Why Some People Get Burned Out and Others Don’t
We all have heard the dreaded phrase—burnout. And whether or not we’d like to admit it, we have all felt its effect.
In most dictionaries, burnout is defined as a physical or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress or overworking.
In some places, they even refer to it as a collapse.
Burnout is real, and ultimately a productivity and joy killer. But do we have a choice in it?
How do we meet deadlines, accomplish goals, win the client, and still find time for a social life without getting burned out?
In my personal and professional opinion—it comes back to EQ.
As I have stated in other articles, there are five main traits of people with a high EQ (or strong emotional intelligence).
One of those traits is self-regulation. That is where I want to camp out for a bit.
People with a high EQ understand that they can manage what is going on internally.
Too often, when talking about burnout, the emphasis is placed on what is happening around us. I want to emphasize the importance of how we respond to the stress.
It isn’t necessarily the amount of work or stress in your life that is causing burnout. It is how you are reacting to that amount of work and stress.
People who are highly self-regulated can endure an incredibly large workload. That is because they have learned the skill of resilience.
Other people, when large or difficult workloads come their way—simply become overwhelmed. They focus on the external circumstances and shut down.
EQ or emotional intelligence would have us take our eyes off the outward circumstances and look at our internal responses.
Ask yourself the following questions.
Am I self-regulating my emotions and thought life in order to manage what is going on around me?
Am I in sync with what is going on internally as it relates to my outward life?
When we are disconnected or out of sync with various areas of our lives, we end up with low energy, low enthusiasm, and low confidence.
This, in turn, lowers our resiliency towards stress and workload. And we can’t build our resiliency if we don’t know how to connect with and regulate what is going on internally with our thoughts and emotions.
It is a vicious cycle.
So what do we do? The first thing is to assess your current level of burnout.
How do you know if you are burned out? Here is a list of 10 possible signs.
It is important to look at the fruit of burnout and recognize that there are fluctuating degrees in each symptom. Just because you are not at a level 10, doesn’t mean burnout is not affecting you.
- You may experience a chronic type of fatigue or physical exhaustion.
- You have trouble sleeping. You may also have some degree of insomnia.
- Forgetfulness becomes more of an issue and you may have a harder time concentrating.
- Your immune system seems weaker. You find yourself getting sick more often.
- Your appetite changes. You may lose your appetite altogether.
- You find it harder to control your temper or have increased outbursts of anger.
- You feel more anxious. You may even feel depressed or overwhelmed by life.
- The things you used to enjoy, you don’t enjoy anymore.
- Your pessimism and cynicism increase.
- You feel detached from the things around you.
Once you determine that you are burned out—it is time to assess where this burn out is coming from.
Now again, it is important when assessing our sources of burn out that we are cognizant of the fact that the things going on inside of us have a profound effect on our lives.
We cannot limit burnout to just the things that are happening around us.
For example, if you have been delegated a large amount of responsibility, but have little control—you will be susceptible to burn out.
In jobs where you feel under appreciated—you will be susceptible to burn out.
If you don’t have coworkers that affirm you, or you feel as though you are “on your own” in work delegation—you will be susceptible to burn out.
If you are out of sync at a values level, or you are around people who don’t appreciate what you appreciate—you will be susceptible to burn out.
If you don’t feel like what you are doing is important, or you are not finding meaning in your work—you will be susceptible to burn out.
It is easy in situations like this to start labeling things as “unfair.” You don’t have control of your salary—it’s unfair. You don’t have control of how work assignments come to you—it’s unfair. You are not being treated as you deserve by your superiors—it’s unfair.
Watch out for the way you respond to your work situation. Although the above internal dialogue may be understandable, it is not helpful in building resiliency or guarding against burnout.
Is there a way to prevent burn out?
People may joke that they know an easy way to avoid or treat burn out. Simply get a new job, or boss, or spouse, or neighbor, in-laws, or coworkers.
Well, that is one way to approach it.
A better way to deal with the issue of burn out is to build your resiliency. Building resiliency will give you the ability to withstand the challenges that come against you.
There is a really good book by Tim Ferriss entitled, Tools of Titans.
In it, he interviews people who are world-class performers, icons, billionaires, and noteworthy influencers. They are all from different facets of life, but what fascinates me is that almost 75 percent of them start their day with a quiet time.
It is a time where they quiet themselves and ask questions like, What is really important to me? How am I doing on the inside?
They are going quiet and they are looking at their life. Really looking at it.
They may sit with a piece of paper nearby, ready to write down inspiring thoughts or tasks—but that is not the focus. The focus of their time is assessing how they are doing internally.
Not only is this fascinating—quiet times are a key to building resiliency.
Another helpful way to prevent burnout is to look at how you organize the things in your life. Quiet times can help slot out the time you need to better organize your day.
What’s happening with technology—email and texts, makes the possible distractions you face always at hand’s length. Make sure you are not only responding to the urgent things but prioritizing the important ones.
Learning how to become organized and committing your time to what you have prioritized is key. Turn the phone off for a minute and recenter.
Another key to preventing burnout is reflecting on what is meaningful in your life. If you don’t feel that your work is meaningful—how can you add meaning to other areas?
Even when your work is not meaningful, there are ways to focus on the other meaningful things in your life. If your job is providing the finances to do the things in your life that you find meaningful—focus on those things.
Exercise and eating right is also a great way to minimize the stress in your life.
Again, increasing resiliency and self-regulation are the keys to managing burnout.
Learning how to better manage the stress that comes with your career and the challenges of life doesn’t happen overnight—but it can happen.
Participating in activities that replenish your energy and joy are essential to ward off burnout.
Take the time to shift your gaze from the outside circumstances and turn inward. Silence the distractions and ask yourself the deeper questions. Take the time to prioritize.
These are just a few insights that will help you navigate those critical conversations in your life and career, but there’s so much more.
There are powerful tools that can really help you become more effective, and we at Ember Learning are here to help. With over 25 years of professional consulting in top businesses around the country, we want to share some of our top insights with you.
Download our FREE PDF “15 Ways to Turn Hard Conversations into Win-Win Dialogue” now!