It’s Thursday and you are standing in the middle of your kitchen looking around the house.
Dishes are piled.
Dirty socks in the middle of the floor.
Toys on the counter, couch and floor.
It’s 5pm and someone is asking “what’s for dinner”.
It’s been a stressful few weeks… Strike that… 3 months.
You’re feeling overwhelmed with all the demands and no matter how much you ask people to pick up after themselves, or tidy each night, the chaos continues.
And don’t get me started on the laundry… it never seems to end.
Both you and your spouse are on a busy schedule so the chances of things changing any time soon are slim to none.
This has become the new normal.
Barely keeping things going and tending to the most urgent need.
Can you hear the prolonged stress, helplessness and hopelessness in this story?
Burnout doesn’t have to be work-related. It’s a human experience of feeling overwhelmed, out of control and trapped.
Here’s a different scenario.
You are a missionary in a community that has a high rate of poverty and low resources.
Each time you speak to a person they are in crisis.
Housing, food, support services, employment, health… the needs are constant.
Many people are looking to you for support and because the needs require more time than you have you often spend your evenings and weekends assisting others.
Their needs are so great that there’s very little you can do to truly change their circumstances.
Resources are few and the demand is so high.
You mostly listen to support and offer the small amount of assistance you have access to and wonder if what you’re doing is even making a difference.
Looking back over the past 3 years circumstances seem to have become worse.
The issues people are dealing with are becoming more complex and it seems you are trying to do more with fewer resources.
You begin to feel that nothing is going to change for them or for your ability to help them.
Burnout is a real thing.
It impacts millions of people a year.
It happened to me.
Burnout occurs when there is a combination of three elements. Prolonged stress, hopelessness, and helplessness.
Let me repeat that.
Prolonged stress wears a person’s resilience down.
When you experience few breaks from the mounting deadlines, increasing pressures and expectations that are beyond your capacity the stress can impact your physical and emotional health.
The feeling of helplessness is all about control.
When you have little control over your work, schedule and responsibilities you are helpless to the waves of stress and overwhelm.
Hopelessness is the belief that nothing will change.
It’s a feeling of being trapped in the circumstance and that there will never be relief from the stress and pressure.
No opportunity to shift or change.
No light at the end of the tunnel.
Combine prolonged stress — that is not sustainable and impacts your physical and mental health — with no control or ability to change or influence your circumstance and you lose hope.
As hopelessness grows you develop a belief that you are trapped and nothing is going to change.
This is burnout.
A shift or change is necessary as burnout causes you to feel frustrated and depleted.
Burnout is often resolved when there is a shift or change in your work.
This is much easier said than done, so we begin by looking for very small changes that could be made.
Start with what’s on your plate.
Sounds like a cliché but this is an actual exercise developed by the researcher and author Françoise Mathieu.
In this exercise, you write all the things you do/are responsible for, roles, jobs, responsibilities, life needs and issues.
Some have found that when they see all of their roles, responsibilities and tasks in front of them it can be overwhelming.
But thankfully we don’t end the exercise here.
This exercise helps you to see just how much you are responsible for in a day and encourages you to delegate or offload some tasks.
And you guessed it my friend. I’ve created a download with this exercise for you to use.
Now go start with what’s on your plate.