Feeling Depleted? Time to Ditch, Delegate, and Delete

If chronic stress and fatigue has you feeling worn out, burnout may be the cause

Posted Jul 11, 2018

Burnout doesn’t occur because we’re solving problems; it occurs because we’ve been trying to solve the same problem over and over.” ―Susan Scott

Ankush Minda/unsplash
Source: Ankush Minda/unsplash

The problem with problem-solving lies with change. AKA, doing differently. Do I focus on mindfulness or speaking my mind? Should I practice deep-breathing or deep exploration of my thoughts? Can I process this pain with a friend or do I need a therapist? Will going for a run clear my thoughts or should I take a hike?

While everyone is unique and different and problem-solving methods change and evolve over time, one fact remains true: the crux of problems lies in tolerating unhealthy behaviors.

Having healthy boundaries entails tightening that invisible line around yourself which delineates what is okay, and what is not okay. Because our lives are fluid, our limits around acceptable behavior should be, too.

Burnout takes its toll on mental health. Coined in the 1970s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, “burnout” is the loss of motivation and a growing sense of emotional depletion. At its core, burnout occurs when a person’s ability to complete a task is compromised by their ability to cope with stress. Research from a team of psychological scientists in Sweden provides strong evidence that workplace burnout can alter neural circuits, even leading to neurological dysfunction.

Signs of Mental Burnout

  • Feeling exhausted much of the time.
  • Feeling that every day at work is a bad day.
  • Feeling little joy or interest in your work, or social life.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities.
  • Engaging in unhealthy behaviors, such as excess drinking.
  • Having less patience with others than you used to.
  • Feeling hopeless about your life or work.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms of stress such as chest pain, shortness of breath, sleeplessness, or heart palpitations. (Schedule a physical exam, if this describes you)

Strategies to reduce anxiety, depression and stress-related illness commonly associated with burnout:

Identify and deal with the real problem. Too often we avoid the very obstacles which keep us mired in misery. Avoidance magnifies our stress and anxiety, which makes for a worse outcome down the road. Sure, it would be great if your spouse was fluent in The Gottman Institute’s signs of partner distress, but you can’t expect people to read your mind. You can blame your stress on raising three kids, but does that help him/her understand your frustration and growing resentment?

Ditch unhealthy negative commentary that takes up precious emotional energy. This applies to your inner critic, mean behavior, and the random chatter you’re subjected to while living life.

Delegate responsibilities at home and work so you’re not burning the candle at both ends. For example:

a) Choose 3 things you are doing for your kids that they can do for themselves (as a parent of a teen, I need to take my own advice on this one). For example, make own lunch, iron school uniform, walk dog daily and vacuum room.

b) Gently talk to your partner, co-worker, roommate, or family member and tell them you feel they’re not pulling their weight:

“Hon, I know I’ve been making the doctor’s appointments for the family, but I’d like you to take over. I posted the contact info for the orthodontist, pediatrician and allergist on the fridge. Please schedule visits for the next few months and write it on the calendar.”

Delete unwanted email subscriptions, dramatic people, and social media accounts. While the efficiency and convenience of the internet is undeniable, there are costs to our mental health. Unfortunately, social media allows us to post comments anonymously and hide behind default avatars. This lack of transparency encourages some people to say things they normally wouldn’t have the courage to communicate directly. (For an in-depth article about deleting dysfunctional relationships, click here.)

Recognize your signs of mental depletion. Burnout is insidious. The symptoms are not as bad as a full-blown panic attack or a depressive episode, but they’re lurking, nonetheless. Feeling off or describing your mood as “low-energy” are signs. In the therapy room, clients disclose how resentful they feel by those around them. Behaviorally, this presents as passive-aggressive acts, lashing out and expressing contempt (which cycles back into guilt and self-loathing). You’re the expert on your life, which means you get to, and must, call time-out, as necessary.

Most of us like ourselves better when we’re operating from our rational, measured mind, not our angry, fly-off-the-handle, impulsive mind.

Our society glorifies stressed-out, overtime, hustling 24-7 and sleep deprivation. Too bad boundaries don’t make the cut. Instead of, “Whoa—Wendy just pulled her 7th all-nighter to nail that presentation!” why not revel in, “I’m tired of feeling taken advantage of by certain people. From now on, I vow to ditch, delegate and delete.”

For more guidance around gaining clarity, confidence, and healthy boundaries, this article may help.