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Why You’re Not Incapable, You’re Just Burning Out

Why You’re Not Incapable, You’re Just Burning Out

Living in this fast-paced society, we are vulnerable to burnout. Yet, if you can spot out the early symptoms of burnout, you can nip the bud and prevent a complete burnout, which otherwise is going to hinder your personal and also your professional life.

Have a look at the following list of early signs of burnout. If you have got some of these, very likely you are experiencing a burnout which you have not yet noticed!

Some obvious signs of a burnout

  • Difficult sleeping: you have trouble falling asleep; or worse, you stay awake all night.
  • Loss of appetite: you find yourself skipping meals as you do not feel hungry.
  • Negative feeling: you occasionally feel hopelessness, sadness, guilt, or self-worthlessness.

Some lesser-known signs of a burnout

  • Repulsion of social situation: you feel uneasy or even angry when someone is trying to talk to you.
  • Loss of enjoyment: you feel not wanting to go to work or to school; you even no longer enjoy spending time with your friends and families, or doing the things you once liked to do.
  • Underperformance: when failing to carry a project or to finish the task on time, people tend to think they are incapable. However, apart from low ability, it may be you are dragged behind by the burnout. The chronic stress is hindering you from being as productive as you were.

If you are having one or more of the above symptoms, you may be amid the middle of a burnout without your notice.

How burnout is defined from a medical perspective

A burnout is not just an emotional state, but it is actually a medical syndrome.

According to Dr. Ruotsalainen and his colleagues, a burnout is a type of psychological stress. It is characterised by exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm, and reduces efficacy within the workplace.[1]

And according to the doctor of psychology, Sherrie B. Carter, a burnout can cause the following three problems:[2]

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  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Feeling of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

The causes of burnout

A burnout very often stems from one’s job. However, besides the career, other aspects of life can also contribute to a burnout.

The following list tells all the possible causes of a burnout: [3]

Job-related causes of a burnout

  • Doing unchallenging work
  • Working under a high-pressure environment
  • Facing demanding expectation

Lifestyle causes of a burnout

  • Lacking supportive relationship
  • Lacking sufficient sleep

Personality traits that cause a burnout

  • Perfectionist
  • Pessimistic about yourself and the world
  • The need to gain control

Dr. Ruotsalainen and his colleagues summarize that a burnout is a consequence of one’s inability to fully cope with a stressor; a burnout is not easily recognized, and will grow slowly, until it becomes severe.

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To tackle burnout, try to identify the root cause of it first.

A burnout after all is the signals sent by your body to remind you that you need some rest. Before it is too late to prevent a burnout from getting serious, it is best to recognize the root cause of a burnout.

5 whys is a helpful tool at hand.

5 whys, developed by Sakichi Toyoda, is a an interrogative technique aiming to explore the cause-and-effect relation.

The primary goal of this technique is to keep asking the questions “why” until one reaches the heart of the problem. Each answer of the previous “why” provides the foundation of the next “why”.

For example, you may start the practice when you recognise the burnout stems from your job.

Problem: My job causes the burnout

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  • First why: why my job causes the burnout?
    because it is too stressful!
  • Second why: why is my job stressful?
    because the deadline of the project is due this Thursday.
  • Third why: why do I find this project stressful?
    because it is my first time to lead a project.
  • Fourth why: why do I feel stressful for being the first time to lead a project?
    because I want to impress my manager by nailing it, and I can’t fail.
  • Fifth why: why do I want to impress my manager so eagerly?
    because I hope to get a promotion so that I can earn more to support my next coming second new born.

Now, after a sequence of analytical interrogation, you finally reach the root that causes your burnout: the stress from your job is just a disguise; what you are really scared is the financial burden accompanied by your coming new born.

As illustrated here, 5 whys is a great tool encouraging you to avoid assumption and logical flaw before you reach the cause and effect of a problem. By finding the root cause of your burnout, it will become easier to tackle it.

Then, break down the big issue into smaller manageable actions.

To break down big problem into smaller ones is a mental technique called compartmentalisation.[4] It is widely applied by many successful entrepreneurs.

The primary goal of compartmentalisation is to isolate the problems from each other, and tackle them one by one. It encourages us to separate our focus into several sessions, and devote each session of focus into one problem only.

To start with, you can list all the things you have to do, for example:

  1. Discuss with the HR regarding the coming recruitment
  2. Call my son’s teacher discussing his examination’s result
  3. Plan for the upcoming exhibition
  4. Go to the pharmacy to buy supplement

After you divide the work of today, you should then allocate time for each task.

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  1. Discuss with the HR regarding the coming recruitment (within 30 minutes)
  2. Call my son’s teacher discussing his examination’s result (within 30 minutes)
  3. Plan for the upcoming exhibition (within 1 hour)
  4. Go to the pharmacy to buy supplement (within 30 minutes)

And after you have planned the time, stick to your plan, and focus on one task each time.

Let’s admit that life is full of struggles. However, if one focuses too much attention on one single problem, he or she will forget there are also other important issues demanding their attention. It is neither good if he or she stuffs all the problems simultaneously into his or her head.

Compartmentalisation is then a great technique for you to tackle the problems more effectively, preventing you from being exploded by stress.

Re-evaluate your priorities too, because burnout is a sign that something important in your life is not working.

In a nutshell, a burnout is a warning sign that something important in your life is not running smoothly.

No matter what, it is always not too late to devote some time to pondering upon your hope, your ambition, and your future. Ask yourself seriously: Are you neglecting something important? Are you doing it just because? Or are you doing it because you do want to do it?

In this light, a burnout is a good opportunity for you to reflect upon your life.

To help you re-evaluate your priorities, we have the following advices:

  • Say NO to things you do not truly want to do.
  • Nourish your creativity by learning skills you always want to learn.
  • Sleep well as sleeping is the most crucial hours for you to heal.
  • Turn away from technology and take some real rest!

Reference

More by this author

Chris Cheung

Editorial Intern, Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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