Recognising and Combatting Burnout

If you’re unsure what burnout means, here’s a definition that I’ve found to be useful: “A state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.”   It’s a “bone tired, soul tired, heart-tired kind of exhaustion”.

Having spotted this condition in family, friends and colleagues, it was no surprise to realise that I too suffer from it from time-to-time. It takes you to a place where, although you are exhausted, you think you just can’t stop doing what you are doing because it is so important. But importance is only a ranking; not everything on your to-do list is crucial and if you persist in the belief that it is, you are likely to reach burnout sooner than you imagine. If you keep going regardless, you will likely end up making poor decisions and not being effective because your systems are overloaded. Also, you may not realise that, in the process, you can become a bit of a pain for those around you – people who you rely on for emotional and practical support. If they start to complain about your behaviour, it’s definitely time to take notice.

And once you admit you’re in a hole, take some action to get yourself out of it. Here’s what I have found that helps. Don’t deny the warning signs. I’ve listed some below and, alongside them, suggested appropriate and effective actions. Some overlap but then, life is never black and white.

Sign                                                 Combat

Feeling exhausted all the time         Check in on your sleep patterns and put in place sufficient time and a relaxing space to sleep

Feeling overwhelmed all the time    Stick to three things on your to do list before taking on anymore

Struggling to be motivated               Envision the future. Make sure you understand the ‘why’ in what you are doing

Negative self-talk                             Be kind to yourself. Be sure to note down what you have achieved

Snapping at others                            Ensure you have time alone as well as with others

Everything is a core                          Add nice things to do each day – joyful moments – a walk and/or talk with a pal

No time for self-care                         Schedule self-care - exercise, reading, eating well, sleep etc - make yourself a priority too

Finally, my top tip to combat burnout is to engage the help of a trusted friend and form a buddy relationship so you look after each other.  I have a few buddies who ask me why I am doing things to check I’m not doing too much and getting my priorities right and likewise I do this for them – we do this will total trust and honesty. And don’t forget humour – having a laugh always helps.