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Burned out

The telltale signs of burnout include a lack of motivation and accomplishment, the feeling of withdrawal, cynicism, difficulty in concentration, overall exhaustion and frustration, and reduced ability to do one’s work, among others.

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“You’re drained,” a friend told me in the middle of a catch-up. It was almost midnight, and I was still hunched in front of my laptop trying (and failing miserably) to write.

Nothing has been coming out right in the past few days, weeks, even months. And I’m constantly feeling stuck and overwhelmed.

I remember a time where I could write and think quickly in one sitting, whether it was for work or leisure. But now it feels like all that energy has been sucked out of me, and I’m always trying to survive one day at a time.

“This is not me,” I’d say. “But who was I?”

photographs courtesy of UNSPLASH/TANGERINE NEWT and UNSPLASH/TONY TRAN

This friend and I have been keeping in touch since we graduated (we met each other twice at a few events for work, but that’s about it). I have confided in her some worries (including this one) in the past, and vice versa, about life and, of course, work.

“But how can I be this tired when I haven’t done anything to be drained about?” I asked if she knew the feeling. “I want to do things but I just feel so tired all the time. I feel sorry for everyone who has to work with me.”

I felt somehow comforted when she said she understood.

“That’s burnout.”

I guessed so, have thought so for a while.

Burnout is a “state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”

Eventually, you bend so much you break, and that’s when burnout happens,” — therapist Barrie Sueskind.

The World Health Organization labeled burnout an “occupational phenomenon” and is defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Both employees and students have been experiencing stress, anxiety and burnout since the pandemic began, followed by the new normal setup — whether it’s online classes or work-from-home.

In a survey from savvysleeper.org in 2020, Manila ranked fifth out of 53 countries in the highest number of employee burnout.

It has been almost two years since the Covid-19 health crisis began, with everyone trying to adapt, adjust and survive. “Eventually, you bend so much you break, and that’s when burnout happens,” therapist Barrie Sueskind said in an article on healthline.com.

There are five stages of burnout, stated by thisiscalmer.com: First is the Honeymoon Phase, Onset of Stress, Chronic Stress, Burnout then, lastly, Habitual Burnout.

The telltale signs of burnout include a lack of motivation and accomplishment, the feeling of withdrawal, cynicism, difficulty in concentration, overall exhaustion and frustration and reduced ability to do one’s work, among others.

A few (or all) of these I can relate to.

Getting back to our talk, she said: “(If) You’re tired. Go rest.” The clock reads almost one in the morning and there hasn’t been any progress at all. I grimaced at the thought of pulling an all-nighter but there was nothing I could do. “You can’t force yourself. That’ll be hard, even so if you’re already empty.”

“If you need rest, you have to rest.”

Weighing her words, I looked at the peach-scented candle from Bath & Body Works that I had lit up earlier and watched intently how its flame flickered. It was bright, slowly dancing in its wick.
I blew it out.

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