7 Causes of Burnout + Pro Tips for Saying *No*
No doubt the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. A recent study by Mental Health America found that 75 percent of American workers experienced burnout in 2020 and we're still in it for the foreseeable future. We spoke with Rachel Todd, founder of the coaching service Return To Flow, about the causes for burnout, how to prevent them and ways to set boundaries and create more time for YOU.
"When you say 'yes' to everything, it's easy to lose sight of what you need and deserve," says Todd, a former-Wall Street consultant who developed an autoimmune disorder from pushing herself too hard and now helps clients reframe and personalize their definition of success. "It also leaves you completely depleted because you simply are not able to do it all. Setting boundaries with other people and learning how to say 'no' frees up space to focus on the work tasks that are most important and most aligned to your skill set, make time for self care, and ultimately avoid exhaustion and burnout."
Do you find it difficult to set boundaries and say "no"? Many women do, for fear of disappointing people or the belief that saying "yes" will make others accept us, says Todd. Here are the seven main causes of burnout, based on your work personality. Read on for ways to avoid it and set aside more time for self-care.
- Cause: you're chasing the product (i.e. promotion) rather than enjoying the process
- Craves praise for achievements
- Feeling guilty if not working on something / always chasing after something with no end in sight
- Distorted and unrealistic expectations of yourself and others (i.e. judges a "healthy" schedule as unambitious or lazy)
- Cause: you focus too much on doing instead of being
- Judging yourself for not working hard enough
- Believe that the harder you push, the more likely you are to succeed
- Intense focus on discipline
- Judging yourself for not working hard enough
- Cause: you believe that anything less than "perfect" is a failure
- Don't allow yourself any mistakes
- Have trouble completing a project because you think there is always something more you can do to make it better
- All or nothing mentality (e.g. either successful or not, no grey area)
- Honing in on imperfections
4. Controller/ Micro Manager
- Cause: you hold a lack of trust in anyone but yourself and difficulty dealing with the unknown
- Can't trust others to do a good job so you take it on yourself
- Believe in "if you want it done right, do it yourself"
- Having a difficult time with uncertainty so try to prepare for every worst case scenario
- Cause: you do whatever it takes to "win" or "succeed"
- Constantly comparing yourself to others and idealizing people's lives
- Working yourself to exhaustion to stay ahead
- Getting upset about others' successes, or secretly wishing failure on others
6. People Pleaser
- Cause: you believe that saying "yes" will avoid disappointing or hurting others
- Difficulty setting boundaries and saying "no"
- Discomfort if someone is upset with you so always comply with what they want/need (even if it doesn't suit your best interests)
- Difficulty asserting yourself
- Cause: you believe that focusing intently on a problem will solve it (or at least relieve the discomfort of not knowing the answer)
- Spending more time thinking instead of doing, and getting stuck in minutia
- Trouble sleeping because your brain won't shut off
- Asking lots of "what if" questions
- Spend a lot of time worrying about things you have no control over
Ways to Prevent Burnout
If any of these burnout personalities sound a bit like you, it might be time to reset this year. Here are ways Todd recommends preventing burnout so you can achieve healthy success while balancing self-care.
- Understand and redefine your definition of success. Creating a vision board for the year or for each goal can help.
- Set boundaries and prioritize self-care. Start with our 10 Ways to Practice Self Care When You Only Have 10 Minutes.
- Prioritize work tasks that are meaningful to you and give you a sense of purpose.
- Delegate activities that drain your energy and are not aligned with your strengths and skills.
- Make time for the hobbies, activities, and people who are important to you and help you to recharge.
- Practice mindfulness and be aware of the habits, patterns, and activities that cause you stress.
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.