Updated: May 21, 2022
Life can come at us fast and mercilessly. We may find ourselves feeling helpless, overloaded, and underappreciated. Getting out of bed may require more than the usual amount of effort. You may feel more rushed, burning both ends of the candle with no progress in sight. Before you know it, you have hit burnout. That is the thing with burnout. It doesn't happen overnight; instead, it is this gradual process with subtle symptoms that compound into bigger issues over time.
So what are these gradual signs of burnout? Some signs to be on the lookout for are sleeplessness; frequent illness (i.e. colds, sinus issues, etc.); depression; irritability with family, friends, and coworkers; forgetfulness; lack of interest; feeling trapped; loss of motivation; feeling detached; and increasingly negative outlook. This of course is not an all inclusive list but just a few of the physical, emotional, or behavioral signs and symptoms of burnout.
Is burnout out stress?
Not exactly. Stress is a reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. It is normal part of the human existence. Stress can encompass emotional, cognitive, physical, and social stress. Burnout can be the result of unrelenting stress. A person who is stressed may still be able to imagine getting everything under control, they can still see it in their mind's eye. However, a person experiencing burnout may find themselves feeling empty, mentally exhausted, and being beyond caring. A person in burnout may not see any hope of positive change for their situation. A person who is stressed may be over-engaged in the world around them whereas a person experiencing burnout begins to disengage. A person who is stressed may overreact whereas a person experiencing burnout may seem checked-out completely. Stress may cause a loss of energy, whereas burnout may cause lack of motivation.
If you suspect you are experiencing burnout, it is pertinent that you press pause and change direction. Seek support from others such as your family, friends, spiritual leader (if you are so inclined), a coach, or even a therapist. Self-care eases our feelings of stress and anxiety that lead to burnout if unchecked.
One of my favorite interventions with both coaching and therapy clients is the Wellness Wheel. The article, "Wellness in Counseling: An Overview" published in the Professional Counseling Digest of the American Counseling Associate cites Sweeney and Witmer (1991) as the developers of the Wheel of Wellness. The wheel was developed as an alternative to the medical model. The wheel's purpose was to create a holistic method of helping persons with physical and mental ailments. There have been many updates and adaptations of the wheel. However, the wheel consistently features physical wellness, intellectual wellness, emotional wellness, spiritual wellness, financial wellness, environmental wellness, and social wellness in its wellness dimensions.
These dimensions are interconnected and important for developing a well-rounded, balanced lifestyle. Today, some variation of this wheel is used in therapy and coaching practices alike.
Physical wellness includes exercise, nutrition, proper sleep, managing stress, receiving preventative health care services and screenings (medical, dental, and sexual).
Intellectual wellness involves childlike wonder, staying curious and engaged in learning new things. It can also include creative activities, reading for pleasure, staying aware of social and political issues, and joining clubs that focus on increasing new knowledge and experiences.
Emotional wellness involves developing ways to remain emotionally healthy by managing stress levels, staying on top of school or work obligations, getting proper sleep, asking for help from others, or even seeing a coach or therapist.
Spiritual wellness is the process in which we evaluate and understand our personal beliefs, values, and ethics.
Financial wellness requires that we take steps to live within our means. It is the process of evaluating our current finances, planning for future financial health through a budget, saving, and investing.
Environmental wellness involves taking care of our personal surroundings by decluttering and recycling. It can also encompass volunteer opportunities to clean up our global environment.
Social wellness involves creating a supportive network of friends, family, and colleagues that can give you support and guidance during stressful times. This network can also include spiritual leaders or healthcare providers.
There are many competing things that can get in the way of taking care of ourselves. Family obligations, school, work, finances are just a few of the areas that can distract us from taking the time we need to focus on our wellness and self-care. This issue is complicated further when we aren't given balanced information on wellness. For instance, we often hear about eating healthy, exercise, and sleep (which all easily fit into the physical wellness dimension). However, other critical areas such as spiritual wellness (beliefs and values) or intellectual wellness (learning and creating) are sometimes overlooked as not being as important.
Make wellness a priority. You now know the different areas of wellness. Take a few minutes throughout the upcoming week to identify which area or areas you may like to begin making small, incremental changes. If you feel you need more guided support on learning more about stress, click here to sign up for part one of our four-course bundle on stress management that will assist you with filling your toolbox of wellness strategies.
As always, we appreciate your readership and would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below which wellness area you plan to focus on this month. Until next time.
"Happy people continuously change; an because they change they become more and more happy; and then more and more change is possible. ~Osho
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