7 Misconceptions That Lead to Burnout
Stress is not the price of success.
Even though many of us know how to stay healthy, it is difficult to prioritize ourselves even when we are well — let alone during times of burnout and stress. When we are overwhelmed and feeling under-supported, doing anything beyond the mere essentials may seem impossible. Yet this is precisely when we need to carve out more time for ourselves and be proactive in the face of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.
With this article, my goal is to help you see the self-defeating beliefs that are holding you back so that you can not only withstand life's upheavals but thrive. To get started, I will guide you through seven of the most common misconceptions that lead to burnout and that prevent people from getting the help they need to cope and recover.
1. "I like my job, so I won't burn out."
Even when you love your profession, that doesn't make you immune to burnout. Intense work schedules and a lack of boundary-setting can deplete your energy — even when you are enthusiastic about your role. Devoting every spare moment to your work can also cause conflicts in your personal life, with loved ones who feel pushed aside or as if they are no longer a priority to you.
2. "I burned out because I'm weak; I shall work harder."
Ambitious people who want to build good relationships with their teams give a lot of themselves to their work and are more prone to exhaustion. There is no reason to be ashamed of burnout. Rather than a sign of weakness, it signals that you have an unmet need and that there is a disconnect between what you are capable of doing and what you have been doing. Working harder won't bridge the gap between your needs and circumstances.
3. "Stress is the price of success."
This is exactly what my former client, a chief financial officer in Germany, believed right before he experienced burnout. During a six-month leave of absence from work, he followed his doctor's advice and underwent therapy, coaching, and discovered healthy outlets to cope with stress.
Even though his workplace responsibilities did not change when he returned, his philosophy, communication style, and boundary-setting improved dramatically. Since he no longer believed that he was a slave to his job, he also approached it with greater clarity and perspective and went on to excel in his role. He is a perfect example that the right mindset is the key to a successful life change.
4. "Everyone else seems to be coping except me."
It is easy to feel inadequate when you listen to your friends bragging about the long evenings and weekends that they're putting in at work. However, appearances rarely reflect reality. Boasting is often a thinly-veiled attempt to convince yourself that your sacrifices are worth it.
The latest psychological research reveals that there are high levels of burnout across industries and sectors, so it is safe to assume that people in your own network and circle of friends are experiencing it too.
5. "Exhaustion is a normal part of building a company."
In the early days of any venture, there is that critical moment when you need to start offloading work, yet lack the resources to hire employees. Even after you recruit support, you have to invest time, emotional energy, and carry a heavy cognitive load to build systems and quality controls. Although this can, and often does, lead to burnout, exhaustion should not be regarded as the norm, or the price of success as an entrepreneur.
Yes, owning a company takes commitment, creativity, and energy for an extended period of time. But taking care of yourself should be factored in as one more element of your business that will ensure its long-term success, and that is non-negotiable.
6. "I will lose everything."
Failing to confront burnout can have serious consequences on your relationships and quality of life. Locked in a steady stream of emotions and trapped in our own thoughts, it can be easy to miss out on signs that our relationships are deteriorating. My clients often tell me that their spouses were relieved hearing about burnout as they were expecting a divorce.
More than an actual breakdown, it is the lack of communication and fear of your loved one's reactions that will negatively affect your relationships. Similarly, your co-workers will struggle to understand why your mood, productivity, and the quality of your work have declined. Without hearing your perspective or understanding your struggles, they will be left to draw their own — usually unfavorable — conclusions.
Attempting to wait out your exhaustion instead of confronting it can lead to the loss of your job or even your spouse.
7. "So many people have it worse than I do; I have no right to complain."
Since our problems can seem trivial compared to people who are struggling to make ends meet, many of us feel ashamed even thinking about them and are afraid to come off as ungrateful by voicing them. Yet, irrespective of the tragedies we see around us, or the markers of success we have achieved, our dilemmas and emotions are valid. Ignoring them only makes the situation worse — working through difficult emotions is the only way to make them disappear.
If you're struggling with similar thoughts, take comfort in knowing that burnout is not your fault or a reason to hide. You can recover, and the best place to start is by being open to receiving help and communicating with your loved ones.
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