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Mental Health

Burnout: this important thread on “under working” calls out the one thing we’ve all been getting wrong about burnout

Burnout isn’t just something that happens at work, as this clever Instagram post rightfully points out.

In 2021, post-pandemic, being burnt out is something we’ve gotten good at self-diagnosing. Burnout has been tagged over 3 million times on Instagram and Tik Toks sharing advice on what burnout can look like, and how to combat it, have been viewed over a billion times.

In 2019, burnout was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation as an ‘occupational phenomenon,’ so with lockdown changing the way we work, it’s no surprise that so many of us have experienced it over the last 18 months.

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Indeed, a survey conducted by Mental Health UK in March 2021 found that almost half of UK workers felt increased levels of extreme stress compared to the same time last year. 

And it’s worse for women, too. In the 2020 government Labour Force Study, women were on average 33% more likely to face burnout than men, growing to 54% more likely than their male counterparts when aged 25-34.

When asked, 85% of UK adults correctly identified symptoms of burnout, which include feeling drained, detached, overwhelmed and having a cynical outlook, procrastination and increased self-doubt. 

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However, as this clever social media post by Bukiie Smart rightly points out, these feelings are often only considered in relation to job stress and “occupational burnout,” ignoring the impact of what she termed “emotional burnout”.

The enlightening post, which is also a Twitter thread, reads: “I’m realising that burnout doesn’t only come from overworking, not taking enough breaks or sleepless nights. It also comes from “under working” or under utilisation of your potential, skills and talents.”

Check it out here:

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“There is often a feeling of being artificially tied to where we are that we can’t even think of a way out. Might sound simple but it really is — the mere thought of KNOWING that you have other options allows you to feel freer,” Smart explains in the post’s caption.

She notes that this type of burnout is often harder to pinpoint as it manifests differently than in the workplace, where an over-attachment to your emails, consistently working beyond your hours and a lack of focus are the most obvious red flags. 

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According to Mental Health UK, as prevalent as it is, burnout is still often misunderstood and stigmatised, something Smart agrees with.

“It’s not all the usual symptoms of a physical burnout — but a deeper emotional and mental feeling of being ‘lost’ or ‘dead’ inside,” she expands.

Smart goes on to explain in the thread that this sort of emotional burnout “is not one that can be fixed by taking a four week vacation, sleeping more, or even working out.”

Those are bandaids, she says. Instead, “the real fix is doing the thing(s) that make you feel alive, and not dead inside.”

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When experiencing emotional burnout, Smart suggests utilising the acronym RUN: Realising what you want to do next that will bring you joy, Understanding your skills and identifying places where you feel will honour your true self and Negotiating your way out of your current situation.

However, she also shares another important reminder. “Because we can’t see our mental health makes it easier for us to think we’re overthinking or inflating how we feel.”

“Please don’t downplay or dismiss those feelings, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re being paranoid or worried “over nothing”.

Very wise words indeed.

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