Mental Burnout 101

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A burnout happens due to unrelenting and prolonged stress which directly affects your mental, physical and most importantly your spiritual health. Many a time when you’re going through a burnout, you don’t want to acknowledge it. It’s not that you consciously ignore the fact that you’re burnt out, but as a matter fact, unconsciously you don’t even see it as if you’re burnt out and now, you need a time out. Interestingly enough, certain personality types and traits are more prone to a burnout compared to others, like the type A personality is more prone. Stress and being burnt out are different, stress is the pressure from all sources that you cannot cope with, while, a burnout is caused BECAUSE of prolonged stress. Simply put – you’ve given up all your last minute resources and are now running on empty.

Let’s do a simple test. If you can relate to these situations, you need a timeout –

(a) Feel tired all the time, no matter how much you nap.
(b) As soon as the day begins, you already want it to end.
(c) Your acts of worship are going towards the negative.
(d) Finding it hard to pay attention and are often forgetful; even your prayers!
(e) Low performance at school or work, although you’re usually high achieving
(f) You sit down to work and find yourself not having the strength to move a finger.

These are not all the symptoms of a burnout, but these are the chunks of it. If you relate, please acknowledge it, and if you don’t, be watchful of your close friends and family, they might be going through one. There are a few subtle changes that you can make in your attitude and habits that can help to recover and prevent a burnout.

For any progress to happen, you must first realize that, in fact, you are burnt out. And you need a time out. Our beloved prophet Muhammad SAW has mentioned, “Your own body has rights over you, so take care of it.”(Abu Dawud 1369). Can you drive a car that is empty on fuel? No. Then, why are you doing that to yourself?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where giving everything of yours to others is commendable and seen as selfless. While effectively managing your time and energy between yourself and others is seen as a shameful and selfish trait. And when you yourself truly acknowledge that you’re empty, that you need to be fueled, you’re taking care of the Amanah that Allah gave you and obeying Muhammad SAW.

While some aren’t aware of this themselves, others are well versed with their mental health but are so troubled because of family and work pressure. Because, your work is not going to be considerate about your burnout, they don’t even know! And you don’t communicate with your family because you fear they won’t understand or you don’t want them to worry.
So, how should a person troubled with delayed deadlines, failing tasks, depression, family and work pressure deal with a mental burnout?

Turn to Allah for the Fuel; Pray at Night

Our prophet Muhammad SAW said, “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’” (Bukhari 1145). Allah has specifically mentioned the night, as a means to turn back to him, as a means to wash off all the sins and exhaustion of the day and fuel yourself at night because during the day you are using the fuel.

Take advantage of the night and speak out all your exhaustion to Allah, and even if you don’t have the energy to speak, Allah knows what’s in the heart. Take deep breaths, sit in silence with yourself and relax, because rest assured you’re talking to Allah. There shouldn’t be any worry, He will help you. A Muslim is always in a beautiful state when he’s happy, he shows shukr, gratitude and when he’s distressed he shows sabr, patience.

Even if everything else fails, the minimum you could do is to spend 5 minutes after every salah by yourself, keep your eyes closed and only remember Allah. Don’t worry about the work behind you, you don’t have the energy to do it anyway.

Most of the time a mental burnout can immensely affect your spirituality; that’s the first that gets affected. And that is why, when you are trying to tackle a mental burnout you must focus on your spirituality first.

Physical Exercises or a Sport

One of the most trusted and fun ways to deal with a number of mental illnesses is physical movement. You can see it in the sense that, when you are mentally exhausted, to counter the mental exhaustion performing physical tasks work efficiently, like a balance. We all need to learn how to balance our lives, especially our mental well-being and this is one way. It doesn’t have to be a full workout plan, a simple walk in nature works. For some, even completing daily chores, playing games that require movement like a few Xbox games, car repairing/washing are effective alternatives.

You can use the time while walking or doing any physical task to have a conversation with yourself and about yourself. This also counts for spending time with yourself, which is important. You’re able to analyze your recent engagements or emotional factors that have caused this burnout and try to counter attack them.

Take a Leave, Absence or Vacation

If the world doesn’t stop for you, you stop for them. Take a leave, stay at home and do something you love that is halal. And if you feel like you’re too exhausted to do anything or have lost interest in everything, it’s okay, just sleep in. And for those who stay at home, take a leave from the walls of your home and be with nature or simply be with yourself in the mall or take a friend with you if that boosts things up.

The point here is, to pause life and take a break.

Switch Up Between Tasks

With Allah’s help, if and when you recover from the burnout, now is the time you get back to work while working effectively to prevent another burnout. The trick here is to never spend too much time on any task, a maximum of 60 – 90 minutes depending on the task, is ideal. You should plan you to do list in such an order that switches up evenly between mental and physical tasks. For e.g., (A) Tidy up the house (B) Work on the presentation (C) Edit posters for advertising (D) take a break and read etc. keep changing the part of the brain that you’re working with so that it remains fresh for the next task.

If you observe the example given, the first task requires physical energy, then the second requires academic or professional knowledge, the third requires creativity and the fourth is a break with a relaxing task which also is a different type of task compared to the others. This way, even if you have 10 things to complete in a day you can complete the tasks effectively while switching up without needing frequent breaks.

Breaks are necessary but can be dangerous too, that’s why a more effective way to be productive and accomplish loads without feeling exhausted is to switch up.

There need to be switch ups, there need to be breaks, there need to be days when you only rest.

You must always remember to reach out to yourself before you reach out to others. Because your body has a right over you and you mustn’t neglect it. And more than anything, spread awareness about mental burnouts to your friends and especially family. As a person who is going through or suffering from a burnout, your goal should be able to lead a balanced productive life.


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