Before we can talk about burnout, we must define exactly what that is. Burnout can be defined as having a sense that one cannot do another thing without collapsing.

It is usually caused by excessive stress, or over work and can manifest itself mentally, physically and emotionally. Chronic burnout and associated stress plays a key role in heart disease, diabetes, addictions, anxiety, and depression.

It is a phenomenon of doing too many things that are unpleasant and failing to do those things that relax us and make us happy.

Burnout happens to highly paid executives who don’t have enough time to be with their families and to overworked individuals who are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Burnout happens to overwhelmed moms, students, and even kids who are overwhelmed with busy schedules.

Both types of people can experience burnout when the unpleasant things in life exceed and take over the pleasant things in life.

Is this a phenomenon of modern civilization or is it something people have dealt with for centuries?

In some ways, it can be said that burn out is a part of today’s society and modern civilization because these things exist in modern civilization that didn’t exist centuries ago:

  • We are burned out on too many choices in social media and too much information. Years ago, we heard things from local weekly papers or by sharing time with friends. Now we must hear about things going on in others’ lives through social media, which takes time and can be overwhelming.
  • We are burned out on having to work to make ends meet. Now that there are things like Netflix and cell phones to pay for, we must work harder to make money to pay for these things. This means taking shortcuts with family time and with leisure time so we can keep up with all of the phone calls and social media connections we seem to think we need. People are spending their time paying for these things by working harder without ever recognizing that we can do without all of these “extras” in our lives.
  • We are burned out by having to combine family and work schedules. Now, it appears that we want to have families and still work at the same time. Often both parents must work to pay for having children and children are shuttled to daycare and grandparents’ homes with complicated arrangements, especially if a couple is no longer together. Children are spending less and less time with parents when compared to centuries ago when mom stayed at home, raised the children while dad worked to support the family. Now it takes two to support the family and we end up supporting something we don’t have the time to be with.
  • We are burned out by having to keep up with our kids’ lively activities. With both parents, working and children choosing or being forced into sports activities, the whole family becomes burned out by having to attend to so many other things. Our children are burned out by having to attend school, do homework, and participate in social and athletic activities. They must juggle cell phones, time at home, and time with friends with a schedule that is so tight they can’t fit any other thing in without collapsing.
  • We are burned out because our diets are filled with food created in factories, made for convenience and long-term shelf lives, and therefore filled with preservatives and additives. Our bodies suffer because they do not get the nutrients they need that provide energy, promote healthy internal function, and keep our weight in healthy ranges, which can only be provided by real whole food.
  • We are burned out because we are too busy to cook real food, so we visit drive thrus, and buy processed convenience food that lacks the nutrients we need for physical and mental energy.
  • We are burned out because many of us cannot find the time to exercise, as we are either overworked, or we spend too much time on modern technology that is based on sitting activity, like video games, DVR’s, 5 million cable television channels and web surfing.
  • We are burned out because we spend little time outdoors in the fresh air and among its invigorating elements like living flora and fauna. As humans overtake nature’s space to make room for buildings, houses and malls, major cities and metropolitan areas suffer from a lack of nature, and skyscrapers that block out the sun.
  • We are burned out because we spend more time on our cell phones, texting, either calling or posting or following social media updates than relaxing and clearing our minds in our free time.
  • We are burned out because big business believes the myth that prioritizing wellbeing is incompatible with a healthy bottom line and that employees must sacrifice self-care for high performance. Only ¼ of US corporations offer stress reduction programs to their employees.

What Can We Do to Avoid Burn Out?

In order to avoid suffering from excessive burn out, we need to prioritize our lives and decide which things are important to do and which things we can leave out.

  • Do we really need to check our Facebook page every day, subscribe to Twitter, and go on social media to get our news?
  • Will a half hour at bedtime be enough to get the news of the day?
  • Do we all have to have cell phones in the family?
  • Do our children get enough free playtime or are they too structured in after school activities?
  • Can we cut the amount of hours we work?
  • Can we move closer to work so that we don’t have to sit in hour long rush hours morning and evening?
  • Can we switch jobs to a more anti-stress friendly environment with employers who care about well being of their workers?

When we decide what we want to keep and what we can do without, we will find more time for the things we enjoy and will suffer less from daily burnout.