A well-spent break, a continuing client, and fulfilling projects.
It was an eagerly awaited few days of taking a break from any assignments— a memorable vacation of trying new cuisines and visiting places never been to before.
Upon getting back, the client introduced additional requirements for completing tasks, making it a bit more challenging to deliver.
Still needing to prove my worth in the freelance world, coupled with perfectionist tendencies, I dove straight into the deep end.
I winged it for the first few days. Until one morning, I found myself battling the desire to stay in bed a little longer when it was time to get up. It then became a regular occurrence except on the weekends when I didn’t take on any tasks.
Moreover, sleep through the night was characterized by hours of mulling over things, sometimes insignificant, that would jolt me awake.
To exacerbate the situation, information that I once could process at the snap of a finger gradually started to take longer to decipher. Undertaking new assignments became taxing than something I would gain gratification from.
There was also the brain’s constant prodding to take a break that I would convince myself I didn’t need; after all, I was just from taking one. Not until someone pointed out that I was likely suffering from burnout that I paused to consider it.
Yes, it happens even to those who love what they do! After all, you are not a machine, yet they too break down once in a while.
Breaking It Down: What is Burnout?
It is a state in which one feels exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. Also referred to as the Burnout Syndrome, it primarily arises from exposure to excessive and continual stress.
For occupational burnout, the resulting exhaustion could precipitate from working long hours, lack of support or control over the work one does, among many other stressors.
It often creeps up to an individual without them realizing it.
A year later, the same tale. This time, I have flexible working hours, control over the tasks I take on, and I’m most excited about my everyday tasks. Then out of the blues, I can’t find the energy to do any of it.
There’s no excitement for the tasks in hand, even though they don’t require much effort to complete. I simply cannot get them done! Unless I exert myself more than I have in my reserves. Eyes checking the time, now and then, impatiently waiting to clock out.
The mind urges, “Forget about publishing this piece and take a break. You need it!” But I finally got one motivating reason to keep going on this journey. Just not the energy for it at this moment.
For the pounding to dull, I seek refuge in the image of a sunny horizon, the brush of a balmy, fresh breeze, and a barefoot leisurely walk on white, fine, and slightly warm sand.
Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout
- Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
Chronic fatigue marks the early stages of burnout. Most of the days, one feels tired, and their motivation to do what they were once passionate about dissipates.
As one progresses along the continuum, then comes the dread of what lies ahead. Anxiety kicks in, and one becomes bothered by little things.
Before you know it, sleep becomes minimal. Burnout can also take away your concentration and attention, which culminates in forgetfulness.
- Cynicism and Detachment
The feeling of frustration can turn one’s “glass half full” outlook on life into a “glass half empty” attitude: a pessimist.
You may also start dreading the company of other people—isolation— which can be difficult to discern if you are an introvert.
And then one starts detaching from everyone and everything.
In this state, one’s daily tasks become more of an ordeal that they are more than eager to ignore. Lacking the excitement they once had for the tasks at hand.
- Ineffectiveness and a sense of lack of accomplishment
In the name of commitment and determination, I keep nudging myself to complete at least one task each day. But it requires more than I have to execute any work-related tasks.
Everything seems to take more from me than what I may, in turn, get from engaging it—joy, excitement, or even a sense of accomplishment!
Irritability also arises from feeling ineffective. Frustrated over the inability to do things like you used to. To compound it all, one becomes less productive, which leads to poor performance.
The above signs signify to an individual the need to change one’s lifestyle. As they get more severe if left unchecked.
To be mindful of your mental state, continually assess the stresses you face each day. Try to alleviate, if not avoid them; and most important of all, listen to your instincts.
It’s until I listened that I realized I needed to pause and rejuvenate. Yes, I’m planning to take a long, deserved break— for the sake of my sanity and rejuvenation of the mind.