Burnout happens. Whatever we might say of the human grit and resilience, it happens.
Burnout happens to everyone. Men and women. Even children can have burnout because of the excessive social and academic demands they have to meet.
Burnout happens to happy people. And to sad people. To busy people and people who are unemployed. There isn’t one group of professionals who are affected by it. There isn’t a particular population subgroup that’s at risk for it alone. Sometimes it’s a state of mind that can make the body feel rundown and tired.
But burnout can look different for different people. It is also true that some people may be more astute at identifying an oncoming burnout. And some people may continue to work through a burnout, neglecting the need to reflect and assess, and then can run into problems with interpersonal relationships, their own physical health and mental well-being.
Identifying a burnout is important because living in a state of burnout can cause us to be less efficient, less productive and less present.
In my opinion identifying a burn out is easy. Acknowledging it is hard. For centuries burnout has been likened to failure. And no one wants to admit that they’re failing.
But imagine for a second that failure was expected. More than success, failure was expected. It was expected that you’d fail. This would change the whole approach to burnout, people!
If I came to you and said “you know I failed at that thing that was assigned to me” or ” I couldn’t see ten patients last night. Could only do eight”. Or “I think I’ll grab some take out on the way home because I’m too tired to cook”. Or ” I’m cutting back hours because I need to tutor my kid for English. He’s failing”. Or “I can’t practice medicine with kids. I just can’t”.
Imagine how a fellow human being’s admission of being a human took a little burden off of the perfection that you’ve come to expect of yourself. How you are hearing someone’s admission of being a regular human. How someone is saying “I can’t do that” and they have no shame in it.
This is one of the things, folks! When we take on something, there is a natural desire to excel at it, be successful and do it better than others, leave our mark, stamp it with our name. Humans have been told in so many words that leaving something midway is akin to failure. We’ve been told to take on every project with the same intensity and commitment. But have you ever wondered if everything is so important that we exhaust ourselves for it? Is home-cooked food just as important as spending time with family? Is a socially active life just as important as having a career and vice versa? Is everything number one? Who has it all?
Look for the things that aren’t so worthy of your presence or attendance. Don’t be afraid to prioritize. And when you have, don’t be afraid to say “I have to quit some of it because the other stuff is more important. I have to do a bad job at some of them so I can do a good job at the other important stuff. I can’t excel at all of it because then I’ll burn myself out and I can’t do that because when that happens my body and mind suffer”.