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Why is it we sometimes feel ‘out’? Burn out, Bore out and Brown out explained to you in simple terms


It seems common now to have colleagues ‘calling off sick’ because of extreme fatigue. And most of the time, they are not off for a few days only, but for a few weeks, or even months. Their mind and body simply had enough, and as they kept going despite the signs, they collapsed. A burn out actually is the ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress’ (Oxford Dictionary).

There are different types of burn out, such as care giving burn out (Linda Sage helps carers a lot, check out her work!), emotional burn out, volunteering burn out… but the one most of us know of and experience is occupational burn out, which is caused by doing too much. And not only work: non-work activities, responsibilities, personal commitments… are all playing a part!

In her video, Jessica Rose describes burn out in a very understandable way: Burn out is mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. It’s the result of long-term stress that feels (not always is!) unavoidable.

How do we spot the signs of burn out? The Mayo Clinic gives us helpful insights on how to spot the signs and take action. Here are some questions that might help you test if you may be experiencing occupational burn out:

  1. Have you become critical or cynical at work?

  2. Do you drag yourself to work and feel defeated when you get there?

  3. Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?

  4. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?

  5. Do you lack satisfaction from your own achievements?

  6. Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

  7. Are you using food / drugs / alcohol / video games to feel better or to escape?

  8. Have your sleep habits or appetites change drastically?

  9. Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you might be suffering from burn out. Another useful burn out self-test is the one by Mind Tools. However, make sure you seek professional advice as soon as you spot the signs, go see a medical professional and open up!

How could you get better? Start with filling your cup first! Here are a few things you might want to try:

  • Get some proper sleep – and prioritise it! We can support you with this with our Sleep Worshop.

  • Do things that you love: going for a walk with your dog maybe? Cooking? Hanging out with the kids? Simple things can go a long way!

  • Exercise: Get out and energise your body. And if you do not have the energy to do so (yet), just start with a 5-minutes-walk every day around the block. It will help you re-focus and recharge your body.

  • Change your thoughts and adjust your attitude: practicing gratitude can help you here. Try to focus your mind on the positive things that happened to you lately. And practice it every day: pick up 3 things you are grateful for at the end of the day. Your mindset is going to shift as you focus on positive things, and so will your attitude towards others and towards events.

  • Assess your options: take time for yourself to assess your interests, your passions, your skills, your circumstances and how you could make everything work for you to be fulfilled. It does not mean you need to quit your job right now, maybe some small adjustments will do!

  • Seek help: if all of the above seems overwhelming, seek professional help first! Go see your GP!

>> We have the project of sharing burn out stories to end the stigma. Do you live in Leeds or Yorkshire? Are you ready to tell your story? We’d love to meet you, have a chat and record your story! Our goal is to spread that it’s ok not to be ok, and that there is hope! You can recover from a burn out and thrive! Please get in touch, we’d love to hear your story >> Get in touch! <<


Now, what about other forms of ‘feeling out’ of work? Two ‘out’ concepts have emerged in the past few years: Bore Out and Brown Out.

  • Bore Out: feeling bored in your job can be as terrible as having a whole set of responsibilities. Have you ever showed up, turned your computer on and logged into Facebook first thing in the morning because you had nothing to do? Or because you knew you could do your tasks in a short amount of time, so ‘why doing them now’? Well you were and probably are bored at work. It happens, sometimes it’s just a season after and before a busy period: embrace it! Sometimes though, it’s a long-lasting feeling and it can be difficult to get out of it. Maybe it’s time for a change of jobs? Or a talk with your boss to get involved in new projects? In any case, do not worry, it’s also part of the way our economic society is built at the moment. As David Graeber, American anthropologist, claims in his essay ‘Bullshit Jobs’, if your job is not making the world a better place, it’s probably bullshit. Well, it’s pretty extreme, but there are some interesting insights in his point of view, including the question of purpose: What about people who consider their job meaningless?

  • Brown out: the fact of lacking purpose. We feel alright, we have many things to do during the day, but still, we don’t know WHY we are waking up and going to work every morning. As the famous video from Simon Sinek states: Start with WHY! If you feel that you lack purpose, go back to your why! If you can’t find the why, maybe it’s time for a change? When I say change, it does not have to be radical! You might just need to have a chat with some colleagues or your manager talking about your tasks and next steps to get back on track! A few little adjustments at work can have a tremendous positive impact on your own wellbeing! Please, open up! If you can’t find your why at all in your current position, and talking with your team didn’t help much, another option is to start another activity on the side that would fulfil you. You love baking cakes and would love to open a catering business? Maybe try to bake cakes on your weekends first? Start small, and try it out, you’ll soon get a good feeling on what is the best option for you at this moment in time!

If you feel bore out or brown out, take action now, you would not like to get burnt out soon!

#burnout #wellbeing #prevention

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