Is social burnout a thing? Jay says it is.

Then she corrals and tames social burnout by rounding up her own vibrant, staunchly individual Burnout Shield strategies.

Plus: angel!

Our friend Jay Dunn continues her deep personal dive, chapter by chapter, to Save Yourself from Burnout: A System to Get Your Life Back.  Enjoy!

by Jay Dunn, guest blogger

Burnout is a consequence of a person's prolonged attempts to protect themselves from emotional and interpersonal stressors. It is characterized by three main dimensions: the feeling of emotional exhaustion (which includes physical and mental exhaustion), a sense of cynicism (feeling less caring about the people you work with; older studies use the word depersonalization for this dimension,) and a low sense of personal accomplishment (feeling like you can't be effective or your work doesn't matter).

My emotional exhaustion came from my willingness to be transparent with my friends and family… at least, that's the root of it, I feel. I know what happens when I keep things bottled up. It exhausts me more. So I do what I can to just come clean about how I feel.

My most emotionally low moment recently involved feeling like certain people I thought I was close to just didn't care.

My continued cynicism comes from being told that my friendship was a hassle. I became even more jaded to that friendship. I still think to myself: “…maybe you were never worth my time in the first place.”

Making Hard Decisions: Who Should I Keep in My Life?

That was such a hard thing for me to think, I burned myself out even more. I wanted to give the other person the benefit of the doubt… but… maybe I shouldn't … but… perhaps I was right.

My own level of self-care sometimes does have to come from making hard decisions about who I should keep in my life.

Downward spiral: Now I was doing nothing

Thus remains my feeling of low sense of personal accomplishment, which started my downward spiral, becoming more and more emotionally exhausted.

I put out a lot of effort with keeping in contact with others. I feel I did more than I should have for people that I now feel had no real appreciation for what I did.

With things piling up and finally coming out with no sense of closure, I fell into a pit where I felt no motivation to continue doing things that were enjoyable to me: drawing, playing video games, writing… and it just… it sucked. Not only did I already have that low sense of personal accomplishment, but now I was doing nothing.

I hate acting rash and unreasonable

I am happy to say, however, that I am coming back to doing what I enjoy. My art output still isn't as good as I'd like it to be, though I do recognize that I am still recovering. Recovering is different for everyone.

Delving further into the chapter, I come to ‘The Camel and the Straw.' The metaphor is helping me learn how to stop and think a little more when it comes to the onset of burnout for me.

There are certainly questions I don’t always ask myself, which results in certain snaps and breaks in judgement on my part. I hate acting rash and unreasonable, but sometimes that's what ends up happening once that straw breaks my back, as it were.

Why did this thing cause me to snap?

Why did this thing cause me to snap? Was I really at capacity to handle that situation or work load? Have I been taking care of myself properly before coming to a breaking point?

Well… there are some other things that the book brought to my attention when it came to things leading to burnout:

What are the external factors that lead to burnout? … As identified by Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter, stress caused by one or more of these six “mismatches” between you and your work environment has been found to significantly increase your risk for burnout.

Though the book mentions that these burnout risk factors are normally found in a work environment, they can easily be true of social situations. This is how I see them, for me:

A sense of control: You can choose to socialize, you can choose to be the bystander. However, what you can't really control is how everyone else is going to interact with you. In larger groups, topics can change abruptly.  It can leave you in the dust when you actually really wanted to talk about something, but then your chance to talk about that something is gone because someone else “stole” the direction of the conversation.

Receiving sufficient reward: For me, the reward in being social with other people is having people engage with me in meaningful discussions. As I have already said, I felt like I put out a lot of effort with keeping in contact with others. Now I feel like I did more than I should have for those who didn’t appreciate my efforts.

Having a sense of community with your colleagues: I substitute ‘colleagues' with ‘peers' or ‘friends.' To keep things kind of vague, since I don't really want to talk about it more than I want to, there was a process that everyone had to undergo, and I was the odd man out, as it were. I certainly didn't feel like I was part of any community that we, as a group, had established prior.

Feeling that you are being treated fairly: Some of my friends thought I was being treated fairly when I was excluded from our group activities, I felt as if I were not. I felt as if perhaps many of my doubts and questions were being realized. Even more so when many of the questions I actually did ask got vague answers.

Feeling that your core values are shared by the organization: What we value helps define who we are. If my values are shoved aside by people i care for or respect, and if I am unable to shrug it off or implement my methods of prevention, then that feeling of burnout can develop pretty quickly.

Feeling that you have a reasonable workload with the necessary resources to complete it: Sometimes being social is like pulling teeth. I still require a sense of reciprocation from whoever I’m talking to in order to maintain a healthy social life. So while not really ‘completing' anything per se, there is that sense of being there and requiring some kind of response to maintain a bridge of connection.

My Burnout Shield

Delving a little deeper into the book, I admit that I found myself a little confused by how abruptly I was introduced to the ‘Burnout Shield.’ I had to reread a couple segments to make sure I didn't miss anything. Here, they just list five “Key Areas” of the Burnout Shield.

To better understand myself, I went ahead into my own interpretations. When it comes to my Burnout Shield, this is how I would go about those five areas:

Self-Care

    • I'm distancing myself from people that I know would make me upset or agitate me in some respect because I am still recovering from my emotional low that lasted from the end of May to mid August.
    • I am listening to music with lyrics that make me feel more at peace with myself.
    • I am chipping away at drafting my stories so that some progress is being made and it isn't just put on a kind of standstill.
    • I am working on doodling at least something once a day or once every couple days just so that I am drawing.
    • I am playing video games that allow me to relieve stress in a mindless fashion when I am feeling agitated.

Reflection & Recognition

    • These series of posts.
    • Going over in my head and saying, “Yes, I could have done that differently. I know this now for next time.”
    • Reassuring myself that I was not entirely in the wrong (like I almost convinced myself I was.)
    • Apologizing for things that should be apologized for.
      • On that note: eliminating unnecessary pride.

Functional Capacity

    • I take the time to create alarms or reminders to make sure I get things taken care of.
    • Asking myself,
      • “Am I up for this today, and if not, can I afford to put it off till tomorrow?”
      • “Am I emotionally ready to take on this task?”
      • “Do I need help for this task and have no current reliable help?”

Community

    • I am not ready to interact with people for long periods of time right now.
    • I would prefer to be in the company of those who don't feel like they are demanding anything of me right now.
    • Even if I am not feeling terribly social, I will be there for others if they require that kind of care and support.

Original drawing, in blues and browns, of an angel, wings drooping, feeling social burnout

Coping Styles

    • Shower meditation. Sometimes a good shower is good for clearing the mind and see things from different perspectives for me.
    • Sleep on it!  I remember all those times when I was angry or grumpy as a kid and my parents would always say: “Looks like Jay needs a nap” and you know what, maybe I did. Because sleeping it off actually does sometimes help, especially when you can wake up refreshed and with a better train of thought.
    • Draw out that frustration and burnout! Not only do I get that frustration out, I produce something that I usually end up liking!
    • Sing it! One of my opinions is that music is one of the most heartfelt expressions of emotion. Lyrics for a lot of songs that resonate with people on an emotional level are written from the heart. The same is true for me. I'm also being productive artistically in this fashion, too! And it usually works way better than drawing for me.
    • Role play. Role play has always been something that has helped me cope by being creative with others; I get to write out and construct worlds and settings with other people — mostly my fiancé — and it helps me be both creative and social at the same time. Not to mention that creating different kinds of characters helps me explore different mindsets, different coping styles, different ways that that character would handle a situation. Sometimes, it helps me be introspective about my own coping styles and finding new ways of helping myself by being in the shoes of someone else.

This segment ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. My next post will be part two, on Chapter Two.

— Guest blogger Jay Dunn is a freelance artist and writer; she is also a leukemia survivor, and lives with episodes of depression. 

Photo- Jay Dunn, with a wry expression and a halo of starsHello there, my name is Jay — I usually go by the online handle of FreeJayFly. I won a copy of the book Save Yourself from Burnout: A System to Get Your Life Back in a raffle. By a friend's request, I decided to write my thoughts on each chapter after I was done reading it.

As a person, I was very emotionally low when I entered the raffle to win the book, and it has become very evident to me that there are still things that I am not quite over just yet. With the hopes of the facilitation of a better mindset, I'm hoping that I can overcome my personal obstacles to a healthier frame of mind.  I’ve been to a total of seven different schools from kindergarten till seventh grade before I was homeschooled. My inability to work with a steady paycheck is always something that is somewhat of a downer to me. There are the considerations of my inability to work too well because of my three replacements as a result from my osteonecrosis from my cancer treatments. Lastly, there are the legal battles that my fiancé has to go through that I am doing my best to support him with.

As a creator, I was also looking forward to reading the book to expand my way of thinking when it comes to character creation and characterization. Not everyone is going to have the same mindset, and it is important to have characters that handle things differently. What may be present in the book may not always be something that I will turn to when it comes to overcoming my burnout and depression when the time arises. It's important for me to keep that in mind with other characters to help shape them into being more believable.

We are honored to have her permission to share her writing about Save Yourself from Burnout: A System to Get Your Life Back.  Now it's your turn: where did Jay's musings take you?