Burnout is like the boogie monster.
When you’re not paying attention it creeps up on you, smacks you in the face, and makes you scream.
Burnout moves slowly at the start.
The longer you notice it’s not there the faster its horrific impacts start negatively affecting your life. Burnout has nearly ruined my life multiple times — it’s an ongoing battle.
Modern-day success is fine until you become too addicted to work and start to unconsciously sacrifice your energy, body, and mind.
The hidden layer of burnout
A little stress is good for you. It helps you break your comfort zone and even build muscles in the gym.
No pressure, no growth.
I deal with one stressful event fine. What I’ve started to notice is when multiple layers of stress enter my life then things can go bad.
Recently, two close family members became gravely ill. Then I got a difficult customer for the first time in a long time. Then a small business lawsuit landed on my desk from years ago. Then I got coroni-rona and my lung capacity was affected long-term as a result.
The high-pitched ringing in my ears that was manageable started to get out of control again — it’s affecting my sleep. Layer in a few trolls and a recession that’s slowed down the global economy, and soon, layers of stress start to mount.
Burnout starts with stress because stress causes energy reserves to spring a leak faster than normal.
If you don’t monitor your stress levels they can quickly go from healthy to burnout levels.
What burnout feels like
The official definition of burnout is complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
What it feels like to me is a lack of motivation, an out-of-control to-do list, an unhealthy drop in personal savings, and getting tired easily. When I experience burnout I often find myself taking multiple naps a day instead of the one 15-minute daily nap I normally take.
Sleep is how energy is replenished. If you’ve hardly done any work and your energy has already tanked, it can be a sign of burnout.
A bizarre thing I find with burnout is I can become easily bored too. Everything can start to feel familiar or the same. Since the bat virus struck in 2020, many of us have experienced this feeling.
Working from home feels the same after a while.
- The same home office
- The same few family members
- The same place you sleep and work
- No work events or fire drills in the office to break up the monotony
Frustration creeps in too
Low energy causes you to snap.
You forget the phrase “everybody is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Your ego can easily start running the show. Think of it like being a firecracker. All it takes is one spark and everything blows up.
Frustration finds its way into your life because burnout is still invisible. You believe it’s just the stupidity of others that is at an all-time high rather than an early warning sign of burnout.
Whenever I start thinking everyone is stupid, I watch David Foster Wallace’s “This is water speech” on Youtube.
Dopamine habits can make it worse
Dopamine is now a feature most businesses think about.
If humans don’t get a dopamine release from a product or service then it probably won’t become a sticky transaction they complete repeatedly.
Even as a writer I think about dopamine. Every subtitle in a piece of writing gives the reader a small amount of dopamine because subtitles create a feeling of progress.
With fake dopamine rewards so incessant, they’re hard to escape. They, too, can further lower energy and make early or late-stage burnout feel worse.
You aren’t lazy
Laziness is easier to spot than burnout and you probably don’t suffer from it if you’re reading this.
Lazy people habitually never take action. They’ve been sloth bears for years and they like it that way. Netflix isn’t a new concept to them. Streaming back-to-back seasons of whatever is hot right now is a lifelong pursuit.
They don’t have side hustles. They call making money online a scam. They call everything a scam.
Skepticism helps them escape responsibility. Pessimism helps them explain their laziness. They have an answer for every excuse about why they don’t have what they want.
Whereas with burnout these positive habits in life existed but they’ve simply dropped off lately. They’ve taken a backseat and it’s hard to know why.
Motivation is more important than being filthy rich
It’s hard to be motivated when you’re burned out.
Writer Justin Welsh taught me that being filthy rich and burned out is the worst way to live. Many people who get stuck in the corporate rat race to nowhere suffer from this problem.
They don’t realize that less work with less burnout and moderate wealth is heaps better.
When you’re not burned out and have a healthy level of motivation, it’s easier to achieve the goals in life that we’ll make you fulfilled. Or, if you’re like me, to achieve the goals you’re obsessed with that feel like air you need to survive.
The cure for burnout
Burnout culture is so common that there are plenty of simple solutions. Here are the best ones I’ve found.
1. See the signs and notice it
Once you know the signs of burnout it’s easier to notice it and address the problem fast, before it becomes a giant pain the butt.
2. Remove stressors
Some stressors come from nowhere, but other stressors we choose. Right now, to avoid burnout, I am removing stressors that I previously chose. You can too. Less stress helps to rapidly bring down the level of burnout you experience.
3. Let big boy sweat pants or spandex leggings help
The gym is a great place to unload stress.
Three times a week I go and dump my stress there. I walk in with stress, and walk out with less stress. It feels like a magic cure. It’s not. Harvard research tells us that exercise has always played this role, but most people don’t know.
I once dated a woman who had an 85-year-old grandpa. His hair was a silky black color and his skin had no wrinkles.
“What’s your secret, mate?” I asked.
“Grey hair equals a life of stress.”
Maybe that explains why more and more 20 and 30-year-olds have grey hair.
4. Get some action in the bedroom
Get your mind out of the gutter. By “action” I mean regular naps and more sleep. When I approach burnout I crank up my sleep hours.
I go from 8 hours to 9 hours. Then I add 15-minute naps during the day.
5. Piss like a puppy dog
Drinking lots of water cleans out your insides and makes you piss like a dog. A lack of water causes dehydration in the body. This further lowers your energy. So if you feel burned out then dehydration is to be avoided at all costs.
6. Tell your boss to stick it up their ass
Bosses are a big source of burnout.
They want to work us as hard as possible so they can get their bonus and make as much profit out of our ass as possible.
Unless you put up some brick walls and start to fence off parts of your schedule to rest and recover, they’ll continue to push the limits until you break. It’s easy for them too.
If you become broken they can simply jump on LinkedIn and hire another person just like you. No f*cks given.
Let the boss know where you stand. Fewer meetings … or you too may end up on LinkedIn looking for a new job that doesn’t come with a side of burnout.
Burnout’s a b*tch.
It’s hard to notice and slowly creeps up on you. Know the signs like you know your underwear size. Realize you’re probably not lazy. Have a strategy in place to lower the multiple levels of stress that can easily build up in your life.
Then when natural motivation returns, use it to do something to make the world better than you found it.