Let's talk about burnout

Let's talk about burnout

[00:00:00] **Aurooba Ahmed:** Well, hello! This is The Daily Five with Aurooba, that's me, where we reflect on creating our best lives a little bit every day. Here we go.

[00:00:14] This episode is a longer one. Also, I'm at the tail end of a cold, so excuse my voice a little bit. I've been a full time knowledge worker, specifically in the realm of web development and digital creation, for almost 11 years now.

[00:00:31] For some, that's gonna be like, oh, what a short career, you know nothing, you're a baby. And for some, that's gonna seem like, okay, you know, a good length of career. In these nearly 11 years, I've experienced acute burnout twice, and mild kind of burnout once. So, a total of three times. And all three times for wildly different reasons. Sort of.

[00:00:55] I didn't recognize it the first time, and I suffered for quite a while before I figured out how to get better. I recognized it quicker the second time, but it took me even longer to get better then. By the third time, I now understood my triggers a little bit better, and was able to quickly identify what was going on, pivot hard and fast, and I bounced back pretty soon.

[00:01:18] So, point number one: There is no one reason why people experience burnout. Burnout can be triggered by a bunch of different reasons, in a bunch of different combinations, for different people.

[00:01:29] Point number two. Burnout looks different on different people. The only common denominator is that left untreated and, you know, unnoticed long enough and the burnt out person's life starts to go up in flames eventually.

[00:01:45] It would be the height of hubris if I claimed I had burnout figured out, because I don't. But I will say that I recognize the most common denominators of the three occasions when I did experience burnout. And at the age of 31, I know myself far better than I did when I was 22 and experienced my first professional burnout.

[00:02:06] My research says that there is a rough consensus around three types of burnout that most people fall into. Overload, under challenged, and neglect. Overload is the most commonly understood form of burnout, when you work harder and longer trying to succeed, but that success either never comes or is never enough. People in overload burnout will sacrifice everything in order to compensate for the pressure they feel to work harder and longer. And mind you, burnout, any kind of burnout, can happen in any part of your life, but we'll focus on the professional here because that's where I experienced it.

[00:02:40] Underchallenged is the rarer kind of burnout. It's when people feel underappreciated, bored, and are stuck doing work they hate, working with people they don't get along with, with nothing to help them grow or engage.

[00:02:54] The third kind is neglect, when you feel helpless, like nothing you do moves the needle, you feel unable to keep up, and the barriers you face feel insurmountable.

[00:03:04] I have never experienced the underchallenged kind of burnout, so I can't speak to that. But I have experienced overload and neglect, which are also, fittingly, the two more common kinds of burnout people experience.

[00:03:16] First off, let me tell you this, the concept of work life balance, which is the first thing people bring up when you talk about overload burnout, is overrated. Balance is like infinity. You can keep getting closer, but you'll never achieve it. It's an ideal to measure yourself against and check that you aren't going to some extreme. It's not something you'll actually ever have.

[00:03:40] Overload burnout happens when you In my opinion anyway, when you let one arena of your life, let's say your professional life overtake the other parts of your life at all costs, your health suffers, your relationships suffer, everything else starts to suffer.

[00:03:53] I did that to myself when I first started working full time because I'd been consuming the myths of hustle culture. It took me six months to recover from this burnout.

[00:04:04] Neglect happens when you find yourself in impossible situations, or maybe more precisely, when you find yourself in situations where you feel robbed of your autonomy and ability to make an impact.

[00:04:17] The second time I experienced burnout was when I was in a working relationship where I was constantly held back, where I constantly had to actively hold my natural instincts at bay for the sake of harmony and someone else's beliefs and principles, which I mistakenly thought were better than mine. My inability to do things the way I felt was right, my inability to speak up, to be myself, my inability to make an impact burnt me out so hard that some of the people who love me actually describe it as borderline depression.

[00:04:49] It took me two years to recover from this burnout. I still did things, don't get me wrong, but I had to be very gentle with myself, which was very hard for me, by the way. I had to put a pause on my goals and ambitions for the sake of my long term health and ambitions. The third time, I found myself in a weird combination of approaching both overload and neglect, but the overload was driven by neglect.

[00:05:12] The less autonomy I felt, the more I forced myself to work. I caught myself, though, and I recognized the danger of what was happening. I extricated myself fast and hard from the situation, and yes, doing so absolutely burnt a few bridges, and I have zero regrets about it.

[00:05:31] You have to figure out your triggers, we all have them, and we also tend to project our triggers onto others. But in these many years, here's what I've learned for myself: feeling challenged, feeling growth, having autonomy, and having the ability to make decisions and make an impact are driving forces for me. When I have those things, I do work hard, but I never work too hard. I have a hard limit every day. I am able to leave work at work.

[00:06:00] I can be fully present for my family and loved ones. I stop needing to vent about work to my spouse as much, and instead I just have fun stories to share with him, humorous anecdotes, and things that delighted me. I have no real lesson for you today, except maybe to say, know your triggers. Burnout is real.

[00:06:18] Burnout is important to be able to identify. And maybe my story has takeaways for you. Or maybe it's just a slightly interesting and long podcast episode. I don't know. But that was what was on my mind today, and I wanted to share it. Thanks for listening. Same time tomorrow?