One in four workers feels highly stressed, and up to 65 percent feel some degree of daily stress. We all have so much going on, and feel pulled in so many different directions, that burnout, or the threat of it, is a significant reality for many. A state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, burnout results from continual high stress and heavy workloads. It’s a gradual, insidious phenomenon that sneaks up on you in such a way that it's hard to realize that it's happening.
Some of the symptoms of burnout are relational. If you are burning out, you start to withdraw socially. You don’t feel like hanging out with people or doing things you usually love to do. You may even begin to resent social invitations or family activities, experiencing them as intrusions on your desperately-needed free time.
When you are overworked and stressed you typically don’t have enough time for friends and family. You may stay at work late, bring work home with you, or work on weekends, cutting down your available social time. You may feel so exhausted that you can’t find the energy to socialize the way you used to.
Here’s the irony: Spending insufficient time with friends and family is a risk factor for burnout, so withdrawing in this way creates a vicious cycle and a downward spiral.
One of the key ways to overcome burnout and get back to normal is to deliberately spend more time with friends and family, even if it feels difficult to do so. These interactions should ideally involve pleasurable activities with minimal stress and strain, primarily with people who have positive energy (as opposed to those who sometimes drain your energy or add to your stress).
It’s important to realize that when we are feeling stressed and our lives are out of balance, our natural tendency is to withdraw and spend less time with others. Yet at those moments, time with others that's full of laughter (even if it's not ours), conversation, sharing, and support is precisely what our mind and body need. Time with the ones we love is vital both to preventing and overcoming burnout.
One caveat: This relational time is to be carefully and thoughtfully engaged in. One must still leave time for adequate rest, and be particularly cautious about catering to the requests and demands of others at the expense of necessary rest and other self-care. Identify the most important and most healing people in your life, and make them a priority. You simply may be unable to spend time with everyone you’d like—and you shouldn't even try to do so. Be aware and reflective, so that you understand your own situation and can find the healthiest, most healing choices for your life and your free time.
Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, wellness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, and flamenco dancer. She has been featured as an expert on the Today Show, as well as other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, and private lcoaching.
Copyright Dr. Susan Biali 2016