Most of us know it when we’re stressed. We talk about it, and we talk about needing to do something about it…when we have the time.
But we might not be aware when we reach the point of burnout. That’s because going numb is the nature of burnout. To be so worn out that you are beyond caring.
Put simply, burnout is stress that has gone on too long. It is an important distinction to understand. Burnout has more serious, long-term consequences for your physical health and for your emotional well-being.
Take a moment for self-reflection and assess yourself.
If you are stressed, you are
- constantly on the go, urgently trying to get things done.
- emotionally brittle, tending toward irritability and anxiety. Your thinking might be a bit scattered.
- tired and not sleeping well, rushing through leisure activities.
If you are a stressed family caregiver, you are scrambling to keep up with the demands of your role. But you believe that you eventually can get everything under control, and doing so feels important to you. Getting stress relief is a goal.
If you are burned out, you are
- doing less and less and still feeling exhausted.
- emotionally dull and hopeless, feeling there’s no point in making an effort at anything because nothing ever changes.
- frequently physically ill, catching every cold that comes around.
- withdrawing from friends and activities and often overconsuming food, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
To put this in perspective, consider stress to be a blinking yellow light: Yield. Slow down. Find a way to weave in more breaks. Consider burnout to be a red light: Stop. You have given too much for too long. Change is needed immediately before burnout undermines your health and your ability to provide appropriate care for your loved one.