Burnout is real, but it doesn’t have to be your reality! — Lionesses of Africa

by Filipa Carreira 

Burnout was first identified in the 70’s and it was a workplace problem. Nowadays we recognize that factors leading to burnout go beyond the professional to include parenting, caring for sick family members, and social activism. In fact, anything that requires you to care and invest your time and energy.

The burnout tri-factor includes:

Depersonalization: This is when you separate yourself emotionally from your work, it is when you disengage because you no longer find it meaningful.

Decreased Sense of Accomplishment: When you keep working harder and harder, but you feel like you get less and less done.

Emotional Exhaustion: This is the overwhelming feeling of being emotionally drained that builds up over time.

Anyone can experience burnout. It is not a mental illness or a medical diagnosis that requires years of therapy, although it commonly overlaps with anxiety, depression, repressed rage, and rage. Burnout is a condition related to the experience of overwhelming stress and it manifests differently in each person.

So, what can you do if you feel like you are experiencing burnout or getting close? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not self-care! Telling someone going through burnout to relax has the same effect as screaming at someone to calm down in an argument, it only instigates more stress. And burnout is a physiological response to overwhelming stress. Going on holiday and switching off from your main sources of stress and reboot is a great idea, but we don’t all have that luxury. For the rest of the time that you cannot just go off grid like you want to, the answer seems to be complete your stress cycles and find your tribe! Completing a stress cycle looks something like this:

Step 1 – You identify a perceived threat, these are your stressors or triggers, the things that stress you out – this can be your kids, your partner, your job, money, co-workers, commuting…

Step 2 – You experience stress as the body’s physical response to these triggers, the commonly known “fight, flight and freeze” response. Your body starts pumping adrenaline and cortisol, affecting your digestion (this is the reason you stress poop before a presentation or an important meeting), and your cognition as you become hyper focused in resolving a particular problem (why you tend to take your work home and think about that spreadsheet while your kid is telling you about their day).

Step 3 – The body receives the signal that the threat no longer exists.

Our problem is that we get stuck in a loop where we identify a perceived threat, we are triggered by someone cutting us off in traffic, we have a physiological response, we feel rage, we release hormones. And then… we don’t process the stress in a way that signals the body to stop stressing, instead we just pile it on until we blow up or implode, experiencing burnout.

Since stress is very much a physical response to a stimulation, one way we can complete the stress cycle is to move our body by running, going for a walk, exercising, and even sex helps us feel the release required for the mind and body to relax. These are important tools for momentary stress relief, however the most important antidote to burnout is love and connection. Studies have shown that people with deep and meaningful relationships are more resilient to burnout. People who feel deeply loved and supported, and those who feel their love reciprocated and supported. So, if you see a new mum struggling, looking like she hasn’t changed in a week, hold the baby for 5 minutes and let her pop in the shower. Your friend is struggling to meet a deadline, send them some take-out. Let them know you care, and they are not alone!

You might be rolling your eyes thinking, “I’m not really feeling the love right now? I’m not going out there randomly looking for friends. Where would I even begin?”. I get it, I’ve been there. But hear me out. Whenever you feel stuck and isolated, I want you to know that on the other side of that wall is just another person feeling just as hopeless and isolated as you, craving connection just as much as you, so reach out.

And remember, you are a Lioness of Africa, this is our pride! We are a diverse community where you are sure to find like-minded warrior women, who like you sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed so reach out to one another network with an open heart and connect deeply. Find your tribe and nurture it like your life depends on it. Because it does! Your mental, physical, and spiritual health reflect your closest and deepest connections.

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