What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical fatigue, giving rise to medical concerns like cold and fever, performance problems, behavioural problems, difficulty focusing, frustration, inefficiency at work– the list is never ending.
Competition is one of the primary reasons for this. Burnouts are prevalent especially in India where majority of people are working even on the weekends for that one promotion, or to be able to impress their seniors only for that salary hike. Enjoyment, rest and recreation are ignored and kept at bay.
The anxious brain
We all know, it is very easy to fool the mind. You look at a sumptuous meal, and you start feeling hungry. You look at another individual yawning, and your brain signals you to sleep. You force an ear to ear grin, and you brain releases happy hormones.
So, when a person starts signalling tension, worry, apprehension and negativity to the brain, it begins to release stress hormones. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered as a result and your heart rate and blood pressure increase, you face difficulty in breathing etc.
As a result of perfectionism
Competitive burnout is also a result of perfectionism. Perfection is a sheer illusion. Those who seek perfection will often find themselves feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. This unfulfilled desire is often related with a deep sense of failure.
In the Indian scenario, one is often reminded of their mistakes and imperfections. In today’s world, everybody has become a part of the rat race. In the process of competing, defeating and manipulating, one often feeds himself with symptoms duplicating those of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Most prevalent in high achievers
Competitive burnout is more likely in high achievers than for anybody else. They set standards for themselves that are unachievable and unrealistic as the expectations from them are very high. Constant praise and appreciation lures them further into it and it thereby becomes a vicious cycle. They often find themselves rushing through things and projects, and end up with little or no time for themselves and for recreational activities.
Every word of the famous poem by Robert Frost holds true for them:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
The vicious cycle of depression
These miles that need to be covered, often add to the burden they are already shouldering. Depression then becomes a choice that immobilises them. The more one focuses on the symptoms and feelings one is choosing, the more he will cling to them and blame the external factors for not being able to get rid of them.
It is of utmost importance to not get trapped into talking about what is not right and what is unfair, or which efforts have been overshadowed and which ones have never been acknowledged. It becomes crucial to be able to look beyond these petite concerns and be happy for the opportunities that you have.
Enjoy what you have
The more you smile and remain happy with the work you have in hand, the more mentally at peace and relaxed you will be. Happiness and satisfaction are the biggest magnets that you can possess at any workplace. The moment you start to enjoy doing things that you have, you start giving your cent per cent attention and effort towards it.
With no backlog and nothing to bog you down, you are able to finish the assignment at hand in time or at times, even before time. This has a direct impact on your level of efficiency and effectiveness of a worker. With a stable, calm and relaxed mind, your performance shoots up.
Compete with yourself!
Hence, make sure that there is competition. A healthy level and optimum amount of competition will help you remain on your toes. But if you are in a constant rut to overtake and outshine others, you become bitter. However, if you are in an undying and never-ending competition with yourself, you become better.
Comparisons are a prerequisite to any workplace. It is an unavoidable speed-breaker. But you need to learn to manage your pace accordingly. A high speed jump is going to backfire almost immediately by taking a toll on your mental and emotional well being, while manoeuvring and slowing down is going to give you a great deal of time to perform best with minimal damage and maximum benefit. Remember, to never overestimate your competition and underestimate yourself.
This piece by Kanika Khosla was originally published on ‘Indiatoday in Education’, on 14 September 2016.