It’s a scenario that’s likely become all too familiar to us– you ask a friend how they are, and they say, “I don’t know. I’m just… tired.” It’s the kind of tired that goes way beyond physical exhaustion, the kind of tired that settles into every aspect of your life. It’s hard to track, and even harder to beat. Luckily, it does have a name: burnout.
Burnout isn’t a completely new concept. The difficulty that comes with trying to switch off the little voice that says “keep working, keep working, keep working” is something that most people usually go through. However, it’s time that we opened up even more extensive dialogue about it, since wearing yourself out to the point of exhaustion could do some serious damage– physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Being in a constant state of tiredness can prevent you from living fully. Also, feeling burnout isn’t sustainable at all. As humans, we all have our breaking points, and the less we hover dangerously close to them, the better.
Perhaps the worst part of burnout is the inner conflict it starts inside you. The ever-so-challenging question of “when do I stop?” can set off an internal argument that just keeps playing on a loop. On one side: “I need to rest. I should rest. Nothing’s working anymore,” and on the other side: “You’re being lazy. Keep pushing. Just work.” Here’s a useful tip– identify the phrase that reveals it all: nothing’s working anymore. The first step to getting over burnout is acknowledging the fact that something’s gone wrong, and that it needs to be fixed before you can carry on with your responsibilities.
A common metaphor that’s been used to describe burnout is that of a vehicle. Whether you’re a student or someone who’s already working, go ahead and liken yourself to a car. In the same way that it’s foolish to ignore smoke coming out of the hood, it’s not right to feel burnt out and just assume that you can keep going and going. I was able to speak to a friend (a fellow high school senior) about their experience with burnout and how it manifests itself in everyday student life.
They mentioned how it can actually feel like “laziness on steroids”, characterized by increased difficulty in doing schoolwork and a general loss of interest. Coming back to the internal argument I mentioned earlier, well– this is what it can look like on the outside. While the fight continues inside your mind, you might find yourself just blankly staring at your laptop screen, or staying in bed, unable to do anything.
Everyone ends up using their own strategies to lessen burnout, but all of these definitely involves taking a step back and doing a major life re-evaluation. This actually isn’t as daunting as it seems– as long as you start the process with an open mind and a clear intent to change things for the better, you’ll find your way to becoming someone who is on fire for the life they live, not burnt out.
In any case, take this as a sign that: it’s time to give yourself a break.
To see a representation of what burnout can feel like (in the form of a cute comic!) visit: