Originally written for COACH Magazine (Edition 2, September 2019), this article provides insights and tips to be aware of the signs of burnout and how to avoid it.
With Burnout now classified by the WHO as an 'occupational phenomenon', it's crucial that people pay attention to their stress levels and seek to make changes at the first signs of negative effects.
Not knowing the signs, or ignoring them, can lead to huge impacts on your health and wellbeing, performance and productivity, and relationships.
After 20 years in HR and now running my own business, I've experienced the impacts of burnout.
At first is was brain fog and big dips in energy. I couldn't get past 2.30pm without needing to rest and was struggling to make the simplest of decisions.
I felt disconnected, was increasingly withdrawn, fraught, tearful and anxious. My motivation waned and my confidence plummeted. In the 12 months prior, I'd led an organisational change programme, trained to become an accredited coach, taken redundancy, moved, set up my business, launched a retreat and was doing major home renovation work.
I didn't see it coming, I approached it all positively and thought I was coping well, but my body and mind thought otherwise.
People often think of burnout as being so mentally and physically exhausting that they can't get out of bed and are completely debilitated. This isn't always the case. I still took my children to school and just about kept up with my work.
But I felt like stress had poisoned my body. Eventually I succumbed to taking a break.
I had to take a step back, to reassess my values and purpose; enabling me to make real changes. I now ensure everything I do in my life and business aligns with my values, self-care and burnout prevention.
High achievers with a need to progress, who are reluctant to delegate or have perfectionist tendencies are most vulnerable to burnout.
But anyone who runs at a high speed for a long time is at risk - in any walk of life. Trying to stay on top of everything and presenting a facade depletes energy levels and the ability to cope and only perpetuates the problem with devastating consequences.
Pushing through overwhelm and exhaustion is not the answer. The answer lies in taking time to stop, reflect and change direction.
When you're under pressure or in the depths of burnout, talking exploring and coaching might feel like the last thing you want to do but taking positive steps to cut through it and find your clearest thinking can be the best way forward.
You can find solutions to the pressures and challenges you're facing. You can rebuild your confidence and rediscover that inner drive. You can identify your true purpose and what you really want from life.
Burnout can leave you feeling isolated and detached so it's important to consider your 'whole' life during this time to ensure recovery and promote prevention.
Changing direction can take many roads but the important thing is to identify what's best for you to recover from burnout, feel healthy and well, live purposefully and feel fulfilled again.