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.

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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?!?

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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.

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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.

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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?

10 Reasons Science Says We Should Say Goodbye to Social media

As an advocate of science, it’s time for me to say goodbye to social media. Or at least reduce my time spent there and change who I spend it with.

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The blog will continue three times a week, as always. I’ve come to enjoy blogging, especially getting to know other bloggers. But social media is different.

I embarked on the journey into Twitter and Facebook specifically for my writing. Instead of giving me the visibility and platform to succeed as an author, I’ve found it stealing my energy, draining my time, and overall, making me unhappy.

So, if you see me less active on Twitter or Facebook, understand that it’s not you. It’s me.

I can’t handle the barrage coming at me. People asking me why I didn’t “like” something. The stupid feelings of inadequacy because not enough people like or retweet something I posted.

So. Done. With. It.

Besides, the point of social media was to help my writing, not suck insane amounts of time from me that I should be spending writing. Or with my kids. Or my husband. Heck, cleaning the dust bunnies out of the basement would probably be a better and more fulfilling use of my time.

I figured it was just me feeling this way, but after a little research trying to learn how to overcome these feelings, I learned I am not alone in this. A bit more digging into the multitude of research papers out there shows that social media makes us less happy in a lot of ways. This helped me feel better about my decision.

Here are ten reasons research says why we should let go of social media, or at least reduce it:

 

1. You Enjoy Experiences Less

Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but studies show that the act of recording something for social media can actually take some of the enjoyment out of doing the thing you’re sharing. Whether it’s snapping a picture of a delicious dessert, or going to the zoo, studies show you will enjoy it less if you immerse yourself in the experience and don’t worry about sharing it with the world.

Perhaps this isn’t so counter-intuitive. Hard to truly enjoy something if you’re trying to get the perfect shot of your cake before you eat it, and are then worrying how many people will “like” your post and if it’ll be seen as “cool” enough.

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2. You Can Miss Out on the Experience Altogether

Research corroborates what most of us know or have witnessed. That parent too busy trying to get the perfect pictures that they don’t enjoy their child’s first birthday. They’re so busy trying to take pictures of all the cool things happening that they don’t participate. 

Except, social media takes this so much farther. Suddenly all of life’s events must be documented, and the person doing the documenting is missing out.

3. You Do Things You Know You Shouldn’t for the “Like”

I haven’t been on social media long enough to experience this personally, but I ’m not even going to Google how many people died last year taking dangerous selfies. Or what those selfies were.

But think about that. People have died taking selfies.

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4. Instagram Life

Rather than focusing on the good moment, the parts of life that enrich us and nourish us, social media can lure us into focusing on the moments that look good. We spend time chasing the Instagram-worthy times and miss out on some of the very best parts.

I can see this happening if you do post a lot on social media. You’ll never see a picture of me snuggled up in the recliner with both of my girls on my lap and all of us still in our jammies. But let me tell you, it’s my favorite part of the weekend when I can get it, and I’m going to miss it desperately when my girls are “too old” to snuggle.

5. Problematic for Relationships

  75% of people have admitted to being rude and disconnected because of their phone. This results in later feelings of guilt, regret, disappointment or embarrassment. Here’s a sign posted on a daycare door, per my Facebook friends.

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I can’t even imagine . . .  I normally have drop-off duty, but when I do get to pick up my girls instead, the joy of their faces makes whatever happened that day melt away. My preschooler can’t wait to tell me about her day, and my toddler is singing momma, momma and clinging to my leg. To miss out on that, for whatever’s on my phone . . . Please, please take a hammer a to my phone first.

6.  Social Media Feeds Envy

Particularly Facebook, makes people envious of others.  The reason this is particularly true of Facebook is that those in our social network are perceived like us. While you may “follow” JK Rowling or Stephen King or even the President of the United States on Twitter, Facebook tends to be fillwed with people we think of as peers. If all we see are their accomplishments, and never their failures or set-backs, people start to feel lesser about their own achievements.

In a society already inundated with marketers trying to make us feel unworthy unless we buy their product, this is the last thing I need.

Makes me wonder if this related to #4.  If all you ever see if other people’s Instagram life, or the special moments they post on Facebook, you may think that’s the entirety of their life. When, in fact, there’s still dishes to do, laundry to fold, and floors to sweep. 

7. Social Media Makes People Lonelier

My first thought when I read this was that maybe they weren’t doing a solid scientific study. Perhaps lonelier people were naturally drawn to social media. But they’d thought of that and proved that lonelier people aren’t drawn to social media in the first place.

So if you weren’t lonely in the first place, why would experiencing social media make them lonely? There’s some speculation that the lack of deep and meaningful relationships on social media is the driving cause behind this. While social media interactions tend to be more plentiful, they also tend to be more superficial and less fulfilling than other interactions.

Unless, of course, you’re in-person interactions are like those of the parents the daycare posted about.

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8. Social Media Causes Depression

Even just “lurking” can cause negative emotions. Given that depression is the leading cause of disability in the US for people between the ages of 15 and 44, anything to reduce this disease is desirable.

 

9. Social Media is Addictive

Of course it’s addictive.There’s a reason why we keep coming back to it over and over again. Companies like Facebook spend a lot of money keeping it that way. They know what lures us on, what keeps us clicking. Social media companies are for profit organizations. They make money by keeping you on their site. They know how to get your brain to give you a hit of that oh so good dopamine, you know, the neurotransmitter involved in pleasure.

It’s why Candy Crush is worth $6 billion. They know how to get you to spend money on a game one step above solitaire. And how to keep you doing it.

10. Social Media is Boring

Addictive, but boring. I can see this. I’m only half engaged on most social media platforms, anyway. Skimming through feeds, looking for stuff to click “like” on without spending too much time looking at any one thing.

Interestingly, according to the study, boredom is part of what keeps bringing us back.

We’re bored, so might as well check Facebook. We’re still bored, might as well go check Twitter…

 

 

How about you?  What’s your relationship with Social Media? Do you feel like it enriches your life, or is it a time thief? Maybe somewhere in between? Ever suffer from any of the downsides research has shown us social media has?  How did you deal with them?