Burnout is not a mysterious ailment. Rather, it is the result of the combination of stress and a full plate: too many tasks and responsibilities, too little time to complete them and a lack of control over how to do things.
Burnout is often linked to perfectionism. The more you push yourself, the more you expect from yourself. But striving for perfection is not realistic. The result is often a feeling of failure and guilt.
People experiencing burnout also tend to be quick to criticize themselves. You might think you’re worthless, or that you’ll never be able to achieve your goals, or that you’ve let your family down.
That only adds to your stress because you feel powerless to change the situation.
Isolation can also feed burnout. It’s important for people in academia — whether students, faculty or administrators — to socialize with each other, especially when they are experiencing stressful times in their lives:
failure on a job application or grant proposal; the death of a loved one; trouble with their children; or problems at work that they can’t discuss with anyone at their department or on campus because they don’t want to “burden” their colleagues.
How to avoid burnout
I have discovered that people who suffer from burnout often have a poor understanding of what they can control and what they can’t.
They tend to be very hard on themselves because they don’t know how to say “no” when something is outside their area of control.
They also have difficulty saying “yes” when something is within their area of control and actually makes sense for them to do. And they often lack the self-confidence needed to ask for help.
What you can do:
Set clear goals for your life and let your family, friends, colleagues and supervisors know them so they can support you.
Set realistic timelines for tasks, including work assignments, that will allow you to meet deadlines without feeling like you are constantly rushing and feeling overwhelmed.
Consider delegating tasks that others can do just as well or better than you. Take breaks regularly throughout the day to give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries.
Remember that you are not a machine
You have needs other than work that need to be met in order for you to remain healthy, happy and productive in your job.
Establish boundaries with your supervisor.
You need to let them know how much you can take on and when to say no.
Find someone who will listen to your problems, either a friend or family member who can give you advice or counseling if necessary.
Don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional counselor if you feel like you need it.
Organizations have a role in burnout prevention, too.
They should provide support systems for staff so they are not afraid of asking for assistance when they need it.
In academia, that can mean having faculty career coaches available for students and staff members who want advice on how to navigate their careers.
This type of feedback is particularly important for women and students of color, who often feel like they have to do everything on their own without help from anyone.
Some people in academia might think that the only way to avoid burnout is to leave the job altogether. I disagree. But it’s important to know when to say “no” and when it’s time to ask for help.
Please remember that talking to someone who listens to you is always beneficial. In Cudy, you can talk with a professional counsellor anywhere at time and in any location to help you with any issues you might have.