Cynicism and Detachment

In last week’s post, we started addressing the question: How Do I Know If I’m Burnt Out?

I introduced you to burnout researcher Christina Maslach, Ph.D., and her top signs of burnout after years of research that she labels:

  1. Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
  2. Cynicism and Detachment
  3. Lack of Accomplishment

I took you through an overview of physical and emotional detachment and this week, we’re gonna chat all about cynicism and detachment. In my experience, all three of the above signs should be present, at least to a small degree, to be considered a candidate for burnout.

Because burnout isn’t an ‘official’ diagnosis yet, those are just my thoughts – you can do with them what you will 🙂

Cynicism and Detachment, from what I’ve seen, usually start with a general feeling of ‘meh’. It, like the other signs of burnout, is insidious and likes to creep in slowly so that you barely notice it until it pervades every inch of your existence. Sound bleak? It is.

In the beginning, you might just have a day here and there where you don’t feel like working (whether your work is at home, in an office, as a entrepreneur, or a mother). Sounds normal, right? As it continues, not only do you not feel like working more and more often but you stop caring about the work that you do.

So, your productivity goes down and the quality goes down with it – but you’re not bothered by it. Your thought process might sound like: “This is useless anyway, it makes no difference”.

As the story continues, you begin to feel this way about your family and friends as well. This is when I knew it was a problem for me. Not only did I not want to see friends, but I was annoyed to even be invited. So, you start to pull away from everything and everyone.

That continues, and naturally, you start to feel alone, which leads you to detach even more. While all this is going on, your self-talk can get downright nasty, leading you to strongly pessimistic views on yourself and everything else. This, like the physical and emotional exhaustion, is a closed cycle.

Once you’re on this ride, it’s hard to notice that you can get off. At this point, the part of your brain that manages stress is severely depleted and not working as it should. This means that positive thinking isn’t helpful. Positive thoughts that you read on IG bounce around your head like a ping pong ball until they fall off the table. You can’t hold onto them and you can’t believe they’re true anyway – so what’s the point?!?!

The way out, as per usual, is through. For people in this place, we play a game called Worst Case Scenario where we plot out the worst possible outcomes and really sit there and consider them to give your brain a jolt and to indulge your thinking a bit. This sounds counterintuitive but really works to pull you through to wanting and seeing yourself as capable of a change.

The most important thing to remember with burnout is this: ONLY SMALL STEPS WILL DO. There’s no rushing through being burnt out. If you fell down this well, you’re going to have to crawl back out slowly and carefully. I’ll happily throw you a rope and help you, but the climbing still belongs to you. If you try to move through too much at once, the greatest likelihood is that you’ll fall again.

Let someone throw you a rope. Take your time. Come back up on land, we miss you up here.

XO

C

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