Burnout According to Science

After feeling rather burned out and then not being able to get myself back on track, I started to wonder if there was any science behind the phenomena of burnout.

There is. Lots of it. Apparently, I’m not alone.

burnout1

According to Psychology Today   “The cynicism, depression, and lethargy of burnout can occur when you’re not in control of how you carry out your job, when you’re working toward goals that don’t resonate with you, and when you lack social support. If you don’t tailor your responsibilities to match your true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, you could face a mountain of mental and physical health problems.”

While some of this doesn’t resonate, enough does.

The whole being in control thing is a big deal for us Type A personalities. And I have a lot of control at my day job. It may not be my life’s calling, but I’m good at it. Writing, on the other hand . . .

I have no control over it at all.

Despite the hours I’ve poured into both reading and writing, the classes I’ve taken, and the books I’ve read, I have no control.  I’ve been working on this for the majority of my life, yet I keep walking away from it.

Why?

Because no matter how much work I put into it, I have no control over the results. Self-publishing has changed some of this, but I still have no control over the success or failure of a book.

Then there’s the hard truth about branding and social media presence that goes along with being an author.

I was not on any social media until it was driven home to me that I had to be in order to be an author. I don’t like social media. I avoided it for years for a reason. So the whole line about responsibilities matching your true calling… Maybe I’m meant to be a writer, but I’m most assuredly not meant to be a social media personality.

If you poke around on Psychology today, you’ll come across this article that further explains that burnout is chronic stress that leads to:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

I can honestly say yes to all three of those.

The article also says when you are truly burned out, you can no longer function effectively on a personal or professional level.  So, at least I’m not totally burned out. I mean, I can still function at work at with my family.

Sure, I’m a bit more short-tempered lately, but I can function.

Right, guys? Right?!?

shorttemper
And let me tell you how much BS there is with two small humans

The article does say burnout doesn’t happen all at once, that it creeps up on us though it does give us some some signs.

I went through the list and noted several below, but it’s hard to parse out what’s just a part of life and what isn’t.

Signs of Burnout

1.Chronic fatigue.  Okay, so what modern American doesn’t this apply to? Especially a working mom with a toddler?

2. Insomnia. Only if you count being woken up repeatedly in the middle of the night by a child suffering from night terrors. Otherwise, I am exhausted at the end of the day and within minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I am usually asleep

3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. I blame Twitter for this.

4. Physical symptoms. They include a list of things to look for, among them headaches, but it’s hard to know the difference between normal migraines and burnout induced ones.

5. Increased illness. Children are walking, talking Petri dishes. The moment I see the sign up at daycare that some new disease is sweeping through the center, I know it’s coming home with me.

cold

6. Loss of appetite. This is one thing I’d actually take. I’ve been on the other side of this lately with increased appetite.

7. Anxiety. I am a Type A personality. When am I not anxious or worried about something?

8. Depression. Nothing really to say here. While I don’t think I’m experiencing it, it’s too big of a deal to make a snarky observation.

9. Loss of enjoyment. Here we go. This is definitely something I am enduring. I just don’t like writing like I used to. Part of it is definitely feeling the need to do things I really don’t like. Like Facebook. That looms over me, steals writing time, and starts to flavor the entire writing experience.

10. Pessimism. Is there any artist that doesn’t feel this way, especially if they haven’t been “discovered” or published? Might even be worse once you are “discovered” as then I’d constantly worry if I was a fraud or not.

11. Isolation. Introvert here. I like people. Sometimes. In moderation.

introvert3

12. Detachment. Hmmm, I have been feeling more detached from my work. Caring less about the characters.

13. Increased irritability. Remember the two kids I love and would do almost anything for? They are very demanding, and I have been losing my temper more lately. Might be burnout or the result of living with a toddler and preschooler.

14. Lack of productivity and poor performance. My word count has definitely been suffering.

As I read through this list, it makes me think what I’m experiencing isn’t such a big deal. Clearly, I’m on the lighter side of burnout.

It’s still real for me, and it’s affecting me.

I need to do more thinking on this. Think more about what’s leading to burnout and what I can control.

Control. That, I believe, may be key.

 

How about you? Any of these describe you? Ever felt burned out before? What did you do to combat it?

6 thoughts on “Burnout According to Science

  1. That list of 14 just described my current state to a T. (Minus the children, replace with aging cat.) The odd combination of booze and mindfulness meditation are getting me through.

  2. Great post, Elizabeth. I don’t know many people who won’t see themselves in there somewhere. I notice that blogging is a sure road to burnout unless I make constant adjustments to my reach. It’s so time consuming and there’s a feeling of having to be “on” 24/7. It bites into other parts of my life – including time to write. I don’t have all the answers (I’m still hunting for them), but I have found that scheduling sacred time for writing, sacred time for reading, sacred time for hanging out with the family have all helped with keeping my balance. During those times, social media is off and ignored.

Leave a Reply