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How I overcame burnout

3 min read
10 January 2022

What is burnout? What can cause it? Is it the same as stress? Laura, 22, shares her experience of burnout, as well as her tips for coping.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘burnout’? Some may associate it with feeling tired or stressed, which to some extent is true, but that only tells half the story. Burnout is something that builds up over time, as the result of prolonged stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, drained and unable to cope. It’s something I have experienced before, so I hope that I can offer some tips on how to avoid it.

Burnout is something that builds up over time, as the result of prolonged stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, drained and unable to cope.

What did burnout look like for me?

I am the type of person that likes to put the maximum amount of effort into everything that I do – I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. There was a time in my life where I was desperately trying to put an equal amount of effort into my studies, work, family, social life and hobbies (just typing that list sounds exhausting to me now). I’m confident that many of you can predict the feelings that came along with trying to focus on all of those things at once – yep, complete exhaustion, a.k.a. burnout.

As a result of trying to juggle too many things, I felt emotionally and physically drained. Suddenly, the joy in my life seemed to disappear. I struggled to find enjoyment or purpose in what I was doing and thought that if I couldn’t put my full effort into each area of my life then I must be failing. During this time, there were many tears and feelings of hopelessness – I thought that I would have to give up aspects of my life that I loved.

As a result of trying to juggle too many things, I felt emotionally and physically drained. Suddenly, the joy in my life seemed to disappear.

How did I overcome burnout?

If you’re experiencing burnout, it can be extremely difficult to reach out for help. For me, I struggled to talk about how I was feeling as I felt as though I just wasn’t able to manage life’s daily struggles like everybody else. I felt like an outsider looking in – everybody else was able to successfully manage their work-life balance, so why was I struggling to do this?

I reached a point where I couldn’t go on internalising my feelings for much longer. Luckily, I was able to speak to my family and friends about how I was feeling. After talking about it, I quickly came to the realisation that I had been forgetting one crucial life skill – prioritising. The act of prioritising appears simple, but actually putting this skill into practice, for me, proved very difficult. I need to remind myself that I’m not superwoman; I can’t give one hundred percent to every area of my life at the same time - it’s impossible.

I need to remind myself that I’m not superwoman; I can’t give one hundred percent to every area of my life at the same time - it’s impossible.

To begin my journey to overcome burnout, I created a physical list of my priorities. Each morning, I would review or edit my list to remind myself of the aspect that I needed to fully focus on that day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it was easy to push other areas to the side. However, for my own mental and physical health, I needed to realise that prioritising was the only way that I could recover from burnout.

Where am I now?

Like everybody, I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I let life’s stresses get the better of me, but my mental and physical health have improved so much since I started to prioritise. Now, I don’t worry too much if I don’t get everything done on my to do list. The reason that I don’t worry is because, you’ve guessed it, I prioritised my tasks.

It’s important to remember that your priorities don’t just have to be work-related or “productive”. Some days, I prioritise self-care and focusing on checking in with myself. I think that’s the biggest tip that I can give you – check in with yourself. Try to reflect upon how you’re feeling – are you trying to juggle too many things at once? You’re not a failure - nobody is perfect. Stop, reflect and prioritise.

It’s important to remember that your priorities don’t just have to be work-related or “productive”.

More information and advice

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Thanks for sharing your story Laura, 22

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