The truth about burnout and mental exhaustion in 3 minutes

Nora Blackie
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The week has just begun but you are already wishing for Saturday and can’t wait to climb back into bed after the day is over. You're not sure why, but nothing is enjoyable anymore, and you feel increasing distance from your friends and family. These are all classic signs of burnout and mental exhaustion but what exactly is burnout?

Burnout is when you are physically and mentally worn out and can make it difficult to enjoy your job or studies, relationships with friends, and interactions with family. This stress can be brought on by continuous exposure to demanding conditions like providing care for a sick family member, putting in long hours at the office or university, or hearing distressing news about politics or climate change.

Everyone can become burnt out, but it's more difficult to see it in yourself, and it frequently feels like you're failing or disappointing other people. However, there are strategies to get back on track and avoid experiencing burnout again.

In this article, we will share how to spot burnout in yourself and others, as well as how to help! The most important step, when noticing you’re burning out, is rest. If you notice these signs in yourself, make sure to allow yourself guilt-free rest first!


Signs of a burnout


1. Withdrawal from friends and family
If you feel like you are withdrawing away from your friends and family, this may be because it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re exhausted.

How to help: Make sure to take some time to yourself to relax and practice self-care! Self-care is super important to help you feel refreshed and let your mind take a break. Don’t be afraid to explain how you’ve been feeling, your friends and family may be able to help relieve some of the stress!


2. No motivation for hobbies or interests
Do you find yourself reaching for your phone to endlessly scroll down TikTok more than you ever did? Maybe your screen time is through the roof and you just can’t find the motivation to even start your hobbies!

How to help: Social media provides our brains with a constant distraction and easy, but short-lived, dopamine and can be a quick fix for when we are feeling low. Taking time to step away from your phone can improve sleep and concentration; setting time limits on your social media apps through your phone settings is a great way to kick-start this habit! Getting back into your hobbies one small step at a time can give you and your brain a feeling of fulfilment and help recentre you.


3. Feel like you’re never doing enough
Burnout can make you feel like you are still failing no matter how much work you put in because you are constantly working towards the next goal or sorting out the next problem.

How to help: It’s important to step back and appreciate how far you’ve come or how much you’ve done! When exhausted it’s not easy to see how hard you’re pushing yourself so make sure to reward yourself and feel appreciated. Take some time to break down bigger projects into smaller to-do lists, this can help with the feeling of being overwhelmed and make it all feel more manageable. To-do lists can also help with visually seeing yourself work towards the end goal, instead of feeling like it’s never-ending.


4. Neglecting your own needs and health
Long-term stress and exhaustion have been found to lower the immune system and make you much more likely to catch any colds and bugs! It can also lead you to neglect to eat regularly or shower which can make you feel worse.

How to help: Keeping your body healthy and allowing it to heal when ill is super important to make sure you don’t burn out! Never feel guilty about taking time off work or school to rest and remember coffee can never replace sleep. Keeping up with daily habits can be hard but no one ever said there was only one way to do things, sit down in the shower if standing is too much or put your toothbrush near the kitchen sink if it’s more likely to remind you, find little ways that work for you.


5. Depersonalization
Burnout can leave you feeling detached from yourself and your own life. Feeling like you have no control over who you are or what you’re doing.

How to help: Creating a daily routine can help you feel more in control of your body and mind. Making sure your body is fed, gets enough sleep and regular breaks will help connect you back to yourself. Find out what works best for you, even if it’s unconventional. Routines enable you to accomplish more, think clearly, and complete work that is truly important.


6. Increased depression and anxiety
If left untreated life may start to feel hopeless, and it can leave you feeling empty and anxious. This could lead you to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with those feelings, such as overeating or gambling.

How to help: If life has begun to feel hopeless, it’s important to know when to reach out for help. Speaking with friends or family can help offload but reaching out to a professional support system, such as the university student services or your GP, will get you the help you need. You don’t need to suffer in silence and there is always help.  The Charity Mind are fantastic to reach out to when feeling like your mental health is suffering or just need someone to talk to as a young adult!