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Prone To Depression? Scientists Say It’s Due To Your Creativity

Prone To Depression? Scientists Say It’s Due To Your Creativity

Those of us who have experienced depression understand its loneliness, its breathtaking ability to make us feel as if we don’t belong or have no real direction. But science is showing us that there may be more to this frustration than meets the eye. Those with creative brains tend to experience the world in different ways than others.

Evidence is rising to connect creative minds with depression and other mental health issues, but not for the reasons you may think. Though the mad artist and the creative mind have often been associated with mental health problems, science is showing that creatives feel depression due to their brain’s interactions with their environment – not because of their work. Some creative types may feel they are unusually prone to depression, when really we are experiencing quite a natural reaction to the world around us.

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Creative brains work on a different level

According to neuroscientist and author of The Creative Brain Nancy Andreasen, less creative types tend to adapt quite quickly to situations and surroundings based on what they have been told by authoritative figures, while those with creative minds experience things quite differently:

“This flexibility permits them to perceive things in a fresh and novel way, which is an important basis for creativity. But it also means that their inner world is complex, ambiguous, and filled with shades of gray rather than black and white. It is a world filled with many questions and few easy answers. While less creative people quickly respond to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority — parents, teachers, pastors, rabbis, or priests — the creative person lives in a more fluid and nebulous world.”

We experience the world with a different viewpoint: we question, ponder, and analyze. This can, unfortunately, lead to feelings of isolation, social alienation, or depression because we are different, and maybe because we feel we are strange or weird. What might seem a ‘normal’ environment, for a creative type, can be stressful and introverted in our complicated approach to society.

We are not alone

Such feelings of isolation are understandable, and there are many people who feel this same way all over the world. We all need to find others like us in order to feel a true sense of belonging. In the same way that politicians would probably feel uncomfortable and somewhat distressed at a dance school, so too do our creative minds feel disillusioned when it comes to fitting in somewhere we don’t feel we belong. Without the right tools, and the right encouragement and support to aid us in understanding that our differences are what make us special, we can very much begin to give in to the throes of depression.

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Embracing your creativity

Andreasen says that there are a few things we should remember when it comes to our creative minds. We must acknowledge our gifts, our talents, and under no circumstance let them go to waste. We need to treasure our talents and nurture them, as if we are tending to a precious garden. If we block out our talents, we are blocking out our true selves, which can lead to severe depression.

We must also embrace our strangeness – because we will likely always seem odd to someone who is less original than we are. Being weird is far more interesting than being normal. And surround ourselves with our people!! Our creativity will flourish, not to mention the fact that we will be loved and supported for exactly who we are.

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Andreasen admits that it is far more likely for creative types to be prone to mental illness which comes from “a problem with filtering or gating the many stimuli that flow into the brain.” Some creatives tend to shy from human contact because of highly sensitive personalities. But by understanding and embracing our uniqueness, we are helping to gain some ground in the fight against depression.

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Last Updated on October 13, 2020

How to Spot a Burnout And Overcome It Fast

How to Spot a Burnout And Overcome It Fast

Burnout at work is an issue that most people who suffer from it, suffer unknowingly.

Have you ever felt that you can’t start an assignment, have an immense urge to Netflix binge, or couldn’t get yourself to wake up on time even though you have a lot on your plate? The cause for these might be burnout.

According to Deloitte’s report, “many companies may not be doing enough to minimize burnout.” This is to say that the responsibility is not only on the employee. According to that report, nearly 70 percent of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and they definitely should.[1]

Too many companies don’t invest enough in creating a positive environment. One out of five (21%) said that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout. It is the culture, not the fancy well-being programs that would probably do the best work.

This is a significant problem for individuals and companies, and it’s also an issue on a macro level. A Stanford University research found that more than 120,000 deaths per year, and approximately 5%–8% of annual healthcare costs, are associated with the way U.S. companies manage their workforces.[2]

It is both the employee and the employer’s responsibility—and the latter can certainly take more responsibility.

In this article, I’ll guide you on how to know if you suffer from burnout and, more importantly, what you can do about it.

Who Are Prone to Burning Out?

For starters, it is a good thing to know that you’re in good company. According to a Gallup poll, 23% (of 7,500 surveyed) expressed burnout more often than not. Additionally, 44% felt it sometimes. Nearly 50% of social entrepreneurs who attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018 reported having struggled with burnout and depression at some point.[3]

According to Statista (2017), 13% of adults reported having problems unwinding in the evenings and weekends. According to a Deloitte survey (consisting of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees), 77% of respondents said that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job.[4]

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Burnout is not only an issue of the spoiled first-world. Rather, it is a serious matter that must be taken care of appropriately. It affects so many people, and its impacts are just too significant to be ignored.

Some occupations are more prone to burnout, such as people who deeply care about their jobs more than others. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Passion-driven and caregiving roles such as doctors and nurses are some of the most susceptible to burnout.”

The consequences can have life or death ramifications as “suicide rates among caregivers are dramatically higher than that of the general public—40% higher for men and 130% higher for women”. It is also the case for teachers, non-profit workers, and leaders of all kinds.[5]

Deloitte’s survey also found that 91% say that they have an unmanageable amount of stress or frustration. Heck, 83% even say that it can negatively impact their relationships. Millennials are slightly more impacted by burnout (84% of Gen Y vs. 77% in other generations).

What Is Burnout Syndrome?

So, what is it, exactly? Burnout was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and is an occupational phenomenon.

According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes three dimensions:[6]

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

The 5 Stages of Burnout

At this point, you must have a clue if you’re at risk of burnout. There are different methods for understanding where you are on the burnout syndrome scale, and one of the most common ones is the “five stages method.”

1. Honeymoon Phase

As you may remember If you’ve gotten married, there’s always the honeymoon phase. You’re so happy and feel almost invincible. You love your spouse and at this stage, you’re very excited about everything. It’s the same when it comes to taking on a new job or role or starting a new business.

At first, most of the time, you’re hyper-motivated. Although you might be able to notice signs of potential future burnout, in most cases, you might ignore them. You’re highly productive, super motivated, creative, and accept (and take) responsibility.

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The honeymoon phase is critical because if you plant the seeds of good mental health and coping strategies, you can stay at this phase for extended periods.

2. Onset of Stress

Let’s continue with the wedding metaphor. Now that you’re happily married for some time, you might start noticing certain issues with your spouse that you don’t like. You might have seen them before, but now they take up more space in your life.

You might be less optimistic and feel signs of stress or minor symptoms of physical or emotional fatigue at work. Your productivity reduces, and you think that your motivation is lower.

3. Chronic Stress

Let’s hope you don’t get there in your marriage, but unfortunately, some people get there. At this stage, your stress level is consistently high, and the other symptoms of stage 2 persist.

At this point, you start missing deadlines, your sleep quality is low, and you’re resentful and cynical. Your caffeine consumption might be higher, and you’re increasingly unsatisfied.

4. Burnout

This is the point where you can’t go on unless there is a significant change in your workspace environment. You have a strong desire to move to another place, and clinical intervention is sometimes required.

You feel neglected, your physical symptoms are increasing, and you get to a place where your stomach hurts daily. You might obsess over problems in your life or work and, generally speaking, you should treat yourself.

5. Habitual Burnout

This is the phase in which burnout is embedded in your life. You might experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, outbursts of anger or apathy, and physical symptoms of chronic fatigue.

The Causes of Burnout

So, now that we know how to identify our stage of burnout, we can move on to tackling its leading causes. According to the Gallup survey, the top burnout reasons are:[7]

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  1. Getting unfair treatment at work – This is not always something that you can fully control. At the same time, you should remember that even if you’re not calling the shots, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept unfair treatment. The consequences mentioned above are just not worth it in most cases.
  2. Workload – Another leading cause of stress according to dozens of interviews conducted before writing the article. According to Statista, in 2017, 39% of workers said a heavy workload was their leading cause of stress. We live in a busy work environment, and we will share some tips on how to manage that.
  3. Not knowing your role – While not something you can fully control, you can, and probably should, take action to better define it with your boss.
  4. Inadequate communication and support from your manager – Like the others above, you can’t fully control that, but as we’ll soon share, you can take action to be in better control.
  5. Time pressure – As mentioned, motivated, passionate workers are more in danger of experiencing burnout. One of the reasons is that they’re pressuring themselves to do more, sometimes at the expense of their mental health. We’ll address how to work on that as well.

How to Overcome a Burnout

After going over the stages of burnout and the leading causes of becoming burned out, it might be a good time to let you know that there is a lot you can do to fight it head-on.

However, let’s start with what you should not do. Burnout cannot be fixed by going on a vacation. It should be a long-term solution, implemented daily.

According to Clockify (2019), these are the popular ways to avoid burnout:

  1. Focus on your family life – 60% of adults said that stable family life is key to avoiding burnout. Maintaining meaningful relationships in your life is proven to reduce stress (instead of having many unmeaningful relationships).
  2. Exercising comes in second, with 58% reporting that jogging, running, or doing any exercise significantly relieves stress. Even a relatively short walk might improve your body’s resilience to stress.
  3. Seek professional advice – 55% say they would turn to a professional. There are online websites where you can speak with professionals at reduced costs.

Aside from the three most popular ways of avoiding burnout, you can also try the following:

1. Improve Time Management

Try understanding how you can use your time better and leave more time for relaxation. That’s easy to say (or write) but more challenging to implement. It would help if you started by prioritizing yourself. Understanding the connection between your values and your everyday tasks is a tremendous help. You can use proven methods to improve the relationship between your vision and goals to your daily life tasks’ lists. Check out the Horizons of Focus or V2MOM methods to get started.

2. Use the P.L.E.A.S.E. Method

The P.L.E.A.S.E. is a combination of things you should do to be at your best physically. It means Physical Illness (P.L.) prevention, Eat healthy (E), Avoid mood-altering drugs (A), Sleep well (S), and Exercise (E).

3. Prioritize

You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes across your way at work (or in other aspects of life). You’d be surprised how easy it can become once you start saying no. Some might even describe it as exhilarating.

4. Let Your Brain rest

Culturally, most of us are already wired to think that hard work is essential, and while that’s true in most cases, we sometimes forget that our brain needs to rest for it to recharge. Seven hours of sleep are essential (depending on your age). Meditation might be helpful, too.

5. Pay Attention to Positive Events

According to Therapistaid.com, we tend to focus on the bad things in our lives. However, by focusing on positive things, we can change our mindset. One way to practice this daily is by writing three good things about your life every morning or evening. It’s been scientifically proven that doing so for a few months can help rewire your brain.

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6. Take Some “You” Time

A Netflix binge is not always good for you, but it might be in some cases. The better the leisure time is, the better you’ll feel in the long term. It’s usually better to read a book or start a new hobby that requires more cognitive skills than just lying on the couch. But as long as you feel good watching a movie, that might be a good start.

7. New Technologies Might Be Helpful

There are tons of self-help apps such as Fabulous, Headspace (meditation), Noom (diet and exercise), and others. They’re good to use, but you should also be careful not to run away from your problems only to watch social media for hours. It’s not real, and no one’s life is perfect (even if their Facebook or Instagram feeds might seem so). You should also be aware not to be in an “always-on” mindset.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re at the first or the fifth stage of the burnout phases, the goal of this article is to show you that there are always ways to fight it. The first thing is self-awareness—knowing that there’s a problem. The second step is to decide what to do about it.

You can also consider using Lifehack’s community. You’re more than welcome to share your burnout story on our Facebook page.

Bonus: Rebound from Burnout in 8 Hours

Watch what you can do to rebound from burnout quickly in this episode of The Lifehack Show:

https://youtu.be/MNnyqQWK_zg

Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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