Why Burnout Happens and How to Prevent it

Have you ever felt just so so physically, mentally, emotionally exhausted and like you’ve lost all sense of purpose in your life? Where life feels overwhelming and like it has no meaning anymore? Maybe there’s seemingly nothing wrong in life and yet daily life feels like such a struggle. Should it really be this hard to get out of bed in the morning?

I’ve been there.

When even seemingly tiny tasks feel totally overwhelming and that I can’t summon up the motivation to get them done. It’s much easier to sit thinking about them than to just do them.

When having a shower feels like a marathon. So I just put it off a bit longer…

When I procrastinate from unloading the dishwasher for an hour when really it could have been over in 5 minutes.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Lots of us are living in a state of survival and coping rather than thriving or living. We are doing too much, and because everyone else is over-committed and doing it too then it seems like it’s normal. We start to wonder if there is something wrong with us because everyone else seems to be managing OK. But we’re just so so exhausted and should life really feel this hard? Or this mundane?

We worry that if we get off the hamster wheel then life might fall apart. If we drop one of the balls then we might drop all of them. If we stop then what if we can’t hold it all together anymore? What if the facade crumbles? What would we be left with? What would people think of us? What if life does totally fall apart?

Maybe we keep going until we get burnt out, which temporarily forces us to stop. That is, until we recoup a bit and then we do it all over again… and again.

So how do you build a life you don’t need to take time out from? How can you stop getting ill when you stop? How can you break out of the cycle of burnout?

The reality is that life needs a bit of tweaking to find a better balance. If nothing changes then burnout will keep happening. Life needs a bit of an overhaul to make it work for you and your needs.

About a year ago I came across Marie Asberg’s exhaustion funnel, which sums up how burnout happens. Basically, when life is going well for us, we naturally do the things that make us feel good and we look after ourselves. We make life work for us, find time to see our friends and make space in our lives to do hobbies and things that we enjoy.

 

Exhaustion Funnel Marie Asberg

Marie Asberg’s Exhaustion Funnel

 

As life gets busier or a life event happens, stress creeps in, then we drop something that seems non-essential. We still find time for work, chores and some rest, but we squeeze out some of the things we enjoy to make time for the things that need doing. We don’t think it matters because it is just for today or this week. We start to feel fatigue and our sleep is affected so we’re now tired but we’re ploughing on through.

It’s just for a time we tell ourselves.

Life continues and we’re now feeling tired as well as busy so we start to squeeze out some more non-essential things like rest. We still do the work and chores because they feel non-negotiable. We don’t want to let others down. We might start to feel irritable and maybe start to feel some physical symptoms. Our body is telling us that life is out of balance and we need to stop. But we don’t have time for that at the moment and don’t have much energy left. And besides, this is all just for a time.

Just for another few weeks. Or until that deadline is over. Or the assignment is handed in. Or until the holiday we’ve planned.

The chores start to get put off now as well. We’re managing work because we don’t have a choice about that. But we’re just so so exhausted. Work is taking up all the energy left now. Life feels joyless and meaningless because work is all that’s left. And those bills aren’t going to pay themselves. Exhaustion and work are your life now.

All the fun and friends and things that you enjoy and give you meaning aren’t part of your life because there’s no energy for them. And you’re too tired to enjoy them anyway. It’s all so out of balance that it feels impossible to get back to how it used to be. You’ve slipped down the funnel and now you’re at the bottom you’re not sure how you get back up again.

Does this feel familiar?

There’s no shame in getting burnt out or realising you’re at the bottom of the funnel and don’t know how to climb back up again.

If life is feeling out of balance and like you’re stressed, exhausted or on the brink of burnout, then don’t beat yourself up about it. The way out of the funnel is taking care of yourself. Listening to what you need and making time for the things you enjoy. It feels counterintuitive but we achieve more when we rest more.

If this feels like it’s speaking to you and you would like some help finding balance again and working out how to build a life where you don’t find yourself in burnout cycles, then I’d love to work with you. I can help you to find ways to make life work for you.