Written by Arlenea Halyda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Let me paint you a picture.
You just came from work. The sun hadn’t come down yet, but you immediately plopped down in your bed, feeling dejected. A sense of suffocation and the desire to disappear into thin air was overwhelming. All you wanted to do was stare at the ceiling, but you knew you still got work to do—so you opened your laptop, ready to complete whatever task you had in front of you. But instead of being productive like you wanted, all you could do was stare at your laptop screen. A memory of your past self suddenly resurfaces, and as you got reminded of how excited and passionate you once were for this job, you felt dread and guilt. You wondered, what happened to that person? Where did your life start to feel grey and lifeless? Certainly, this wasn’t the future younger-you envisioned.
Does the scenario above sound familiar? If yes, then you’ve probably been through burnout. But what does burnout mean, and why does it take such a toll on our mental state?
Burnout is a form of physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive stress and pressure, leaving you feeling swamped and fatigued. This occurrence was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, which was further categorized as energy depletion and increased negativity and mental distance from one’s job.
What makes burnout so dangerous is that oftentimes, it comes quietly, slowly creeping into you as you’re at the height of your productivity. It’s a slippery slope you could unknowingly fall into, without realizing that there’s a danger ahead. You might even mistake it as a simple ‘I’m just a bit tired,’ or ‘I currently have no motivation, but it’ll probably be fine soon.’ Then all at once, without warning, boom—you found yourself deep in the trench of burnout, detached from the world, with all your energy drained and your will to work singed away.
You want to get out, but how? The more you try, the deeper you fall. Even as you try to fight it, in a fit of frenzy, and force yourself to relentlessly work, work, work, until you feel somewhat like the person you were before this wave of burnout hits, somehow you still can’t break free. Your pile of work becomes your worst enemy, even if it was something you once enjoyed. Days passed, and you can feel yourself losing hope of ever making any progress at all. Not only does your mind turn cynical and resentful, but it seems your body has its way to riot as well; it turns sick, refuses to sleep, and gives you a random ache out of nowhere.
So, then what? With no end in sight, should you just lay there in your burnout hole forever, waiting for it to magically lower itself? But with the demanding responsibility of life, there’s no way you can wait until who knows how long for some miracle to happen, right?
Luckily, you don’t really need magic or a miracle to recover from a burnout period. You only need yourself and the willingness to get better!
Here are a few things you could practice to recover from burnout.
Take a Break
It sounds so simple, yet so hard to do in this fast-paced world of ours. But when you’ve run miles upon miles that your legs are about to give out, rather than forcing yourself and watching your legs inevitably fall off, the best thing you could do is take a moment to stop and breathe.
Taking one or two consecutive days of break can do wonders! This means, not doing anything remotely close to working or being ‘productive’. Take the time to indulge in your hobbies, or even find new ones! You may also use this time to reconnect with the people you love and have wholesome conversations that aren’t work-related. Or, if you don’t feel like doing any activity or don’t have the social juice to socialize, you can simply just be. Sit in silence with yourself, curl up in your bed for hours, cry on the floor as a catharsis… Whatever floats your boat!
A brief moment of calmness and peace in the midst of a busy life can go a long way. And I promise you, after that well-needed and deserved break, you’ll run faster than you did before. Your mind and body will thank you.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is: before we are employees, or business owners, or students, we’re human first. You’re a person with a life that’s not meant to be spent in front of your laptop all day, with limited time and capability—not a machine (hey, even machines need breaks every once in a while, or they’ll malfunction!)
When you’re so used to working or studying all day, it’s understandable if you feel guilty for taking breaks or not being as productive as you used to. But it’s exactly why you need to give yourself room to breathe, rest your weary bones, and pat yourself on the back for making it this far! After all, you’re doing the best that you can, with the strengths and resources that you have. That in itself is such a remarkable thing to do. Remember, your value as a person isn’t measured by your productivity!
It’s worthy to note, however, that burnout won’t go away overnight (I’m sorry!). Healing from a burnout period, in most cases, is progress that you have to endure for quite some time. But slowly and surely, you’ll get out of your burnout—and once you do, you’ll come back stronger than ever. Take care!
Who.int. 2019. Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases> [Accessed 12 October 2021].
Burnout: Symptoms and Signs. WebMD. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/burnout-symptoms-signs.
Burnout Prevention and Treatment – HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide.org. (2020). Retrieved 13 October 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm#.