Before I talk more about this, I want to say that I love any article about burnout that starts out by acknowledging that burnout at work, is a systemic issue, that can really only be corrected by management. That being said, this is also an important point to make about our own feelings of burnout:
“First, our research confirmed the established finding that burnout is not a monolithic phenomenon, but rather, it can present as any combination of three distinct symptoms: exhaustion (a depletion of mental or physical resources), cynical detachment (a depletion of social connectedness), and a reduced sense of efficacy (a depletion of value for oneself). To recover from burnout, you must identify which of these resources has been depleted and take action to replenish those resources.”
As the authors point out, your approach to self-care should be different depending on what is causing the burnout. If you’re just exhausted from a lack of sleep, overwork, etc. taking a day to rest, relax, and take care of yourself might be the best thing you can do for yourself. (Recognizing, as mentioned above, that if you’re overworked, fixing that falls on other people and the company) On the other hand, if you’re burned out from watching the news, and developing really a very cynical outlook of other people. spending a day isolating yourself from social connections even further, might not really be the best option. So, self care starts to look a little different depending on not only your own individual preferences, but also what it is that is causing these feelings of burnout.
Of course, the struggle here is knowing yourself, and your emotions. In order to chart the right path for self-care, you need to know what it is that you’re dealing with, and what method helps you. For example, personally, I’m probably more frequently burned out when I’m feeling that cynical detachment about people. Everything other people do annoys me when I’m in that mode, which used to signal to me that I needed to be alone, but that was incorrect. It took awhile to understand that was only making it worse. Especially because not being around people felt better at the time, since no one was there to annoy me. But it wasn’t really long-lasting. It wasn’t until I realized that the best thing I could do when I find myself in that situation, is find some kind of positive social interaction. Laughing with my wife, talking to a friend, even asking social media connections to share a bit of positive news with me, helped get rid of the cynicism I was feeling.
Of course, on the other hand, if I’m really just physically exhausted, instead of staying up to connect, I should probably just get some rest.
It can be complicated, but that’s how we are, complicated. The more you can understand yourself though, the better off you’ll be.