You know that feeling you sometimes get after doing work or an activity, kind of like you’re a balloon being deflated of air? You just want people to leave you alone, and all you want to do is rest and recharge? That’s a feeling of burnout, something that we’re all probably familiar with.
Coming back to your lectures at abhorrently early hours of the day, having to actually pay attention to the contents of a live lecture (maybe several in a row), and having to engage in a lot of different social interactions with different people, are all situations that are going to be quite draining for most of us. Unfortunately, we’re also quite likely to feel burnt out as we get back into the groove of things.
According to Maslach and Jackson (1981), the two key aspects to burnout are emotional exhaustion, and the development of a cynical attitude (or depersonalisation of others). So, burnout starts with the depletion of your emotional resources, followed by the development of a cynical attitude and detachment from others around you.
Michael Leiter (1993) posited that detachment, or cynicism, occurs after emotional exhaustion as a way of coping with the low levels of emotional resources.
Ask yourself: do you feel used up at the end of the day? Do you feel fatigued in the morning, knowing that you have to face another day working? Do you find yourself starting to see and treat others as impersonal objects when you’re emotionally drained?
These two symptoms, in turn, produce a reduced feeling of accomplishment, as it disrupts how effective someone can be in doing work. As your sense of accomplishments and how capable or competent you feel to complete tasks is lowered, burnout occurs.
Why is this important? Well, burnout applies a lot to your study and work lives. And of course, when you’re burnt out after a long day, you’re not going to be having much fun afterwards. In fact, these negative feelings you get from burnout will seep into other aspects of your life, like your social relationships.
So, while work engagement (involving feelings of vigour for, dedication to, and absorption in your work) is associated with better employee wellbeing, burnout is associated with poorer wellbeing and physical health.
That’s particularly important for those of you who work in the hospitality or retail industries, because you’re constantly faced with customers who are demanding things from you, but you’re required to maintain that service smile and positive attitude. This is an environment that is particularly prone to fostering burnout since you’re doing emotional labour.
The more burnout you experience, the more dissatisfaction you may feel in relation to opportunities for growth and development in the work that you do, and you may feel more desire to leave your place of work.
Becoming aware that burnout is a problem for you is the first step to addressing it. If you’re constantly feeling emotionally drained, detached and uncaring about others, and like you’re not competent enough, it’s time to stop doing the things that make you feel that way. However, that’s easier said than done.
If you’re able to, when you feel like you’re starting to wear out your emotional capacities, take a break. Do something to take your mind off of what you were doing before. Take a nap, get some fresh air, eat some chocolate, and have a chat with someone who makes you laugh easily.
Having good social groups to fall back on is extremely beneficial. Vent your feelings to people who you know are good listeners, and find good ways for physiological release for you. That means finding ways to relax (like taking a long bath), exercising, watching a comedy, or doing whatever you like to do to blow off steam.
It’s time to live your best life, so cut ties with the negativity going on in your life.
For further reading:
Brugha, T. (Ed.). (1995). Social Support and Psychiatric Disorder: Research
Findings and Guidelines for Clinical Practice (Studies in Social and Community Psychiatry).
Fagin, L., Carson, J., Leary, J., De Villiers, N., Bartlett, H., O’Malley, P., West, M.,
Mcelfatrick, S., & Brown, D. (1996). Stress, coping and burnout in mental health nurses: Findings from three research studies.
Leiter, M. P. (1993). Burnout as developmental process: Consideration of models.
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout.
Stoeber, J., & Damian, L. E. (2016). Perfectionism in employees: Work engagement,
workaholism, and burnout.