Have you ever played Tetris? (If not, give it a shot – it can be great fun.)
For those of you who have, you’ll recognise that sinking, helpless sensation you feel right at the end of the game, when you keep shuffling bricks from side to side – with no productive outcome whatsoever. You know deep inside that no matter what you do, nothing will come of it. The bricks fall faster and harder, and you can do nothing about it.
THAT, in short, is burnout.
Ours is a generation that doesn’t believe in slowing down. Most of us set such impossible standards for ourselves, that if we don’t meet them, we only push ourselves harder.
But here’s the deal – what we’re really doing is not pushing ourselves towards the goal, but towards the end of our capacity.
Burnout is a state of chronic mental and physical fatigue. When it creeps up on you, productivity halts for the time being. The only answer is to recuperate. Take a break – heal – then get back on the wagon.
You may think burnout sneaks up on you without any warning, but that’s really not the case. Our body gives us signs – and if you’ll learn to recognise them, you’ll know when it’s time to take a break.
This is in fact the very definition of burnout. If you feel exhausted, non-motivated to do things – even the ones you normally enjoy – and feel both physically and mentally drained out, then chances are you’re fatigued.
Some people going through chronic fatigue also tend to feel dread about things they have to do and events of the coming day.
These three might occur simultaneously – or not.
Try to keep a track of your moods. Do you feel more upset lately for matters that previously wouldn’t have moved you? Do you find yourself gritting your teeth and fisting your hand for every little thing? Are you losing hours of sleep to mindless worrying?
Feelings of Anhedonia
Anhedonia is defined as the inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities.
At first, this may seem very normal, and you may chalk it down to moods or bad days. But try to see if this loss of enjoyment is expanding itself to all aspects of life – including work, recreation, family time, et al.
Despite putting in longer hours and more effort than usual, are you feeling like you aren’t as productive as you once were? When burnout takes its toll, it becomes gradually difficult to concentrate and give results – no matter how hard you try.
With burnout comes the dreaded sense of detachment. It’s the feeling of being disconnected from your environment and your surroundings. You may feel like isolating yourself from friends and family, ignoring their calls or making excuses to not meet them.
There are many more physical and emotional symptoms of burnout but these are the most obvious and important. Try to understand if you’re facing any of these – and if you aren’t too sure, perhaps it’s time to seek a professional opinion.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)