good friend for noticing that someone you care about is experiencing burnout symptoms, and for wanting to help. Your compassion may be just what your friend needs right now to get through a difficult time.
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