You've probably heard this term used before, whether just once or all over the place. Some places restrict their volunteers or employees in fear of the dreaded burnout; others beg people to take on more and more work until it becomes unavoidable. Whatever experience you have, you've probably seen at least one person go through a burnout stage.
What people often forget is for some people, restriction can actually make them more likely to experience a burnout. Don't get me wrong, it's important to be able to get a break when you need it, but a lot of things we work at actually refresh us more than they exhaust us. My mom has a small business and after a stressful day one of her favorite activities is editing and playing with her presentations; in the same way, a photographer friend of mine loves taking and editing pictures. These kinds of "work" actually excite and re-energize them, making them feel productive.
At the same time, no one is an eternal energy source. Breaks need to happen, and you can only take on so much at one time. One part of this is learning to say “No” or wait to do some things. Everyone has their limits, and even things that seem like fun or exciting opportunities can make you miserable if it means taking on too much too soon. Another is learning to draw a hard and clear line as to how much you are willing to commit.
Boundaries are key. Boundaries like turning phones off at night or taking time for family/friend days can make all the difference. You know that one friend who always texts you at 2 am? For whatever reason, the funny cat story or cute baby picture just couldn't wait for a reasonable hour. Why? No one knows. But, turning your phone off can make the difference between exhaustion from that pointless image to a good nights sleep and being able to see it in the morning. In the same way, setting up time to invest in relationships (whether family or friends) can mean feeling fulfilled and valued as opposed to exhausted, poured out, and then at the end of it all unappreciated. Students, find the difference between studying with breaks (good habit) and texting your friends with the textbook open in front of you.
In spite of our best efforts, burnouts can still happen. Sometimes they're because of things like depression or anxiety, sometimes we just really need a break. Whatever the cause, the trick to handling it a recovering well is recognizing where the problem lies and finding ways to treat it.
Don't be afraid to say no to things when you're not ready to commit, it’s important and will save both you and the person asking you to commit a lot of trouble. Needing a break isn't something to be worried about either. Just take a little breather, and cut yourself some slack.