Burnout is horrendous, you start feeling terrible, you lose interest in things you used to love and your body begins to shut itself down. It comes from a combination of excessive stress and physical exertion, lack of sleep and often poor nutrition. People underestimate what an impact stress can have on their lives and we are currently in a generation where it is all systems go, 24/7.
With technology increasing at an alarming rate and with more jobs being cut, we are forced to show our worth by aiming for unachievable targets, working harder and smarter, being on call all the time with work emails at home and many other issues that just mean you cannot shut off. This overwhelming level of pressure accumulates and eventually starts to break us down, you won’t just wake up one day and suddenly be burnt out, it will slowly deteriorate your health to the point of breaking you.
I have personally experienced this on a couple of occasions and seen it happen to many friends and colleagues, its nasty, it creeps up on you and for whatever reason people refuse to believe that they are burning out until it is too late.
Be aware that burnout isn’t just feeling tired, it is where your body shuts down certain systems and your mind start to go to a dark place, it can lead to depression ( the issue I had with it), Strokes, suicidal thoughts (another joyful place I went to) and lead to breakdowns. This occurs as your body will use up every last bit of energy and your mental, physical and emotional resources have been depleted due to the ongoing level of chronic stress.
Stress is supposed to aid you in your fight or flight mode, it allows a short burst of cortisol to increase your heartrate and to give you a boost to either fight or run from danger, each time this is set off a large dose of cortisol is released into the system. If you are constantly in that state, you basically have a tap running in the body which is pumping out cortisol and the body doesn’t know when to stop. The stress response can suppress the immune system, digestive system and tissue repair.
But you’re not going to let some little illness get you down are you? No, you work from home, you are on Facebook, you are reading emails, texts, finding the next thing to do in London, planning your next gym visit, working out. All at a time when you just need to relax.
So how do you know if you are burning out? Look out for the following symptoms and if you recognise them, take the time to just unwind, shut off from the world and find a way to help you relax so you reduce your overall stress levels.
1) Severe Exhaustion
Number one on the list is this as most people just ignore this and continue to burn the candle at both ends. Go to bed late, wake up early, work all day, exercise a few times a week and then head out drinking anywhere between Thursday- Sunday. You cannot physically survive on that routine, if you really struggle to get out of bed in the morning and the thought of doing something other than just lying in bed plays on your mind, this could be down to exhaustion
2) Frustration, Disillusion, Cynicism.
If you start to feel like there is no point to what you do anymore, you are not motivated to get up and work, what you are doing doesn’t mean anything no more or you may just feel more pessimistic. Be sure to keep an eye out for these feelings, it is ok to be negative from time to time but if it is over a long period of time these may be signs of burning out.
3) Brain function
Cognitive issues like lack of focus and attention along with reduce memory are big signs of burn out, again be careful not to jump to conclusions as there may be a number of things that are causing this, but once again if this persists it can lead to a build-up of work and more pressure placed on yourself.
4) Increased illness
As previously stated it can begin to have an effect on your immune system and once you begin to become drained your immune system will not be able to fight off any bugs or sicknesses that it previously would have been fine to deal with.
5) Problems with people
You may find yourself either snapping and getting into more arguments with colleagues and loved ones or withdrawing yourself from your usual relationship.
6) Dire Thoughts
Anxiety, anger and depression can all build up with burn out and really take you to a very dark place, if you find yourself feeling guilt and worthlessness, worried and edgy or you start to ask yourself questions like “why do I bother” “What is the point” and it reaches its worst point where you feel trapped and you think that the world may be better off without you. Immediately seek help from a professional, they can help you work towards easing your work life balance to where it should be and they can help you get through what is a real tough place to be in.
How can you help yourself?
1) Find a way to relax
Go for walks, workout ( as long as your body can cope with it), do things you love to do. Draw, visit galleries or zoos, socialise. Find things that allow you to shut off and relax.
2) Power down
Get off your phone, put your laptop away and just forget about whatever is going on in the digital world. Emails will still be there tomorrow and they are more than likely not that important and can wait a day.
3) Eat well
Feed and fuel your body, it needs food to run and function properly so make sure you fill it up with essential nutrients to get it through each day.
Get enough rest, allow your body to recover and to replenish the brain, muscles and organs so they can fire properly and give the body what it needs to function. Hit as close to 8 hours as possible.
5) Know where it is coming from and call it when enough is enough
A lot of work stress can actually be dealt with by speaking to your supervisor, this does not show weakness, it doesn’t show you can’t do your job it shows that your workload is too much and you will achieve a lot more if it is delegated correctly rather than it all going through you.
Figure out what is causing the issue and try to break that down so you stay motivated and positive about your work. Speak to your manager and you’re HR and they should be willing to make changes to look after your welfare.
If they are not, then it may well be time to move on to another role. Remember that you can only work well if you are fit and healthy, there are a number of jobs and roles out there, do not punish yourself by staying in the same situation because you are afraid of speaking up. It is a lot easier speaking up then dealing with the back end of burn out.