Burnout is a constant feeling of being swamped and feeling exhausted. It results from excessive and extended emotional, physical, and mental stress.
Stress and burnout are different since burnout is usually related to work life.
Burnout is categorized by exhaustion, typically caused by constantly feeling swamped. Just like stress, excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress results in burnout.
Typically, we can feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with a job’s incessant demands.
The danger with burnout is that it is very hard to detect because it builds up subtly and steadily over time – it is insidious. This is exactly what I experienced following 20 years in corporate sales roles, where I did not fully understand the symptoms I was experiencing. This led to my burnout, which was exacerbated by the pandemic, a squeeze on resources and headcount, and no let-up in incessant demands.
Whereas stress can come and go, and we may be able to identify the cause(s), burnout feels like there is no hope. We can feel like we are losing our identity. I felt like the old me was steadily disappearing and that was frightening.
It is important to understand that burnout and stress are different and require different approaches.
The burnout signs you shouldn’t ignore
Reduced sleep or insomnia
Getting less than 6 hours a night over a period is a predictor of burnout.
Choosing to take yourself away from connections mentally or physically is a sign of burnout. Living in constant stress means we are living in separation because we feel we are disconnected and survival mode means we only have the energy to focus on ourselves.
If it feels like the workload never reduces, and there is no respite in-between, this is a sign of burnout.
Mental and physical exhaustion is a sign of burnout. Complete energy depletion defines exhaustion. An example of this is virtual meeting fatigue during the pandemic.
Lack of enjoyment
Feelings of cynicism and a general lack of effectiveness creep into most or all parts of life. Voicing cynicism to others could be a cry for help, without realizing it.
Anxiety and depression
Feelings of worry and tension, which we can all experience at times transition into a deeper sense of anxiety and depression. Anxiety is about constantly living in survival mode, which is exhausting.
Ways to actively manage burnout
It is important to check in with yourself, and you could use the list above to “audit” how you are feeling. Do any of those symptoms resonate with you? If so, you could be heading for burnout, and it is important to take it seriously. Bringing awareness to ourselves helps us to understand better.
Focussing on getting enough sleep is vital for mental and physical health. Getting enough sleep is one of the biggest contributors to coping with stress, improving memory, immunity, and our ability to focus.
Avoiding caffeine, 6 hours before sleep and scheduling a period of winding down are ways to avoid stimulation and encourage sleep. Other ways are switching off the ‘phone or TV in advance of bedtime, reading a book, meditating, or having a relaxing Epsom salt bath.
Not only does scheduling regular breaks and holidays give us something to look forward to, but it also allows us to maintain perspective on the important things. We have all experienced that feeling when it takes us the first few days of a holiday to slow down and wind down. Our body needs to recover and recuperate, mentally and physically to sustain daily life.
Connecting with friends and family members is vital for our mental health; as humans, we seek social connection and interaction to stimulate us and make us feel part of our community. It is important to make time for social interaction on a regular basis.
Trying to make everyone else happy and being a people pleaser leaves no room for you. One way to tackle this is to spend time asking yourself who and what your top priorities are, then make sure to prioritize and focus on them. Put them above your work priorities and hold your ground when challenged to work longer hours.
Getting a little personal timeout for ourselves allows us to re-energize and give our best selves in our home and work life. Solitude can be extremely energizing. Find something you can do for yourself and ensure to schedule it regularly – it could be a massage, a treatment, a gym class, meditation, or a run, for example.
The pre-cursors to burnout are excessive emotional, physical, and mental stress. It feels like you are constantly overloaded and exhausted. Stress and burnout are different and require different approaches. There are key signs and symptoms of burnout that you can watch out for. If you can identify any of them in yourself, you can potentially start to address them or seek help to overcome them.
If this resonates with you, firstly you are not alone. Please reach out to me, for individualized guidance, help, and support.
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