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Do you feel burnt out? It’s not just about working too much

0 2 years ago

Feb 3 2022 – THE GUARDIAN

Caroline Dooner


A few years ago, I found myself really burnt out. Well, at the time, I wasn’t actually sure that’s what it was. At first “burnout” seemed like a dramatic way to describe what I was experiencing. But I was really, really tired. I was struggling to motivate myself and looking at my calendar started filling me with a sort of low-grade dread.

But the confusing part for me was that on the surface there wasn’t any obvious reason why I would be so tired. It didn’t seem warranted. I didn’t deserve to be so tired. Sure, I was busy, but no more busy than anyone else. So what was wrong with me?

But when I couldn’t shake it off after a few weeks and when I ruled out more serious health issues, it became clear that what I was experiencing was, in fact, burnout. And at a certain point it hit me: my burnout wasn’t stemming from my distant past; it had actually been more than a decade in the making. I realized that I’d been resistant to truly relaxing for at least 15 years. Even when I had “time off” I never actually relaxed. I never felt as if I was allowed to relax. And so I didn’t. I never let myself off the hook. Taking downtime made me feel guilty. The guilt was subtle – but incessant. And over time it wore me down, physically and mentally.

What I learned pretty quickly is that our culture doesn’t understand burnout, what it stems from or how common it is. We do not understand that a lot of us can get burnt out on a perfectly “normal” 40-hour work week. That’s partly because that 40-hour work week is a completely arbitrary creation, and ignores data that shows that most people can only give three to four hours of focused attention to their work a day before there are diminishing returns. (I highly recommend the book Laziness Does Not Exist on this.) But the other reason we can get burnt out on a “normal” schedule is that overworking isn’t always the cause.


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