Non-stop work, a deep sense of fatigue - life is beyond exhausting for everyone these days, right? Actually, maybe it shouldn't be. How to spot the signs that your body and mind are headed for burnout.
Nick knew something was amiss. He hated going to the GP (normal for Aussie guys - right?) but his Dr Google-ing had him down various rabbit holes of what could be wrong with him.
He was at the precipice of actually making himself a doctor's appointment. Must be serious.
Maybe diabetes, or some heart problem. Cancer, yep, probably brain cancer. Yes, that would make sense - he told himself. Maybe severe sleep apnoea? Well, that'd be a much better outcome than the big C.
After going down various of those rabbit holes with the GP - blood tests, sleep studies, and scans - he felt slightly relieved, but also far more frustrated that the doctor had put Nick's symptoms down to well.... fatigue.
When they started to examine the reasons behind this fatigue, Nick felt it staring him in the face.
He knew his work had been a bit out-of-control, but whose wasn't these days?
Late nights, early mornings. Eating while he worked, and working while he commuted. Checking emails on the go, and the odd weekend was turning into most weekends.
Mental well-being in the workplace is a conversation that's much more readily addressed than it was a few decades ago. But even though awareness has increased, so has the omnipresence of technology - and the disappearance of downtime.
Burnout is characterised by a sense of exhaustion. Yet it's not just a fleeting sense of exhaustion, it's a chronic state of physical and emotional depletion. It results from prolonged stress and overwhelming work demands.
If you suspect you've been experiencing burnout - or are on the edge of 'the burn', reaching out for professional support can be vital. Therapy provides a safe space to explore the underlying causes of burnout, develop coping strategies, and work towards creating a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Recognising that burnout is not a personal failure but rather a consequence of a demanding environment that has surpassed an individual's coping mechanisms is crucial. So let's explore those demands, your symptoms - and most importantly, what the journey to that elusive sense of "balance" might look like.
Can you even define burnout?
The first step in addressing burnout is recognising its signs. It's more than just feeling tired after a long day; it's a persistent sense of weariness that seeps into every aspect of life.
Physical symptoms can include persistent headaches, insomnia, and changes in appetite.
Emotionally, individuals experiencing burnout may feel a sense of disillusionment, cynicism, and a decline in their sense of accomplishment.
According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is a syndrome defined as the consequence of enduring chronic workplace stress that hasn't been effectively addressed. It manifests through three main areas:
1. I'm needing some energy
Sarah, a dedicated marketing manager was known for her boundless enthusiasm. Over the past few years, multiple colleagues had resigned - but no new hires had been made to fill up the gaps.
She had just been feeling like she could never quite get on top of the work - it was mostly on top of her. She couldn’t shake that feeling of being constantly drained.
Even her colleagues noticed a shift as she began arriving at the office looking like she’d been getting hardly any sleep - even after a restful night in. The perpetual exhaustion had transformed her vibrant work spirit into a daily struggle for motivation.
Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion seem relatively common these days - but that doesn't mean these feelings are normal or healthy. If fatigue has been plaguing you day in, day out, then it pays to take notice of your energy levels.
2. I've been feeling detached
IT professional John used to be the go-to person for problem-solving. But after multiple changes in his workplace structure - on top of some difficulties with his relationship at home, he started exhibiting a growing sense of detachment.
His once-engaged demeanour turned into a noticeable distance, alongside an air of negativity surrounding his interactions with the team.
This aspect includes heightened mental distance from one's job, and most likely encompasses sentiments of negativity or cynicism toward one's work.
3. I'm feeling a little useless
Emily was the model high-performing project manager. Well, she used to be.
After the last major project fell through and the company found themselves struggling to stay afloat, she found herself grappling with a sense of uselessness that extended beyond mental fatigue.
Her typically impeccable work started to suffer, and she couldn't shake the feeling that her professional efficacy was slipping away. The burnout not only affected her mood but also left her questioning her ability to contribute meaningfully to her projects.
Diminished professional efficacy is the final point here. Beyond feeling the ill effects of burnout on your mental state, it feels even more worrying when someone starts feeling that their objective work quality is also suffering.
Why is it important?
Burnout doesn't merely affect one's productivity at work; it can have severe implications for mental health.
Chronic stress, a precursor to burnout, has been linked to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Addressing burnout is essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being.
The big question: can I un-burn my burnout?
To effectively address burnout, it's helpful to delve into its root causes. While this may indeed be different for each and every individual, there are some common key factors often at play.
An excessive workload, lack of control, insufficient recognition, and a poor work-life balance are common contributors. In a society that often glorifies overworking, reassessing values and redefining success to prioritise holistic well-being is crucial.
Creating personalised self-care routines that encompass physical, emotional, and social well-being is fundamental. This can include carving out time for hobbies, maintaining a healthy sleep routine, and fostering meaningful connections.
Developing strategies that cultivate resilience involves creating a robust support system, setting realistic goals, practising self-compassion, and learning effective stress management techniques.
It's about creating a foundation that can withstand (at least some of) the storms of life.
Call the fire fighters
In a world where boundaries often blur, learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries is a crucial skill. Clearly defining limits in both personal and professional spheres, learning to say no when necessary, and creating a balance that allows for rest and rejuvenation are essential.
Here, the mission is to empower individuals to not only recognise the signs of burnout but to proactively cultivate resilience and well-being.
By prioritising self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help when needed, navigating the depths of burnout becomes a journey towards well-being again - and maybe even a little fulfilment and balance along the way!