From burning out to busting out – tips on getting back on top after hitting the bottom
When I was a teenager, a burnout was something you did at high speed in a car to laydown rubber on the road and annoy your father, so when I had my first burnout as an adult on the job I was surprised by the label. A burnout is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a special type of stress – a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work – no reference to cars, speed or rebelliousness.
Some of the symptoms of a burnout (which are good to know so you can spot them in yourself and your colleagues) are;
- dragging yourself to work and struggling to get started with your work day
- lacking energy to be consistently productive
- feeling unsatisfied with your job and your achievements
- using food, drugs or alcohol to distract you, to feel better or avoid feeling altogether
- struggling with getting enough quality sleep and have unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical ailments
- lacking patience with your co-workers, customers or clients
You might experience some of these or all of these from time to time but prolonged states could be warning signs that your stress levels are too high and some changes in work style or life style are needed. Knowing what causes these symptoms can help to target simple changes that can provide significant relief, help you bounce back faster and even avoid burnout altogether.
“Burnout is one of those road hazards in life that high-achievers really should be keeping a close eye out for, but sadly—often because of their “I can do everything” personalities—they rarely see it coming. Because high-achievers are often so passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working exceptionally long hours, taking on exceedingly heavy work loads, and putting enormous pressure on themselves to excel—all of which make them ripe for burnout says Sherrie Bourg Carter the author of .High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout “.
Long hours – what is requiring you to put in long hours? Is it the corporate culture, have you fallen into a bad habit of not setting time boundaries for yourself or loosing track of time when you’re working, is it an overbearing boss, a major short term project or a business cycle that will pass, such as end of financial year deadlines. Are you avoiding going home for some reason? Take a good look at what is going on, how long it’s been going on and how long it’s likely to last. If it’s going to be a few weeks and you can handle it, perhaps keep going as you are and put in recovery strategies for after the peak period has passed or face up to difficult questions that you’ve been avoiding about your work or private life.
Heavy workloads – take some time out to consider how you could reduce the workload. What can be delegated, what can be ditched and what can be delayed for another time. Is there technology that can be implemented to increase efficiencies, what can be outsourced, what do you need additional resources for and who can you ask to help out to reduce the burden on you or your team to give you some stress reduction. Who can you ask for help? The answers to these questions could result in you needing to have some challenging conversations with yourself and others, but it could be worth your physical and mental health to put the effort in here.
Pressure to Excel – where does this pressure come from? Is it imposed by your own internal standards or definition of success. Or imposed on you by the system, your industry, the economy or competitive nature of your cohorts. You may not be in a position to influence change in areas outside of yourself and in the workplace but is now a good opportunity to look at the internal pressure you are putting on yourself? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe the answer is no not now but at least ask the question and seek help. The answers may surprise you and could hold the secret to avoiding burnout or at least building on your ability to bounce back from the stresses and strains of modern work life styles.
For me, my first burnout set me up for my second burnout because I did not heed the warning signs, change my behaviours or seek help. By the time I recognized that I was well on my way to my third burnout, I also recognized that I needed to reach out and get help to stop the cycle. I took the time to ask myself some difficult questions, to look at my work and lifestyle patterns that were lowering my resilience, and to work with health professionals and coaches that could support me to build a much stronger, more robust personal and professional platform for success.
The teenager in me still wants to put my foot on the accelerator, smoke up the tyres and leave rubber on the road, but I know the cost is just not worth the burnout. Instead I now have a firm grip on the steering wheel, my foot on the gas pedal and I’m steering my high performance sports car to the finish line. Is now the time for you to take this journey too?
About Your Guest Blogger: Nicole van Hattem is a ‘Workplace Wellness Activist’, Holistic Success Coach, host of highly successful ‘Hot and Healthy’ podcast and TV show, bestselling author and sought after international wellness speaker. Driven by her mission to save 1 million people from ‘death by desk’, she is trailblazing the way forward in creating long term, sustainable success.