Typically, we don’t know we’ve reached Burnout until we’re in the thick of it. Thankfully, our new Burnout Prevention Plan can help change that. Understanding some of the root causes of Burnout can help stop it in its tracks, too. As a relational therapist, I look at patterns- what they look like, how they perpetuate, and yes, what ignites them. When looking at anything cyclical, if we can start at the beginning, we can understand how other behaviors, feelings, interactions, etc. will likely unfold. Because Burnout tends to repeat itself, we can think of it in terms of a pattern that ends up seeping into our relationships, our self-perception, and ultimately our overall well being.
A key component to preserving the Burnout Cycle (a.k.a. What we don’t want) is our inclination to justify what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This Rationalization is one of the root causes of Burnout.
We regularly encounter added stress with supportive statements. You may be familiar with convincing yourself to keep going by saying or thinking, “I need to do this,” or “This will benefit me,” or “I have to push through.” Usually, we follow this with an explanation: “because I need a raise,” or “because I want an A.” We’re driven by career motives, money, pride, or perfectionism, to name a few.
What happens when we rationalize is we end up exhausting ourselves further into the Burnout Cycle. Although part of ourselves may feel right about doing this, there’s an essential part of us that’s being neglected. These justifications eventually get overrun by our human need to slow down and rest. We can’t operate on little to no fuel but we steer in that direction anyway until we can’t go on anymore (whether that’s us becoming physically ill or just completely beaten down and drained.)
How can we keep holding ourselves up if the foundation for doing so wasn’t built right in the first place? Built right? Let’s look at it this way: When a construction worker starts a build they have to gather materials. In this case, those materials are sourced from not only our expectations but also the expectations of others and usually those tend to be made out of Work. Work, however, is an unstable material to use for a lifelong project. It’s necessary but it’s not a structural element, it’s an action- a means to an end. When we demand so much and work ourselves to the core- or framework, we end up tearing ourselves down in the process. We need stabilizers, like our values and REST, to hold it all together.
In many ways, we can point to the societal norm of glorifying perseverance and hard work. There are bestsellers like “Grit” and “Outliers,” which dive into what it takes to be successful and we’re peppered with the same types of messages on all of our social media platforms, in movies, and in podcasts. Working hard can lead to success and having more purpose. However, there’s a balance to strive for that’s just as important, if not moreso. We can’t get there when Burnout keeps bringing us down.
Catherine at Revive