Do you sometimes feel that you simply can’t work towards something anymore? Well, that’s what we often perceive as burnout.
Many of us often exclaim ‘I’m so burnt out!’ when we reach the peak of our capacity to be productive and engaged with what we do. But, have you ever thought about how this might just be your thoughts that lead to these feelings of utter exhaustion and demotivation? Well, the truth is, it is our beliefs about the efforts that we put in on a daily basis that dictate how burnt out we feel. We spoke briefly about flow in our previous article, and we’ll be covering it in much more detail, but essentially, flow is a state in which something that we do is entertaining, exercises the skills we possess, but doesn’t overwhelm us.
This definition of flow seems to fit in with pretty much any activity that we know we enjoy doing, and will be able to come out of with productive insights. This is when we truly enjoy what we do, and hence, one could say that we mostly achieve flow when we feel that the things we’re doing have some higher purpose for us. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the feeling of burnout. We see college students often scrounging for time to write a paper and reaching a meltdown as they reach the penultimate hours to submit their assignments. We often see medical students facing or rather ‘feeling’ burnout from the long hours that they are subjected to at work.
But, would this feeling arise when one enjoyed the work they do? Well, let’s just say that thoughts and emotions are linked in a fascinating, cyclical way. The way you think about something will produce emotions about it in your mind. These emotions will then help you look at it in a new light, filtered by the said emotions. These thoughts in turn, will amplify the emotions you felt in the first place, starting a cycle that is natural to each one of us. The point is that we need to begin making sure that we engage ourselves with things that have meaning to us rather than just doing work for the sake of it. Maybe then, we’ll truly start to see the value of what we do, not letting the feeling of being burnt out creep onto us.
The point of therapy is to cut the cycle of thoughts and emotions that we spoke of earlier. When we are able to look at our thoughts and emotions in isolation, we often understand that reframing our thoughts leads us to feel better about certain things. For example, rather than saying ‘I’m never going to be able tis submit this paper on time!’, maybe saying or thinking that you’ll give it your all will help you feel a more positive set of emotions about the work at hand. Therapy becomes a way to sit down and review the processes that go on within our mind and ask ourselves whether there is any other way we can look at the things we experience in order to feel more favorably.
Thus, while burnout may as well be just a feeling, dealing with it using hedonic pleasures like a vacation, or substances may only yield temporary satisfaction. Sitting down with someone and evaluating how you feel, and why, might be the answer in the long term!
An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.