We hear more and more about people burning out and the language itself can conjure up some dramatic images and episodes.
People imagine that burnout is something dramatic, the collapse on the bathroom floor or the breakdown on public transport that shows that actually you are close to the edge. But often it manifests itself in a completely different way and therefore many fail to spot it or only spot it later on. Burnout is not characterised by a sudden crash in fact it is often a build up of symptoms over time which lead to its diagnosis so it is important to understand the warning signs.
Burnout is caused by excessive and prolonged stress which then results in emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. If you are feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained or detached you may well be suffering from burnout. As time progresses you often find it hard to motivate yourself and your feelings of overwhelm will increase. When people are talking about overwhelm or if you start finding that you can’t cope with all of the demands on you at work and home you may well be heading for burnout.
If you are suffering from burnout you may well start to care less about things and have an emotional detachment from things you used to care about. Although it is usually associated with work the effects can impact all areas of your life including your family, home and social life. Many people with burnout start to withdraw socially and from relationships.
When one of my colleagues expressed to me that she was “just getting through the days and not feeling anything” it was a warning sign that she could be close to burnout. The lack of emotional connection with work and home is often a clear sign that you are heading for a fall. Equally feeling like you are helpless to change situations and that everything is hard or overwhelming can be key signs.
Immune functioning and illness
As chronic and prolonged stress weakens the immune system if you are pre-burnout you often will be more vulnerable to illness and colds. Tell tale signs of burnout are an increase in sickness and a feel of lethargy. Exhaustion and fatigue are common and often symptomatic of weakened immune system.
Symptoms need to be tracked over time
We don’t have the dramatic crash that many people associate with burnout and because it can often be gradual it means that you can fail to spot the symptoms. We can all have bad days or stressful situations but that build up of prolonged stress and the consistency of the symptoms over time. We all have bad days but if your bad day turns into a bad week and a bad month it is time to start seeking help.
How to deal with burnout
You have identified that you are close to burnout or you have reached that breaking point and you are aware that pushing through the exhaustion is no longer an option. So what do you do next? If you are experiencing burnout you need to manage your stress levels as a matter of priority to reduced symptoms as quickly as possible.
Stress causes burnout so to reverse the feelings and to pave the way to recovery you need to take steps to deal with the stress. One of the best ways to help regain control over the way that you are feeling is to ask for help to reduce the stress. This help can be informally within your social circle or more formally with the help of a counsellor or therapist.
Often it is much easier to speak to those closest to you first, choose someone who you can trust and who is a good listener and tell them how you are feeling. By recognising and naming the problem you are able to start the process to get help.
Get professional support
After speaking to someone informally it is recommended to get additional support – CBT therapists can be beneficial in providing clear solutions and steps to follow in the future, solution focused hypnotherapy is a similar reframe which can be highly effective. If you are unsure where to go your GP can be a first port of call and they are also able to sign you off work.
Look at the areas that were causing you stress both personally and professionally and identify what you can and can’t control. Then take a step back – what is going to be significant in the next year that is impacting your stress levels now. Choose to focus on those things which you can control and be clear about how you can change things.
Speak to someone at work
If your burnout is caused by your job have a conversation with somebody you trust at work. Look at what you can do to reduce the stress that you are feeling and have a discussion with them about practical steps that you can both take to help you perform better and reduce the stress. Focus on what you enjoy in your job – whatever those aspects are. Building relationships at work can be beneficial as social contact can decrease the effects of stress.
Take a break
If you are close to burnout and are able to take a break do. If you are able to book a holiday then do this otherwise get signed off work by your doctor and use your sick days. Having a complete break will allow you to recover more quickly and helps remove yourself from additional stress while you work out what to do next.
Have a digital detox
Reduce the amount of time that you spend on technology and social media. If possible take a complete detox for a couple of days, if not make sure you limit the amount of time you spend on social media every day to less than an hour. Social media can increase feelings of overwhelm and stress.
Take up a relaxation technique such as meditation or yoga. Spending time in silence can help you to reduce the overwhelm you are feeling.
Improve your sleep
Build new routines into your day and evening so that your focus is on getting better quality sleep. Look at the time you go to bed and have an activity that helps you wind down like reading, yoga, journaling or chatting to your partner. Avoid looking at any screens 1 hour before bedtime. Have a clear morning routine which includes an element of silence or meditation to help set yourself up for the day.
Daily exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress. Ideally exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, choose something that you love such as walking, running, swimming or dancing. The most important thing is to use this as a time to switch off so remove yourself from technology and focus on your body. Consistency is key so do something that you can commit to, don’t over extend yourself with training for a marathon remember the focus is on your wellness not overcommitting.]
Look at your diet
Go back to the basics. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible and ideally a mainly plant based diet. Reduce sugar, processed, refined foods, alcohol and caffeine. Ideally you would avoid alcohol and nicotine as well, if this is difficult reduce your intake over time.
About the author
Ruth Kudzi is a business mentor, mindset coach and best-selling author who has worked with 1000s of clients worldwide. She combines practical business skills with a MA in Psychology and numerous coaching qualifications including NLP to help her clients build businesses they love.