woman experiencing appreciation burnout

4 Key Signs You’re Experiencing Appreciation Burnout (And What To Do)

It’s no secret a lack of appreciation in the workplace – or any life domain – can quickly lead us to feel undervalued, unmotivated, and wonder why we’re even trying so hard.

Appreciation from others is a vital part of feeling like your efforts are meaningful – no matter what the outcome of said efforts. It’s natural to be keen to spread good vibes by appreciating those around us.

Our ability to appreciate each other is limitless – isn’t it?


What is appreciation burnout?

The concept of burnout might feel relatively contemporary, but it has roots in early psychology. The term was coined in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, who described the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in ‘helping’ professions; emergency doctors, firefighters, ambulance crews, and similar high-stress jobs.

As we’ve collectively moved towards various forms of ‘hustle’ culture, burnout has become a common experience across more and more industries.

Appreciation burnout is a bit of a sidestep from mainstream burnout, but overspending of energy categorizes both.

Appreciation burnout is when we invest a significant portion of our time and energy into focusing on celebrating, motivating, and encouraging others. We forget to leave something over for ourselves. It’s a term that’s starting to crop up more within organizational psychology, but it applies more generally across our lives.

This is especially true in a digital-heavy world where we are faced with constant streams of content from hundreds of people. We all want to feel connected and supportive, but there has to be a line somewhere – appreciating every single thing about every single person you interact with on and offline is going to take its toll without some positive boundaries.


Four signs of appreciation burnout

It might sound a little counterintuitive. After all, gratitude and appreciation for the good stuff – and people – in life are well known as an antidote to burnout and feeling low.

As with much in life, it’s all about balance.

You’ve probably heard about ‘toxic positivity’? It’s kind of the same deal. Here are three signs of appreciation burnout to look out for:

  • Your appreciation starts to feel inauthentic.

Something that makes appreciation so powerful is its authenticity. Without that, it’s pretty meaningless. It might be time for a break if you’re offering words of appreciation, posts of gratitude, or cheerleading others without feeling good about it. Inauthenticity will start, but you’ll also feel exhausted by the effort. Worse, over time, you may resent spending your energy on this.

  • You’re not feeling a lot of reciprocation.

The purpose of appreciation and gratitude is not to receive something back – it’s about offering genuine sentiments. That said, if you’re the one giving all of your time and energy to others and not feeling valued or appreciated in return, it will quickly lead to burnout. 

  • You can’t remember the last time you celebrated your achievements.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say, and if you’re so focused on ensuring everyone around you is complete, what time and space are you leaving for yourself? Feeling appreciated is nice, but it comes from internal acknowledgment and external. 

  • ‘Forgetting’ to appreciate someone is starting to make you feel anxious.

We all have full lives with a lot going on. Keeping track of what everyone is up to can feel overwhelming! The immediacy of our digitally focused days can lead us to think we have to be on it all the time. If forgetting or being delayed in offering thanks, appreciation, or gratitude to someone is causing you to feel anxious or think negatively about yourself and your interactions with others, it could signify appreciation burnout.


5 steps to counter appreciation burnout

Appreciation has a substantial role to play in our lives, which is why we must ensure we get the balance right.

If you identify with any of the signs above, it’s time to take a step back and reassess the role of appreciation in your life. Here are five steps to help you find a better balance:

  1. Firstly, take a little break – especially if appreciation is starting to make you feel anxious. Take some time out to reset and rethink the role of gratitude in your life.
  2. Next, revisit what authentic appreciation means to you – When we express genuine appreciation we do not just recognize someone’s accomplishments, but the impact actions have collectively and individually.
  3. Ask yourself ‘why’ – are you offering appreciation with an ulterior motive? Are you secretly hoping for reciprocation or looking to bank some brownie points for a later date? If so, step away. Re-evaluate the role of appreciation.
  4. Know that there’s not always a need for immediacy with authentic appreciation – Coming back to someone to offer genuine words of gratitude after a brief time will feel better for everyone involved, rather than rushing or forcing your appreciation and having it fall a bit flat.
  5. Dedicate time to self-appreciating – Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back now and then. Being your own biggest cheerleader and feeling proud of your achievements creates a well of self-value without the need for external validation. This also helps set you up to continue offering positive, authentic appreciation to others – because you know the energy that sits behind what they’re trying to achieve.


Find the joy in appreciation

For me, the most significant sign that appreciation burnout might be getting the better of me is when I find myself cringing at the appreciation or gratitude I try to offer.

That’s when I know I’m not being authentic – and it doesn’t mean I’m not genuinely appreciative, but I’m falling flat on being able to offer my thoughts in a way that promotes the good about appreciation.

Appreciation should be a joyful act – for everyone involved in the process – we should all walk away feeling a little lighter and a little brighter.

If you’re finding the act of appreciation is more drag than joy, consider whether burnout is taking over and work on getting back to some balance.

experiencing appreciation burnout

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