Burnout vs Boreout – Know the Signs and Tackle Them Head On!

Let’s face it, 2020 has left a lot of us running on empty. We should have hoverboards, flying cars and a utopian society by now, instead what we’ve got is a global pandemic, a crippled economy and hundreds of thousands of people dealing with grief, stress and loss. Even if you haven’t been personally affected by COVID-19, chances are that your life has experienced a period of intense change that has left you feeling discombobulated to say the least.

With so many of us dealing with drastic changes to our working lives, is it any wonder that stress, in it’s many forms, has become our constant companion? Today’s blog is about two such types of stress – one that I’m sure most people have heard of and another that is little known but can affect your mental health just as profoundly. People sometimes get confused between Burnout and Boreout because the emotions you experience and the impact on your life can often present as the same which is why diagnosis can often seem difficult. Have a look at the questions below:-

  • Are you feeling disconnected at work or home or both?
  • Are you struggling to get up in the morning and can’t find the enthusiasm or energy to go about your day?
  • Do you feel a lack of passion for the job that once excited and challenged you?
  • Are you having feelings of low self-esteem and believe that no matter what you contribute it won’t make a difference?
  • Do you sometimes feel ashamed or guilty because you feel you are not showing your best self?
  • Do you struggle to find any positives in your work or home life?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions then you are most likely suffering from Burnout or Boreout – the symptoms are the same! Please don’t worry though, you’re not alone. We’re going to look at the one fundamental difference between the two and discuss strategies for coping and getting through to the other side.

The fundamental difference between Burnout and Boreout is that when you’re burned out, you’ve been overloaded with work and when you’re bored out, you’ve been underloaded. That’s it. Who would ever have thought that not having anything to do could make you feel so undervalued and miserable? But it can. We all need goals, focus and purpose in our lives, without them we struggle to make a connection to the world around us.

Boreout occurs when you don’t have work which is ‘interesting enough’ to keep you motivated and challenged. You feel underestimated and don’t believe that your core skills (the things you’re good at), are being utilised. Your enthusiasm drains away and you start making mistakes when carrying out the most mundane, simple tasks – mostly, because they are mundane and simple!

Simply put, you don’t have enough work to do and you’re not being challenged to develop. The work you do have, you could probably do with your eyes closed and so, you start making mistakes. It’s boring and dull (something we’ve all struggled with this year, especially in our social lives I’m afraid). You lack enthusiasm to spend time with friends and family because you don’t really have anything to tell them about. Phone calls are skipped, conversations with your partner are stilted and dull and you lack the motivation to do any of the things you would normally enjoy.

With Burnout, the reverse is true. You’re overloaded with tasks and projects and deadlines to meet. There are literally not enough hours in your working day, so you end up working for longer – evenings, weekends, stupid o’clock in the morning… You sacrifice spending time with family and friends so much that any down time you do have, you fill with trying to make up for it – phone calls, socially distanced meet-up’s, Zoom drinks etc. The end result is not making any time for yourself to relax, a constant gnawing anxiety in the pit of your stomach, a sense of continual panic and feeling like a failure in every department.

The consequences of both syndromes are very similar. You feel fatigued, dissatisfied, frustrated and bored. You may struggle to make decisions or take action. You may be constantly afraid that your boss or your colleagues are judging you and might ‘find you out’ or be discounting you because they feel you can’t cope. If you are experiencing these feelings there are some strategies to help you get through it.

Firstly, ASK FOR HELP. I’m capitalising this because it’s okay to ASK FOR HELP. If you are struggling with either Burnout or Boreout or any problem, ASKING FOR HELP is the number one route you should go down. Don’t be afraid. There is no shame in admitting that you’re struggling. Everyone struggles, no one is perfect – believe me. The majority of us have all had to try and cope with the feelings you’re experiencing (including myself). It may seem daunting and you may fear the idea that you will be seen as a failure but I promise you, just talking about the way you’re feeling with someone will make you feel one thousand times better. You’re not alone.

Pick up the phone and call a friend or co-worker or talk to your partner/husband/wife/child about the way you are feeling right now. Even if you don’t ask them for help, just tell them. Let them know why you’ve been so distant and moody lately. Just to admit that you’re struggling is the first step forward. No doubt, they will offer you some solutions or support to help you through the way you are feeling right now, but just talking about it and admitting that there is a problem will make you feel better.

Next, once you’ve admitted there is a problem, it’s time to tackle it at work. Schedule a meeting with your boss and tell them how you’re feeling. Whether you’re overworked or underworked, there’s no shame in telling them what you need. To prepare for this meeting, have a clear list of what your issues currently are and some suggestions for how they can be resolved. This is important – do not go to your boss with a list of complaints and no possible solutions. A boss generally wants to support you but in order to do that YOU have to tell THEM what YOU NEED.

Your boss likely won’t be aware of your everyday working circumstances so you need to make it very clear to them whether you need more work or less work. You must be proactive on this or it’s very likely that things will not change. Your career is your responsibility and they will respect you more if you take it seriously, rather than coming to them with a list of problems that you expect them to solve for you.

If you have a supportive boss, this meeting will hopefully be a catalyst for change – work together and devise an action plan to help you take back control and rebalance your working life. It may not be immediate, but set key deadlines, carry out the tasks required and your future will soon look brighter, both at work and at home. If you do not have a supportive boss and you’re convinced that no matter what you say things won’t change, then it may be time to look for something new.

Whether you’re suffering from Burnout or Boreout, the key cause of these syndromes is that you are desperately in need of CHANGE. Whether you’re overworked or underworked, your mind is telling you that you are at a crossroads and some decisions need to be made. If your passions and the things that you care about are not being fulfilled in your working life, perhaps it’s time to look for something new? Think about the things you love, that give you purpose and joy. Make them your top priorities and go out and get them!

Whatever your path, we wish you luck on your journey and hope that you will find the job that makes you wake up in the morning with a smile.


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