In this episode of Love Is Like A Plant (LILAP), Elle and Sarah chat about burnout, the many ways people come to be burned out, and how to approach burnout when you first become aware of it. You can listen to the episode below or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Below is the transcription for this episode.
Elle: Think about love as like a...I'll think of something
Welcome to Love Is Like A Plant, a podcast, all about love and relationships, dating how we take care of ourselves, especially during pandemic time, which we're in right now. My name is Elle, and I'm the founder of Mend. We help people through breakups and burnout, which is what we'll be talking about today.
Sarah: I'm Sarah May, I'm the host of another podcast called help me, me be me, self-help for people who hate self-help and the creator of the breakup album.
Elle: So burnout I feel like it's, it's the state that everyone is either in or about to be in? I, I just feel like so many people are struggling with burnout right now.
And the reason I wanted to talk about it is because we are launching burnout this week at Mend so, you know, Mend started as a way to help people through breakups. And we've been very focused on helping people and supporting people who are heartbroken for the past. Well, like. Three four years with our app and longer with our website.
And burnout has always been something that I was really interested in personally. I've been burned out before, and it also was such a common refrain that we would hear from Menders even before COVID. But I think especially now, The, you know, the pandemic and people working remotely and trying to balance everything and make sense of the world we're living in has really contributed to more burnout than ever. So we are launching burnout at mend, and I'm very excited about that. I hope it will help a lot of people. And then I wanted to talk about it on the podcast. It's a little bit outside of what we normally talk about. We normally talk about relationships, but I feel like it's so relevant to mental health and and where everyone is right now.
Mm-hmm so. That's so exciting. Yeah. Yeah. We're excited. It's a long time coming. So I feel like I've been burnout obsessed for a while because actually like the backstory of Mend is that I, I really started mend after a period of burnout where I had decided to leave my job in tech and take some time off.
And at the time I didn't really recognize. That I was burned out, but I absolutely was. And I don't think it was until I actually went into a doctor's office and was like listing all of my symptoms that the doctor just kind of looked at me and was like, you are extremely stressed out. It sounds like you have adrenal fatigue.
You're just burned out. Like, nothing's wrong with you? And you're not, you're not dying. You just need to like stop working and sleep and take care of yourself.
Sarah: That's awesome.
Elle: I'll never forget that moment sitting on. Table, just taking that in. And I think a lot of people are finding themselves, you know, this was years ago, but I think a lot of people are finding themselves in that position.
Sarah: Yeah. No, totally.
Elle: So I thought we could talk a little bit about I guess like what burnout is and what our advice is for people who are struggling with burnout, especially right now, when most of us are confined to our homes and we're balancing our. Family lives and work lives and non-existent, you know, social lives and yeah.
And all of it. So I'm curious, cuz I feel like, you know that there, you know, there are the official definitions of burnout, but I'm just curious, talking to you, what you think about when you hear the word burnout? Like what comes to mind? What's your, what's your kind of sense of it or definition of.
Sarah: Well, I, I actually did a podcast on this topic as well.
Sarah: Cause it's definitely something that comes up for people and I feel. As you said pandemic is making it, so there's no work life balance. It's just like, everything's a big blend of the two . Yeah. It's always, you're always kind of working or you're trying to work or maybe you're, you know, trying to juggle constantly.
Yeah. Or I feel like for a lot of people as well, work has changed the way it looks is now confined to a screen. And therefore all of the things that kept it interesting are balanced or gave you a lot of joy have been taken out of it because maybe, you know, you can't go to a physical place. You can't interact with people, whatever it is.
I think it takes all different forms depending on the type of work you do. But burnout, I think can show up as lethargy or, you know, a feeling of hopelessness. , it can also show up as disinterest. Like you're just not engaged anymore. It can feel like you've lost all ability to think creatively, or you can feel like you don't care anymore.
It's just an overall sense of exhaustion. Like you're not able to bring your spirit to what you do. And I think recognizing that you even have it in the first place, like if you're noticing, like you don't have a lot of joy in what you do for a job. And that's unusual for you. Like there's a good chance you're burned out.
Or if you're, you know, not sleeping, you're not your diet's out of whack in some way. If you find you're short tempered, if you find you don't have a lot of ideas like anymore, like your brain's just not the output's not coming as it was before. There's a chance you're burned. And in general, I think a burnout as just a natural stage in a cycle.
So if you think about seasons of your life and seasons of your creative self, and I think of all of us as having creative selves, regardless of what type of job you have, it's like, you're bringing your Your vision to whatever you do and your personality to whatever you do. So it's kind of a natural season of giving yourself to work.
And I think it signals like it's a time when you have to go a little bit more internal and regenerate so that you can actually. Reinvent yourself. Like, it's kind of like a, you know, if leaves fall off the tree and die, then now you're gonna spring new life. So I think I gave a much longer answer than you were asking.
Elle: No, it was so good. And we'll definitely have to link to your, your episode in our. Our show notes.
Sarah: Yeah. Show notes. But I'm curious what your like, based on the app, like what are your guys' symptoms list for people that don't know how to recognize or burned out?
Elle: Yeah, so it's, I mean, a lot of the stuff that you said, the The official definition.
And I, I almost hesitate to say official because it's, I mean, it is the world health organization. But again, a lot of people have been burned out for a long time. And the world health organization just came out with a definition in the past, like couple of years. And they call it an occupational phenomenon and it's characterized by a few different things.
You hit on all of them. But it's just exhaustion mentally and physically, usually. And then kind of a sense of cynicism about your work. You're just not that excited about it anymore. And then and then just not being that effective or productive at your, your job anymore. Those are kind of the, the official signs.
But there's so many more. And I also think that it's not necessarily just related to stress at work anymore. I think that stress at work is a really, really big part of it. And for the world health organization, that's what they're really focused on. But I think that there's so many different kinds of burnout. I think you can have, you know, parent burnout right now. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I, I, I do think that it really goes beyond that, but in terms of the symptoms, it's a lot of what you said and looks different for everyone. But I think like one of the. Most interesting things for me in the process of building the burnout program for men and, you know, looking at all of the research and really like extensively studying burnout and seeing, you know, what journalists have done and what therapists have, have studied.
One of the things that sticks out the most to me, and one of the kind of main parts of main points that we try to make in the program is that if you're burned out, it's not your fault. And I think that's really important to say, because a lot of times you kind of feel like if you're burned out, maybe you're just not good at organizing your work schedule or you need to, you know, get better at balancing.
Work and, and your personal life, or, you know, if you just like exercised more regularly, you, you wouldn't be heard out. I think there's a, a real kind of there's an idea that there's kind of like a quick fix in that you're, you know, you're just around the corner from feeling better, but really what has been shown and what a lot of people are talking about now is.
It's much bigger than just you. It's not really a, you know, personal issue. A lot of the reason people feel so burned out is because of societal issues, you know, like mm-hmm, , especially in the U.S. You know, kind of lack of access to maternity leave and childcare and You know, unstable work environments and mm-hmm, the fact that unions don't exist anymore for a lot of people or the fact that pensions have kind of disappeared.
And there's a journalist Anne Helen Peterson who wrote a really viral article. I'm sure most of you read it about millennials being the burnout generation. And it's actually now a book, which I highly recommend, but she's one of the people that kind of took a look at the root causes of burnout and, and she's not the first one.
There are other people who have pinpointed a lot of other issues too, but I just, I think that point is really important just to underline that you really have to take a step back and realize that there are other You know, other root causes. It's not just because you have a lot on your plate. A lot of it has to do with your employer or the, you know, support system in the country that you're living in.
And I think that's a really important acknowledgement to make, because then you realize you're not just, you know, a failure. And I think a lot of people who are burned out feel like they're for whatever reason, they're the only ones who were, are unable to figure out how to make it all work.
Sarah: Right. That's such a good point.
Yeah. I think people also, yeah, they feel like, oh, if, if I was stronger, I wouldn't feel this way.
Elle: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Or like, you know, if I made more money, I wouldn't be this way, but I mean, burnout is really it's happening. It's happening for everyone mm-hmm and really in a lot of cases, it's related to issues that are much bigger than just your, you know, your ability to balance your workload.
Totally. And so for that reason, I really agree with what you said about the fact that it's a, it's a process it's like burnout is really a process and Even the therapist who, the psychologist who initially studied burnout, starting in the seventies Herbert Freud and Berger, he talked about burnout as a process.
It's not a disease, it's not an illness. It's really this process that you go through. And so, you know, it is, it evolves, it changes and you can get through it. But it is, I like your analogy to kind of seasons. But it also speaks to the fact that there, there really isn't a, a quick fix and that's something that we talk a lot about in, in our program for burnout.
It's like, you may be tempted. Just to, you know, get another checklist of like, all right, these are the things I need to do every day. I need to like meditate and exercise and, you know, sleep eight hours. And, and that just ends up being even more overwhelming and contributing to even more burnout. So we were really interested in figuring out just like a more sustainable way to take care of yourself when you're burnt out.
Because it's not something that's just going. Magically fix itself, especially if, if you know a big part of it is that it's a societal issue. Mm
Sarah: mm-hmm that's a great point. So that, I mean, I would ask, like, what would be kind of a, what's an example of like a tool that you could offer to somebody that's facing, let's say it is very much based on, you know, their job or their type of industry and like how little support there is based on childcare and yeah. You know, that kind of thing.
Elle: Yeah. I mean, one of the first things that we talk about is related to that checklist idea that I, that I just mentioned, which is that in the early stages, when you're really just kind of coming to terms with how you're feeling and just kind of beginning to have awareness about the fact that burned out. It's really important not to approach your burnout as another kind of project on your plate.
And so I do think it is really important and we even talk about The suggestions that we give, we do incorporate mindfulness, we incorporate suggestions for kind of what to eat, and how to move your body and all of these things, but in the very, very early stages, the most important thing is that you're just kind of taking inventory of where you are and prioritizing accordingly, because if you just kind of say to yourself, like, okay, I'm gonna start meditating for like 20 minutes a day but at the same time, you're getting like three hours of sleep at night, you're going to be much better served by, you know, getting more sleep at night first and kind of focusing on like the basics than trying to incorporate something completely new. So. Yeah, it's really like in the beginning, it is really personalized.
It's about figuring out kind of your baseline and what you can handle because everyone has a different baseline and, and some people have aspects of their work that they can change, they can pull back on, they have obligations, they can say no to. And some people really don't. and that's, that's like a, that's a big challenge.
So, you know, there's no kind of blanket advice about you know, what you have to do in the very beginning, other than getting really clear on your specific situation. And so a lot of the program is really like, self-study, self-reflection just like, turning inward and getting clear on, on where you are in your life.
Sarah: Mm-hmm that's that sounds awesome. I, yeah, I feel like, yeah, it is a very, an internal process. And I think when we're burned out, we're so depleted it's like, we've been, our output has been so much greater than our input, and I feel like we, one of the main, broad stroke things that needs to happen is you've gotta start giving more food to your inner self for this rebirth process to happen.
Like it's. It's about figuring out, like, where is the tiny room to change? Where's the gray area. Where's the flexibility in my life. Because something does need to change. I feel like we all get into that state of like, but I'm stuck and I can't like I have, there's nothing that can give right. There's always a little bit more room than we can see at any given time.
And it's like remembering to have a little bit more flex and to feed ourselves a little bit more. Just as far as bringing in new insight, new information, new food for growth, cause something is, is gonna have to give us the ability to to reinvent and to be reborn, we can't just keep giving of ourselves from this place because we won't be effective from this place.
Elle: Right. Yeah. And I think so many people who are burned out are really just kind of running on autopilot.
Yeah. Totally reacting constantly. Yeah. Yeah. And it's like, you know, I, I mean our nervous system is amazing and it's developed. To do that where we don't really have to think that much about everything that we do, especially if it's like things that we do all, all the time, every day, we don't have to put that much thought into doing them, which is an amazing part of the way our brain works.
But but I think that can really contribute to prolonged periods of burnout because you aren't, you, you aren't giving yourself the space to really step back and think about. Think about things and, you know, hear your own thoughts and, and question things. And so, yeah, I think it's really burnout is, is difficult and, and it is a process and it's you know, it's, it is something that you can move beyond, but it definitely takes turning inward first.
And so that's really. , that's what I get really excited about. And it's, it's in that ways, it's very similar to heartbreak. It's like it's an opportunity to turn inward and, and begin that journey with yourself, which, you know, is the, I mean, that's such a core journey. That's like the that's the journey of our lives is like really getting to know ourselves.
Sarah: Yeah. Oh,
well, that's such a beautiful thought. Well, on that note, are you good to wrap this one up?
Elle: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: So we hope you enjoyed that. I certainly did. I'm excited to check out that. Feature on your guys' app. That sounds awesome. We hope you guys liked it. If you did, please share it with somebody you think could use it.
And also follow us on social. If you wanna ask us any questions, we'd be happy to cover the topics on our show. You can reach out via. @LetsMend, or you can reach out to me at yay with me. And with that, Elle, what do you think love is like?
Elle: Love is like a pencil. You can always sharpen it, but it will always work