The Reality of Burnout
Have you been feeling less motivated lately? Finding it difficult to get out of bed and start your day? Feeling more exhausted and less inspired than usual?
The first step is spotting the most common signs of burnout. If you can acknowledge these symptoms, then you can take the necessary measures to prevent it from getting worse:
Alienation: Distancing yourself from others and activities you used to enjoy
Physical: Change in appetite, unhealthy sleeping habits, frequent headaches
Emotional Exhaustion: Lacking energy to get work done due to feeling overwhelmed
Reduced Performance: Difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from responsibilities
When the pressure to be that perfect student, perfect child, perfect friend, perfect significant other, or perfect employee starts to take a toll on your mental health, it is a sign that you need to take a step back and reevaluate your current situation. It’s not selfish to want to choose yourself. To choose yourself means to focus on your own happiness by finding ways to add little moments of positivity to your schedule. Ask yourself what needs to change in your life in order for you to feel content and at peace.
Are you overworking yourself more than you should? Are you sleeping enough? Are you spending time with people that inspire your growth? Are you speaking up for what you believe in? Are you asking for help when you need it? Are you spending enough time with yourself? Are you speaking to yourself kindly? Are you bottling your emotions? Are you rewarding yourself for your little achievements too?
Whatever the case may be, make it a priority to take care of yourself first. It is important to clear your headspace of anything that does not positively influence you. If you continue to ignore signs of burnout, you can possibly harm yourself, just as it happened to me a year ago.
When I first transferred to SJSU, I had a difficult time adjusting to the newness of everything. It was a new city, new school, new people, and new lifestyle. I tried my best to adapt, but I could not help but still feel disconnected deep down. I tried to join things to me ease into the new environment and meet new people that might help make this school feel like home. But with this new extracurricular, trying to find a decent balance between myself, work, and school felt nearly impossible. On top of my job, school work, and social events, I was coping with the loss of a loved one. As always, I shoved my feelings aside and just carried on. I convinced myself that I had too many responsibilities to even think about myself. Because of my busy schedule, I spent long nights at the library. The most sleep I would get a week was 2-3 hours, and sometimes I did not even sleep at all. All these distractions helped me forget about how I was feeling.
One day, I experienced a terrifying wake-up call. It was a Monday morning, I was driving back to San Jose from Walnut Creek after a 5am shift to meet with my professor for office hours. I remember being extremely sleepy during the drive that even playing music did not help keep me alert. The next few seconds were a blur. When I woke up, I just remember my car spinning out of control and landing on the side of the freeway. It all happened so fast I could not even process the whole experience. As I sat there, on the side of the freeway, my first instinct was to email my professor about not being able to make it to office hours. The fact that I was still thinking about all my responsibilities despite getting into a massive car accident goes to show how much I prioritize everything other than myself. That was something I needed to work on.
This moment in my life made me realize how important it is to take care of yourself. I knew I was experiencing burnout, but I did not realize how bad it got until this near-death experience. Considering the lack of sleep I was getting, and all the built-up emotions I was ignoring, burnout was present and I disregarded it.
I appreciate this second chance in life; it made me realize how fragile life truly is. No matter how busy you are, please remember to take care of yourself. It may be difficult at first, but you are in full control of how you choose to feel, and how you choose to deal with the chaos or busyness of your life. It takes a while to practice it, but when you do learn, it will change the environment of your heart.
Gentle reminder that you can always recreate yourself. You are not stuck. You have the power to make new choices. You can think new thoughts. You can create new habits. You are the author of your own story. All that matters is you turn that page, pick up your pen, and move forward.