No one wants to end up in burnout, but it seems like everyone does at some point in their lives. While there are some factors, we have limited control of, the one that seems like we have the least influence on is actually one we can influence the most.
Burnout is defined by, of course, exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. Our bathtub model for burnout explains that our lack of personal agency, our belief that we can impact change, defines burnout. We fill our bathtub with results, support, and self-care, and it’s drained by the demands we place on ourselves and others place on us.
At a glance, it would seem like self-care would be easiest to control, but many of us find that our beliefs about self-care are deeply rooted and therefore difficult to change. Strangely, avoiding burnout can be as simple as asking for help.
You’re Not Weak
The first objection to asking for help is the perception that, if you ask for help, you’re weak. We’ve got the notion that the American West was won by lone cowboys, who crossed the plains with only their rifle, six-shooter, and trusty steed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. We conquered the American West with wagon trains and families that bonded together to help each other out and protect themselves from the rugged terrain.
We became the dominant organism on the planet not because of our individual skills but rather because we had the ability to band together and help each other. Humans literally need each other to survive. We’ve always needed each other to survive. Asking for help is acknowledging who we are as a species.
Being Told No
The second most prevalent concern is, “What if they tell me no?” It’s a real concern, but, at the same time, you’ll never know if you don’t ask. With no action, you’ll get no help. By asking someone, they can say “yes.” If they do say “yes,” you may wonder if you have to say “yes” whenever they ask – but it doesn’t work that way. If you can help them, great. If you can’t help, you can say “no” – just like they can.
Don’t Even Ask
Sometimes folks don’t even want to ask for help. “They should just know I need help” doesn’t work. We’re all distracted, overwhelmed, and consumed by other things. It’s not fair to expect that someone else will be constantly monitoring you to see if you need something. Many misunderstandings have started with “You should have known,” only to be crushed by the weight of “But how could I have?”
The reality of most people’s worlds is that they have more than enough people who are willing to help them if they’re willing to ask directly and specifically for what they need. Where we get into trouble is making vague requests the other person can’t interpret or asking a large group of people, in which everyone feels like someone else will respond. If you want to get out of burnout, it’s time to get past the concern about being weak and make specific requests to get what you need to succeed.