What are the signs of Burnout and how can you prevent it?
In my previous post I talked about the signs of stress and gave some ideas on how to cope if you are feeling stressed. Leading on from this post, Burnout is in a league of its own. This is what can happen to us if we ignore the signs of stress and the pressure that we place on ourselves. We carry on doing what we have always done and then bam.... our nervous system slams on the brakes and says "ENOUGH!" Before you know it, you find yourself in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.
I know from personal experience just how debilitating burnout can be so I am really passionate about raising awareness of the warning signs. I want to emphasise that burnout does not mean you are weak. Far from it. People who find themselves in this situation are often perfectionists, over-thinkers, over givers or over- achievers. We care what other people think (sometimes too much). We will go above and beyond to do a good job, often ignoring our own limitations and we are often reluctant to ask for help.
What are the signs of burnout?
This could be wide ranging physical 'niggles' such as constant headaches, sleep problems and digestive issues. You will most likely feel physically and emotionally drained and could experience anxiety, chest tightness or panic. Because burnout affects us emotionally as well as physically, you may also notice changes in your mood. A lack of motivation and procrastination are common. Increased frustration and irritability could show itself, along with a feeling of being detached, overwhelmed and lacking in empathy or compassion.
Do you worry that you are close to burnout?
If any of the above sounds like you, this burnout assessment test can help you to judge how likely you are to burnout. Do please take note of any advice that is offered at the end of the test and seek professional help if your scores are high. This is your chance to stop burnout before it stops you in your tracks.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM BURNOUT
The good news is that you can recover from burnout. You can also use it as an opportunity to assess your lifestyle and make positive changes that can improve both your emotional and physical health for the future. Recovery does take time and you will need to make sustainable changes to ensure a full recovery and to lessen any chances of slipping back into burnout at a later date. The following are some points that you could start to look at.
Accept that you are finding things hard.
Without acceptance you will not be able to continue with the following points. You need to acknowledge that you have a problem with stress and exhaustion and stop burying your head in the sand. If you score high on the stress assessment then you may already be overwhelmed and your current coping strategies may not be working. Remember, it's OK not to be OK!
This might mean having a P.J day, watching films , listening to music, having a break from social media - whatever works for you. You might need days or weeks of rest, maybe longer.
You might feel you need some quiet time on your own or you might need to connect with loved ones. Listen to your body, put yourself first and make sure that you get what you need. This will start to re-charge your battery.
Talk to someone
This could be your GP or another health professional. It could be a counsellor or a friend or loved one that you trust. You could also contact an organisation such as Mind or The Samaritans. Simply talking about how you are feeling can really help to reduce the pressure that you are under and start to regulate your nervous system.
Assess your work situation
For many people, this is where burnout starts. We set ourselves unrealistic targets, we may not have the support that we need at work and we don't have healthy boundaries to distinguish between work and home life. If you know that your work is contributing to your stress then you may need to consider taking a break. For some this may be an extended break of weeks or months. For others it may just mean starting and finishing on time, ensuring that you take a lunch break and learning to say 'no',
Assess your lifestyle.
We all need a healthy balance in our lives. We need hobbies and interests that we enjoy in order to top up our batteries and maintain our energy levels. What are you passionate about outside of your work? If this is difficult to answer then what you could do is think about your values and what is important to you. I have a values worksheet that I often give to clients. Do contact me if you would like a copy of this.
Assessing your values and lifestyle may lead you to discover new hobbies and interests. You might even have a lightbulb moment and decide that what you really want to be doing does not tally with your current role. This can lead to some big decisions and sometimes a whole new career or venture.
Separate self-worth from achievement
You are so much more than what you achieve. If you are constantly trying to accomplish more and more in order to feel better about yourself, this can just make you miserable and exhausted. Try writing a list of all the things that you love about yourself that are not connected to your work or your accomplishments. It may help you to get started with this if you ask your loved ones what they love about you. This can be a great way to discover that there is way more to you than the work that you do or the roles that you fill.
Assess your physical health.
Diet plays a huge part in how we cope with stress and how we manage our emotions. Did you know that 90% of the feel good hormone Serotonin is made in the gut? If you are not nurturing your gut with a healthy diet then it will not be able to provide the hormones that you need to regulate your stress levels. This is something that you can start working on right now to start you on the road to feeling better. Here are some healthy foods to help with stress. In an ideal world it would be good to work with a nutritionist to ensure you are getting all the right nutrients and to check for any deficiencies.
The above tips definitely helped me with my burnout and I hope that you find them helpful too. If you would like to work on your recovery with a counsellor do get in touch for a free consultation.