Have you been feeling extra low, unmotivated and overwhelmed with life? Are you exhausted and stressed often, or noticing significant changes in your weight? Maybe you just feel like there’s no point in getting up in the mornings anymore, or even doing anything at all.
You may be experiencing burnout, which can look very similar to depression and can even lead to depression, but has different causes. It is important to recognize when you are burned out so you can take the steps needed to recover before it turns into depression.
What is Burnout and Its Symptoms?
Burnout is a state of exhaustion that occurs as a result of repeated and prolonged stress. It usually develops slowly over time when you feel like you can’t meet the demands placed on you, whether at home or in the workplace. Eventually you may feel like giving up because it feels impossible to stay on top of everything.
Some symptoms of burnout include:
Emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion
Muscle aches and headaches
Frequently getting sick
Poor job performance
Issues falling or staying asleep
Trouble with your memory
Feeling of hopelessness
Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder that may have a chemical or emotional cause. To be diagnosed, it must include a combination of symptoms that last longer than two weeks and that impairs your functioning at home and work. Burnout can turn into depression if not treated immediately.
Taking Breaks to Avoid Burnout
One of the best ways to get ahead of burnout or reverse it once it has started is to take breaks. This ranges anywhere from a quick 10 minute coffee break midway through your morning, to a year-long Sabbatical subsidized by your workplace.
Here are the different types of breaks you can take:
Take Daily Breaks
To recharge throughout the day and at the end of the day, nurture your body with food, take mental breaks, rest, connect with friends and family, practice a hobby, exercise, or engage in spirituality.
These can be short breaks interspersed throughout your workday as you see fit. If you have a full-time job, you are entitled to a certain amount of these short breaks per day (other than your lunch break). Check your employee manual to know what you are entitled to, and take it! If you work from home or are a stay-at-home mom, you may have more flexibility to take longer breaks.
When breaks throughout the day are avoided, we may feel drained and depleted of any mental or emotional energy, and feel like we can’t give any more to our children and husbands. Daily breaks help us to stay energized emotionally and mentally. Avoiding taking care of yourself and your basic needs can lead to self-punishment and resentment.
Take Breaks at the End of the Week
At the end of the week, use your days off to take care of tasks you can’t do during the week (i.e. more involved chores, organizing your space, or cleaning the house). But also make sure you make time to rest and bond with your family and friends by engaging in fun activities.
Make a list of one chore you need to get done during the weekend, and one fun activity you can do with your family. This way you will have a balance of productivity and fun.
If you are experiencing burnout, one of the best ways to recover is by taking an extended break or vacation if you are able to. This will give you the rest your mind and body needs to reset and be refreshed going back into your work. This is also a great time to build great memories with your family together and explore new places.
Use whatever vacation time you or your husband have from work and plan a great trip! Even if you go somewhere close by, just the change of scenery alone will refresh you. Try not to plan too many activities, because then you won’t have time to relax! Keep a balance of fun activities and downtime during your vacation.
Take a Sabbatical
Not everyone has the privilege of taking a sabbatical, however if you do, this can be an incredible way to recharge and refocus your vision in life. It is essentially an extended vacation (that can last up to a year) during which time you will still be paid by your employer.
There may or may not be stipulations attached by your employer (for example, if you are a professor it could be for the purpose of research), but either way it will afford you significant time to rest away from the demands of daily life.
If you are granted a sabbatical, use it as an opportunity to go somewhere meaningful to you (or even use it to stay home with your family). Engage in practices during this time that cultivate deep rest and joy. You will go back to work feeling refreshed and with a new perspective.
Stop Burnout in its Tracks
You don’t have to let burnout lead you down the road to depression—take control of your mental health now. Recognize the symptoms of burnout and be proactive by taking the breaks you need to get back into a healthy space.
Of course, if you do find yourself in a depression, there is always hope. We at Florecer Family Counseling are more than equipped to help you find your way back to yourself and find emotional healing. Don’t hesitate to reach out!