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Let’s talk about burnout

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Burnout. It was a key theme of quite a vast bit of my 2019, yet I barely recognised it for what it actually was until very recently.


burn·​out | \ ˈbərn-ˌau̇t: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration


I hate saying that I’m stressed, because I know there are people out there who do way, WAY more than I ever do in even a month, let alone a day. If I ever did say it, people around me would chuckle and go “what do you have to be stressed about?” and fair enough, because at a glance, I didn’t have much to be worrying about. For most of the year I was a student, and so I had peers going through the exact same thing who were able to still get up in the morning and function with no qualms. For the remaining months following finishing up at university, I only worked between November and December. I had a whole two months just searching for jobs day-to-day, and it looked as though I spent my days in bed and doing a wee Google search for “journalism jobs in Scotland” every so often.

That’s how I’d have viewed it, anyway. And that’s why I failed to see it as the above definition.

I’ve talked about struggles I’ve seen myself go through previously, and unfortunately at the start of the year, that came back up. It’s blah and pretty crummy, but it is what it is. I’ve always found it difficult to talk about these things, so I stayed very quiet about it all and just got on with it. On reflection, that was probably the worst thing to do – but there was so much going on that I felt I couldn’t really stop and take in how I was feeling. This was actually around the time we had to move, so it really was a hectic time with not much space for any other goings-on!

Burnout in students is getting talked about more often, which I’m really glad to see. I was obviously well aware of the stresses that come with being a high school or university student when I was one, but having come out at the other side and looking back, it’s crazy. It’s also almost expected when going through education, which meant that again, I took to just pushing through and getting on with it. It sucks that it happens, but I suppose it helped that I had others around me going through the same experiences.

What really got me, and what I’d really like to discuss, is the unexpected feeling that came with being unemployed. I graduated in 2018 and worked a summer job before going straight back into doing my masters; I finished my last class for that degree in May 2019 and didn’t pick up work until November. My excuse for not panicking about jobs for the first few months was that I still had my project to focus on over the summer months in order to obtain the MA, but as August drew to an end, I was increasingly aware that most students from the class had started working while I was still to even send in my first application. I’d always been very lucky to have got any jobs I had gone forward for before, so this was a whole new thing for me.

Let me tell you – no one prepares you for how lonely unemployment can be. I live with my boyfriend – who works full-time – and I’m seven hours away from home, so I struggled with keeping myself entertained. After a matter of weeks, I found myself not even bothering to get dressed, because I wasn’t leaving the house. My mornings consisted of waking up as my boyfriend got up to go to work and sitting on my phone going through the day’s new employment additions to various job websites. I’d apply if there was anything I was interested in (which was ANYTHING after a while); failing that, I’d just go back to sleep. It was an awful cycle, but one that I felt I couldn’t avoid after a while. I actually started to feel jealous when I’d hear the door close and the car start at 8am every day. AND I was rubbish at replying to emails or bothering with this website. The logical thing to have done was to spend my time writing on here and getting more creative, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it.

This was the time period I realised that I wasn’t feeling great. Obviously I was well aware that I felt miserable beforehand, but it was the beginning of a realisation that the way I felt could have an explanation rather than it just… being, really. It’s funny because the “traditional” understanding of burnout is that you’re overworked, but for me, I wasn’t working at all. What I was doing was spending every waking moment panicking about finding money and work, while having nobody to talk to until my boyfriend returned home at the end of the day or during a phone call to home through the week. I cried a lot. It was all a bit sucky.

But I was very, very lucky to have a job opportunity come up at the start of November, and to say it was the kick I so desperately needed is an understatement. Even having a reason to wake up, get dressed and head for the train was a god-send. I joked about willing to do the work for free – and only a part of me was joking. I’d got it into my head that my lack of employment and resultant loneliness was due to my incapability. I questioned my potential in the journalism industry on a daily basis, when really it was just a case of timing. That, and I had started to believe everything that burnout had caused me to think. Suddenly I was back to my old self, and I’ve sworn that this year will see me continue this new-but-old-found positivity. Yes, that’s a new term I’ve made up right now.

Eeeeh. This is turning into a total woe-is-me post! What I would like to do, on the back of this, is help people to recognise when little stresses here and there turn into full-blown burnout, and how to avoid it from creeping up. So, based on my own experiences, here are a few tips:

  • Talk about your day. Whether it’s with family, friends, flatmates, even just on social media. Take time to reflect on how you feel and what’s caused you to feel that way – whether good or bad.
  • Learn when to say “no”. I’ve always been incredibly bad at doing this, and I used to thrive on multitasking. That’s all fine and well, until it causes unnecessary upset and panic! Obviously choose your audience for when you do this, but it’s acceptable to admit when you’ve got too much on your plate.
  • Switch off. This is easier said than done, I know, but I’ve come to recognise moments where I’m checking emails or scrolling online when I could be doing something else; often, something way more relaxing. I started off finding this especially difficult as a freelancer working from home, but I’ve started to make sure that I work on a 9-5 basis to ensure my spare time is my spare time.
  • Sleep! I am absolutely the most hypocritical person in saying this, but it took all of this to teach me the importance of having a good sleeping schedule and ensuring you get enough sleep. I was getting too much sleep while I wasn’t working. Don’t do that either. But too little sleep can lead to pretty irrational thinking. There’s plenty apps out there now to help you fix your pattern, too!
  • It’s all in your head. I know this is a bit of an open-ended one, but this is something I had to take time to realise. I’m an incredibly self-critical person, and so I was quick to blame myself when things weren’t going my way, as well as being hard on myself all through my studies. If you’re anything like me, you need to teach yourself that not everyone is out to get you, and you’re more than capable of doing something if you put your mind to it. Bad patches do exist!

 

Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with stress? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Featured image by Freshh Connection on Unsplash

whathannahwrote

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35 COMMENTS

  • madidearson

    I can’t stand it when people judge your feelings and stress levels, it’s such a hurtful thing to do. People are individuals, what is hard for me might be a breeze for someone else, it also changes over time. Things that used to stress me out before, have less impact now. For me, the most important thing is not to get stuck inside my own head, the hardest thing for me is to talk it out, my go-to reaction is to go the snail way and close off. which is the worst thing to do. SO I force myself to talk to someone (usually the husband) and I practice self-care, just focus on my own needs till I feel ready to tackle whatever it is I need to.

  • Sarah Beane

    I’ve suffered a couple of cases of burnout at work, due to the stress and pressure of it all… I actually had to leave work early because I felt to bad! My tip is to book a Friday or Monday off every few weeks and enjoy that extra day. It really can make such a difference!

  • A Cup of Wonderland

    We have the same name and I think you just described the exact same Summer I had. Unemployment can be so disheartening and incredibly lonely. I think it didn’t help that it was right after leaving uni and having no were to go and the sudden loss of routine and everything. I think normalising burnout and that it’s okay to take a break would have been really helpful and something we should continue talking about openly.

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      That was exactly my problem – I’d gone from having a purpose to having nowhere to go during the day, and it was totally unexpected. I’m sorry you went through that, but it’s always good to know you’re not alone in these things! (Also YAAAS Hannahs unite)

  • hanmorris97

    Burnout is the worst feeling, but you definitely can’t compare your situation to someone else’s no matter how similar as we all handle things differently. The tips are so helpful too, and this is such a fab post xx

    Hannah | luxuryblush

  • Eena

    Burn out is the worst! I experienced it once in my nursing career and it was enough to have me step back and take some mental health days for myself. Anyways, I hope you’re taking care of yourself – sneak in some you / self-care time 🙂

    cabin twenty-four

  • Jaya Avendel

    It is amazing what talking about your day can do! I look forward so much to sharing all my adventures, even the little ones, from work when I go home. Something about it gives me a sense of freedom and something to look forward to.
    Saying no is also very important!

  • nataliawiatr

    I’m so glad you wrote this post. Few of my acquaintances and workmates know that I’ve gone through a depression just after I started work. I just couldn’t cope with work and studies at the same time and I had this “I have to” feeling stuck in my head. Because of work, I was failing on my MA thesis and this made me feel worthless and as a result, caused the depression. I was feeling absolutely burnt out and not understood. My older colleagues would even say I could take on some additional tasks, because I didn’t have children yet or that I was so young that I didn’t have anything to worry about. That was so unfair, but I didn’t notice it was. I felt I was not doing enough although in fact I was doing too much.

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Aw I’m so sorry you went through that! It really sucks that some people kind of discount these things when they don’t see a good “reason” for it happening. It’s so easy for it to just happen and for you not even to notice as well. I hope you managed to get your thesis finished in the end! x

  • Darina

    Stress ahhhhhh I can totally relate to this post. Sometimes it is hard to keep in mind all the steps to avoid burnout. Especially if you are an over thinker and perfectionist like me. Thank you for reminding of what is important.

  • bediak97

    Honestly, my last year at university was so stressful, but when people are there to encourage you, it is worth it in the end. You’re totally right about how drowsy life makes you when you’ve not got a full-time job.

    Great post.

  • Kayleigh Harris

    People do just brush off your stresses sometimes, as they think you shouldn’t have anything to stress about! It’s really not fair as they don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life. I’m really trying to cut down on the stress in my life this year and trying to actively be more aware of my thinking patterns.

    Kayleigh x
    https://hazelnutmusings.co.uk

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Exactly this! I’m so glad people are opening up a wee bit more about it now and others are starting to realise it’s a widespread thing. Working on your thinking patterns is a great way to combat stress – I started doing it at the end of the year and it really helped! x

  • Bumbles

    Yeah it’s tough, done the masters thing, got the piece of paper. They are vastly underfunded even through there’s more funding than before. If you need the support then should visit the help centre and discuss options, had to self assess to extend a project deadline at one point (my full-time course let you do that once per year) due to trying to balance too many things.

  • marsybun

    I definitely do need to give myself a break too! Even though I went on holiday in December I still felt tired all throughout as we went from place to place without stopping. Wish I could sleep for a whole week straight! X

  • solidparent

    I find everything is relative to your life. I can’t judge anyone elses worst day against my own. We all habe burn out moments and stress. I find my stress level dramatically lowers when I make sure to focus on my daily meditations and exercise.

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      This is very true! My boyfriend is the same, he takes to the gym to cheer up… whereas I’m more of a get-under-the-blanket-and-eat-my-feelings kind of person hahah. I’m definitely going to try and do more exercise when I’m feeling low or stressed and see if it can help me in the same way!

  • meredithdent

    This is so important! I’ve struggled a lot with burnout over the past two years and I’m finally starting to overcome it. It’s so important to recognize what it is and how it effects people, especially with how widespread it’s becoming. Thanks for sharing love!

  • Chloe O'Keeffe

    This is the freshest post, definitely needed to read this before going into my last semester of college, great post!!

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Aw thank you! Good luck with your last semester! x

  • nortoncharity

    Those are some great tips when you are feeling burnt out! I have felt that way too so I need to try this out the next time I start feeling that way. Thanks so much for sharing

  • Siobhan

    I had bad burnout when I was teaching, to the point that I changed careers and now when it would make sense to go back to teaching (I have a school aged daughter so the holidays together would be incredible) I’m too worried about burning out again to consider it properly. I don’t know about tips for dealing with burnout, except maybe don’t rule out seeing your GP if it’s a concern. They can refer you for counselling if burnout is actually lapsing more into depression, and I think it’s a really fine line between the two sometimes. Congratulations on your job!

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Seeing your GP is also a good point! Sometimes it goes beyond being able to help yourself, and you’re right, it can be a really fine line. That’s also an interesting point about how well going back to teaching would fit in with your personal life – it sounds good on paper, but there’s so much more to take into consideration! I hope your new career has you feeling a bit better x

  • I hit peak burn out a few months ago, and I honestly need the break! It is so important to give yourself a break and make time for yourself.

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

  • Thank you for sharing your own struggles. I have been there before and I know how difficult it can be to talk about. However, by opening up and sharing your own struggles, you may be opening the door needed for someone else struggling to make a change or get help!

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      This is exactly what I hope for! I used to stay so quiet about it, but you don’t realise the further damage it can cause by doing so. It’s so common as well!

  • thisdreamsalive

    I think we’ve had a very similar year! I graduated from my journalism BA in August and half my class have jobs I didn’t apply for. I still sometimes feel embarrassed working in retail but as you said, its about timing. I hope the new job is going well!

    Ash | https://pricklypineapples.ie

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      It’s so reassuring to hear that there’s someone else gone through the same thing! It’s such a competitive industry too. At the end of the day, at least you’ve got a job to go to and the rest will work itself out in time! x

  • I need to learn to give myself a break!

  • Carolina Messias

    I need to do this urgently!

  • sophienaylor1

    I am definitely experiencing burnout considering I’m trying to juggle & balance third year of uni, part time work AND a blog! It really isn’t spoken about enough so I’m so glad I’ve found this post! I can totally relate. <3

    Soph – https://girlvsworldblog.com x

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Oh wow, that’s amazing! I never felt I had enough time to study AND work even part-time, so well done! I’m glad it resonates with you! <3

      • Kayleigh Zara

        I experienced such a bad burnout in my third year of university when I was trying to blog and to juggle my dissertation and working a full time job. It was tough and a lot but I’m glad that I experienced it as now I know when to step back and I know when I’mburning out, thanks for sharing x

  • Tajinder Kaur

    We’ve all experienced burnout at one point in our lives. I remember breaking down in third year due to my dissertation. Love the tips you’ve shared, practical and easily adoptable. How I deal with stress is to schedule ‘me time’, it’s an hour of whatever I desire. A relaxing bath, exercise/moving around or escapism through a movie, series or book.

    Tx. // Tajinder Kaur

    • whathannahwrote
      AUTHOR

      Dissertations are TOUGH. That’s a good way to de-stress! I love a bath, but I don’t have one where I’m living right now and it’s gutting cause they’re so good for some down time!

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