10 most popular burnout myths debunked
- November 11, 2020, 6-min. read -
Burnout. In a time of massive, long-term work from home, this very real threat applies to almost every one of us. And with every big topic, there are also a number of myths surrounding it. This article aims to demystify some of them.
Myth 1 | Burnout syndrome is a sign of weakness and your inability to manage stress
The opposite is true. It turns out that many people who burn out, to the contrary, were very successful and a role model for others in terms of their enthusiasm, passion and performance. Before they burned out, they could handle huge amounts of work and cope with a multitude of difficult situations. Conversely, people who do their work halfheartedly are less at risk of burnout. To burn out, you must first burn.
Myth 2 | Women are more vulnerable to burnout than men
Unlike men, women approach a variety of things more emotionally than they do. In general, they have more empathy as a result tend to take things more personally than men, who maintain a more rational and thus less emotionally engaged view. That being said, women can't rely on natural testosterone levels and pushing their thoughts and ideas can cost them more energy than men. On the other hand, they can benefit from greater emotional intelligence, which includes the ability to recognize their own emotions and thus work with them in real-time. It turns out the differences are rather more related to the willingness to discuss their burnout. This can be much more difficult for men because they do not want to be perceived as those who have failed.
It turns out the differences are rather more related to the willingness to discuss their burnout...
Myth 3 | You are only at risk of burnout at work
Burnout syndrome threatens any activity. Burnout even affects people who take care of their loved ones long-term. Moms can burn out on maternity leave. Not because caring for young children is extremely stressful, but because it's essentially an endless series of repetitive tasks that are important and meaningful (you can't or don't want to short-change them), but they're without lasting results. It doesn't matter how much you clean, how often you do the washing or how often you change diapers. The only certainty is that you will have to do it tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that… and no one, including your child, will appreciate it.
Myth 4 | Burnout affects only mentally demanding professions
The concept of burnout syndrome resulting from emotionally and mentally demanding professions follows from the original, now obsolete, idea of burnout as a kind of emotional dryness. These days we know that a high level of commitment contributes to burnout in general, and it doesn't necessarily have to be related simply to being emotionally involved in the sense of caring for and supporting others. We can burn out in any job we approach responsibly, striving to deliver excellent performance.
Myth 5 | Burnout syndrome is the result of stress and overload
Yes, this is partly true. Chronic and long-term stress really does contribute significantly to the onset of burnout. However, that by itself is not enough. You can have very demanding work but enjoy it and see clear results. In that case, you are at significantly less risk of burnout than if your job is not extremely demanding, but it is partly routine, repetitive, and without any visible results.
Burnout is nearly unrelated to time. The main variable is the energy we have to invest in working.
Myth 6 | The more you work, the more vulnerable you are to burnout
Burnout syndrome is often mistakenly associated with the amount of time we spend working. That is, that overtime necessarily leads to burnout. Wrong again. Burnout is nearly unrelated to time. The main variable is the energy we have to invest in working. Doing something we enjoy not only depletes less energy, it can even recharge us despite it being difficult. It's thanks to this that one can even do it 10 hours a day without being mentally exhausted. Conversely, you can engage in activities that you have to force yourself into, and which will completely tire and exhaust you after a few hours.
Myth 7 | When you're burned out, it's enough just to take a day off, go on vacation or treat yourself to a relaxing massage and you'll be fine again
Burnout is a long-term process. When it affects you, the short-term relief of a holiday will not help. It will indeed help to improve the current short-term mood; however, after returning from vacation, you're back where you were again. Therefore, a band-aid is not enough. You need to focus on the causes.
Myth 8 | We must keep burnout a secret
A long list of successful people who have experienced burnout in the past describes that they were ashamed to talk about their burnout. They literally state that they felt disappointed and disgusted with themselves. They thought they had failed and were embarrassed to talk about burnout or ask for help. This, however, only dug their hole deeper. The first step to the solution is to realize and admit what is happening to you and ask for help and support from outside.
Myth 9 | Managers are at fault for their people's burnout
To a certain extent, everyone is responsible for burnout themselves. We determine ourselves what we perceive as stressful and how we perceive it, and with what energy we approach our tasks. Then again, managers can make a significant contribution to our burnout through their behavior. If they have a tendency to act unfairly, place high or disproportionate demands on us long-term, provide us with unclear and vague information or refuse us their support, it significantly increases our risk of burning out. However, in the interest of fairness, it is also necessary to ask how many organizations develop their managers, so they are good and how many simply leave them to deal with the managerial role demands by themselves. Let's also realize that our managers are often at risk of burnout themselves, too.
Myth 10 | If you are burned out, you have to change your life from the ground up radically
Although burnout can sometimes trigger significant changes and the burning of bridges, the most remarkable changes are often made with relatively small steps. A tendency to burn bridges in itself carries the risk that we're making a change by trying to avoid something. In that case, we have no other goal than to make the same mistakes. We lack a vision of what to do. We soon find out that the change, although radical, certainly did not lead to the desired result and feeling of satisfaction. Alternatively, when we realize what we want and need, even relatively small changes may be enough to make a significant shift towards living a satisfying life. Small changes are also easier to implement, have a better chance of long-term sustainability, and the results come relatively soon; i.e., we see we are doing well, and this increases our motivation to continue.