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Are you on the brink of burnout?

Here are 5 signs that you may be, and how to pull yourself back. As a woman in the pursuit of my passions, I have had it tough this last year, falling victim to the stress and fatigue that comes along with giving so much of myself. You have to agree with me, life has […]

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Here are 5 signs that you may be, and how to pull yourself back.

As a woman in the pursuit of my passions, I have had it tough this last year, falling victim to the stress and fatigue that comes along with giving so much of myself.

You have to agree with me, life has gotten busy. Busier than ever before in fact. Most of us will just about get through our days, struggling to find any down time for ourselves.

We may not speak about the subject often, but burnout is an ever more present issue in the modern workplace, and the statistics paint a pretty doom picture. A survey by Kronos Inc. and Future Workplace states that employee burnout is perhaps the worst than it has ever been, citing as the main reasons too much work, too little pay, too many technological advancements and too much emphasis on recruiting new employees rather than keeping existing ones happy.

Other factors related to burnout are stress, problems unwinding in the evenings, worrying, conflict, overwhelm from juggling too many things, sleepless nights, etc… sounds familiar?

Burnout rates cost companies greatly in terms of productivity and absenteeism, as well as a loss of employee engagement, and losing top performers.

Technology is also playing a big part in increased burnout rates. We are now being constantly inundated by incoming streams of information, which can lead to a sense of overwhelm. We have adopted an “always on” attitude which is very damaging and depleting of our own resources.

The World Health Organisation says stress has become a “World Wide Epidemic”, and as such, we must speak openly about it.

So what causes burnout? There are many reasons why people may face burnout. This may be caused by personal stress, such as finance worries, family issues and health reasons. When it comes to work, it could be related to work pressures, tight deadlines, too many responsibilities and a lack of managerial support.

Unfortunately, many companies are in business to make a profit at the expense of the health, well-being and security of its employees. Employees have to spend more time doing work and less time with their family, and for no additional pay in most cases. This is a great cause of frustration for employees, and one of the main reasons why they leave their jobs.

So what exactly is burnout? Burnout is broadly defined as the “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress” or “a state of chronic stress”. Feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed are some of the factors that characterise employee burnout.

I don’t know about you, but these symptoms resonate very closely with me. Having suffered burnout on more than one occasion, once you hit burnout, you are simply not able to function effectively on either your personal or professional lives, you become cynical and detached from life, and you develop feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Burnout doesn’t just show up overnight. It is a very slow process that silently creeps in over time, which makes it much harder to recognise.

So, what are the signs of physical and emotional exhaustion? Here are the top 5 signs of burnout:


1. Chronic fatigue: this may vary from feeling a lack of energy in the initial stages, to feeling completely physically and emotionally exhausted to the point that you are unable to show up for work or get much done.

2. Lack of concentration and focus / Forgetfulness: forgetting things easily, lack of clarity and focus, letting things pile up, these are all sings that you may be approaching burnout.

3. Anxiety: raging from tension and worry feelings initially, to more serious anxiety symptoms that may stop you from being functional and productive.

4. Physical symptoms: these include pains, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tummy aches, dizziness and headaches among others.

5. Lack of productivity and poor performance: no matter how many hours you may work, you don’t seem to stay on top of your to-do list.

I can pretty much relate to all symptoms of burnout. Due to my relentless quest to want to better myself, I pushed myself beyond my capacities, and I struggled with trying to stay on top of it all. So for me it is personal. Having suffered with yet another bout of burnout in the last few months, I needed to get back on my feet as quickly as possible. So I began to research the options that would help me bounce back as quickly as possible.

As amazing as a tropical get away, or taking a full break from everything may sound, those are simply not viable or realistic options when it comes to conquering burnout for most of us. I therefore had to find a way in which to continue to stay on top of my responsibilities, whilst creating some space in my life to beat burnout.

These are the steps that I found most helpful, and I hope they will help you too:

Self-awareness. If you are a non-stop type of person like me, you must intentionally create moments in your day when you check in with yourself. More often than not, we run on automatic pilots and aren’t aware that stress or burnout are rapidly creeping in. In order to tackle a problem, you must first be aware that there is a problem! So go back into the signs of burnout and ask yourself, what’s my general attitude towards life? work? my relationships? Do I look forward to what my days bring? Am I excited about life, or feel stuck in a rut? Do I look forward to social events and spending time outdoors? Do I take care of my own needs? How are my energy levels? How’s my sleeping lately? Do I feel that I am on top of all my responsibilities? Also try to actively listen to what family, friends and colleagues may be telling you. At times, we may be so caught up trying to stay on top of life, that we may not see what’s happening right in front of us.

Get clear as to what causes burnout. I have done some research on the subject, and was very surprised to find out that the real root cause of burnout is not about not being able to take enough breaks, but as Marissa Mayer – former CEO of Yahoo – suggests, burnout is directly linked to resentment, and not being able to do what matters to you so much that, when you miss it, you become resentful. Once I learned that burnout is the result of not being able to do what I love or what’s really important to me regularly, my whole attitude towards the issue shifted completely.

Do what you love and what makes you happy regularly. Make sure that you intentionally create the time and space to do those things that matter to you, even little ones. If you are unclear as to what these things are that make you happy initially, think about any hobbies you used to love, or new ones you would love to take up – from playing a music instrument, to dancing, to even just taking a nice bubble bath whilst reading a good book once per week. Also, look for things in your life to be grateful for, and dedicate more time to them (loved ones, walks in nature, playing Lego with your kids… take your pick!). Finally, become aware of the kinds of activities and people that you feel energised with, do more of it, and you’ll start to feel those batteries charging!

Remove those things that aren’t important. We all got used to being so busy, that on those rare occasions when we may have some time or space in our lives, we tend to fill those up with things that don’t really provide us with much. So, your next task is to take a look at the activities that you are choosing to fill up your time with, and pick as many as you can to let go of. Let me help you with some examples of things that I know for a fact are not terribly important – spending countless hours scrolling through social media, going to bed late watching Netflix, forcing yourself to go out when you know you should be staying home and resting, frequently bringing home work, etc. Be ruthless and learn to put yourself and your self-care habits first.

Get back on the health wagon. Prioritise sleep, eating clean and exercise. This is not the time to go marathon training; instead, choose more low-key activities such as walking, yoga, swimming, etc. During the day, give yourself permission to take naps if you feel that you need them. Naps are not just for children! Replace a cup of coffee for a 20min nap, it’s the best way to refresh your brain. It is also a great idea to prioritise your emotional health, and look at ways to reduce stress and worry, such as meditation, warm baths with essential oils and relaxing music, a gentle massage, or having a great laugh with family or friends.

Be patient. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, so it is unrealistic to expect it to go away overnight. Be gentle with yourself and just stay consistent with the action steps above. Let go of any timeframe or unrealistic expectations that you may have about getting back to full health. The healing will take place when it’s ready, not when you dictate!

Avoid technology. Seriously, take control of your devices before they entirely control your life. I am not saying to remove them all together, but instead, be mindful of the amount of time you dedicate to your gadgets (iPads, computers, smartphones, etc). Also stay away from technology the last hour before falling asleep; try to read a book or listen to some guided meditation, deep breathing or journaling instead. Give your brain a break and turn your devices off as much as possible.

Find support. During your process of recovery, it is very important that you find someone that you can openly talk to, and someone that will help you stay accountable to your recovery plan. You don’t always have to go to a professional; being able to talk about what you are going through with friends or family will also be very beneficial. If however, none of the strategies seem to work, you may need to put yourself in the hands of a professional.

Whatever your situation, you can write a different story, so kiss burnout good-bye and create a new, more energised you, ready to take on whatever life or work throws your way.
Over to you now. How do you avoid professional burnout? Do you have any special tips to beat it or avoid it all together? Please let me know in the comments section below.

Here’s to your success!
Isabel 

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