With many back at work after the holidays, restoring routine can be a very welcome relief (especially if you’ve had to entertain the kids for the last few weeks). However, it can also be the beginning of an insidious downwards spiral of stress and exhaustion, culminating in eventual burnout.
Because this is the thing about burnout - it happens slowly, behind your back and when you’re not looking. You don’t suddenly wake up with it and it won’t just settle like a 24-hour bug. It’s a process but by no means an inevitable or irreversible one.
Although usually caused by work, its impact reaches much further than the workplace, affecting emotional wellbeing and relationships. It is therefore essential to be aware of the warning signs and equip yourself with some rectifying measures just in case you find yourself headed in an undesirable direction.
What causes burnout?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, burnout is a side effect of ambition and a consequence of success. It robs you of your energy, enthusiasm and passion resulting in an unrecognizable version of yourself. Gaining understanding of what triggered it in the first place is necessary for recovery so let’s take a look at some of the most common causes:
· A lack of control – you don’t feel you have power over what you’re doing and your ability to influence decisions
· A lack of clarity – you’re not really clear on what you’re doing or what your role and responsibilities are
· A lack of congruence – you don’t share the same views as your boss or the company ethos
· A lack of conviction – you don’t believe in what you’re doing or working towards and don’t see it as worthwhile
· A lack of balance – you never finish on time and when you finally are off, work is the main thing on your mind.
· A lack of variety – variety is the spice of life so if your job is repetitive, monotonous or doesn’t challenge you expect burnout to come knocking
You’ll notice that all these factors are due to an absence of one thing or another. Interestingly, it is a bit of a misconception that burnout is caused by working too much or too hard, it’s much deeper than that. In many cases burnout is due to a combination of causes, all contributing to create the end result. Identifying what yours are is the first step towards reversal.
What should I look out for?
Fatigue, insomnia, low mood and anxiety are just some of the symptoms of burnout. They can of course also be warnings of other conditions so it is always worth seeking medical advice to rule these out.
Try to touch base with yourself once a month. Take 15 minutes to ask the following questions:
- Have I become disillusioned with work?
- Have my energy, drive and passion waned?
- Have my loved ones noticed a change in me?
Of course, there are many more questions you could ask yourself but really it’s about being true to yourself because with honesty comes clarity and understanding. We all have a degree of fear associated with self-honesty but the more you practice it the less scary it becomes and it would be a shame to go through life lying to yourself.
What can I do if I think I’m suffering from burnout?
Recovering from burnout takes time. It ideally requires a holistic approach involving an overhaul of both work and personal life along with patience, honesty and self-kindness. So along with perhaps taking a break, remember to:
- Apply the basics of healthy living – these matter now more than ever. You need to eat well, sleep well and move well. Simply trying to manage your stress levels won’t be enough, you need to take control of your life if you really want to get better.
- Be selfish – Prioritise yourself and start saying ‘no’. After all, this is about survival so if you’re going to put yourself first then now’s the time. In fact, by being selfish you’re really being selfless because you’re ensuring you’re doing your best to get back to the normal you as soon as possible.
- Surround yourself with positivity – You don’t need negativity now so have some fun with people you enjoy spending time with or do something you used to enjoy. It’s amazing what an impact a few hours of good energy can have on your well-being.
- De-clutter your life and work – Minimise your gadgets, delegate what you can and tie up loose ends. It’s much easier to transform your mind-set if it’s clear of all that unnecessary jumble.
- Be honest with yourself and with others - Don’t be afraid of opening up and sharing your feelings and thoughts. We are all human and as someone once told me, it’s not a bad thing to show your fallibility every now and then.
What’s the prognosis?
There’s nothing fun about burnout but the good news is that it can get better. And positive, even life changing transformations can come from it too. It’s a wonderful opportunity to revaluate and reassess – and these don’t come around very often. So if you find yourself burning out or burnt out, don’t keep pushing on. Instead make the changes you need to make, don’t be afraid of seeking help and always remember that you owe it to yourself to