People who are highly engaged in their work are typically productive, happy, and committed to a goal or mission. That is the ideal situation, and it’s seen as a positive work life because we’re productive and satisfied. We are motivated to do good work. We’re generally cheerful with the people we’re around and we enjoy the company of others. Work situations, although possibly challenging, progress in ways that we’re pleased with.
But at other times we can feel more disengaged from our work. Tasks that become repetitive no longer challenge us. People who require too much of our time can make us feel distracted or cynical. Goals are left unattained. Stress rises. We’re left uncharged.
What happens when we reach burnout? There are long periods of disengagement or absence from work, withdrawal from projects and events, depression, and declines in emotional or physical health. We can lose energy and motivation. Our personal relationships or work can suffer. Burnout can be light or heavy; short or long. We can burn out physically, psychologically, or emotionally.
“Burnout…occurs because we’re trying to solve the same problem over and over.” ― Susan Scott
Recovery from burnout depends on a lot of things. There is no single solution, and often a combination of factors must be changed in order to regain an engaged state. Our personality traits have a lot to do with how we burn out and how we recover. People who are high in neuroticism and/or extroversion are more prone to burnout. What this means is that if you naturally express more anger, fear, envy, guilt, loneliness, or are highly talkative, assertive, and expend a lot of energy, you’re probably more prone to burnout. In short, you can overdo it and feel or react badly about it. Of course, this isn’t an absolute, it’s just something to watch out for.
Burnout is basically stress and detachment. Recovery involves dampening (or changing) the situations that caused it. Our environment has to change. We need “different”- a different perspective, a different community, a different goal, or a different location. Burnout can’t be solved by a short vacation or a good night’s sleep. We need self-care and a lot of exploration into our lives. Recovery takes time. You didn’t burn out in a week- so it will take more than a week to heal.
Just as the reasons for burnout are different for everyone, recuperation is different for everyone. Take your time and be gentle with yourself. Know your limits. Find motivation in something new. Surround yourself with love. Engagement comes again, but it can’t be rushed.