In today’s episode, we’re exploring the difference between being stressed out versus experiencing burnout. These terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand their differences. We’ve received a great question from one of our Instagram followers about this topic, and I’m excited to talk to you about what the difference actually is!
Before we begin, let’s talk about how certain phrases and words become buzz phrases in our culture. Just like how the term “narcissist” gained popularity, “burnout” has become a widely used phrase in recently. However, we need to be cautious not to dilute its true meaning. Burnout is not something that can be fixed with a good night’s sleep or a short vacation. It requires a much more significant recovery period, often spanning months.
What does being stressed out mean?
To gain a clearer understanding, let’s start with the concept of being stressed out. I highly recommend the book “The Atlas of the Heart” by Brene Brown, where she provides realistic insights into various emotional experiences. When we feel stressed out, it’s because we perceive the environmental demands to exceed our ability to cope successfully. This feeling is influenced by factors like unpredictability, feeling a lack of control, and being overwhelmed. Our emotional response to stress is closely tied to our thoughts (example: Believing we don’t have enough time or enough help).
On this podcast, we often discuss the importance of embracing the uncomfortable and building resilience. Our modern society’s instant gratification mindset has impacted our natural ability to handle stress effectively. By challenging ourselves in healthy ways, like taking cold showers, we can train our brains to cope with safe stress and expand our capacity for resilience.
It’s essential to recognize that individuals handle stress differently. Some people remain calm during stressful situations, while others struggle. As an example, I recently had a conversation with two fellow entrepreneurs who were surprised by my calm demeanor, considering I have three children. They assumed that parenting three kids would naturally make me look stressed and overwhelmed. However, it’s important to understand that each person’s temperament and resilience level differ. Comparing ourselves to others based on a snapshot of their situation can be misleading.
What does burnout look like?
Now, let’s shift our focus to burnout. According to Maslach’s burnout inventory, three main areas contribute to the perfect storm of burnout. The first is exhaustion, which goes beyond physical fatigue and affects us emotionally and mentally. It’s not uncommon for individuals in burnout to feel a sense of depletion similar to major depression. The mind-body connection plays a significant role here.
The second area impacted by burnout is productivity. Despite being high achievers, burnout diminishes our performance. We know we could do better, but the exhaustion and constant stress overload prevent us from reaching our full potential. Burnout affects various aspects of our lives, not just our professional endeavors. The connection between work and personal life means burnout spills over into every area.
Lastly, burnout leads to a detachment and cynicism that affects our attitude and decision-making. We may experience a lack of enthusiasm for our work and adopt a “whatever” mindset. This negativity is not our true nature but a consequence of burnout’s compounding effects. Poor decisions can result from this state of detachment, impacting our professional and personal lives.
What’s the Difference Between Stressed Out versus Burnout?
It’s important to acknowledge that burnout is not the same as being stressed out. Burnout is a slow burn that develops over time and requires times to recover. Using the terminology correctly is important because our brains shape our reality based on the words we speak. Stressed out is all about the mind’s ability to balance what is needed to get done with the resources you actually have available. By repeatedly saying we’re burnt out when we’re actually stressed out, we reinforce the mindset and environment that fosters burnout. So, let’s not do that anymore!
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