By Julie Silfverberg
I don't know about you but I seem to be hearing more and more people talking about burnout. People in business, at work, in families. It is tough for the people going through burnout themselves and it is also tough for their families, colleagues and friends.
How do you know you, a colleague or a family member is close to burnout? You know because they are "not themselves". During burnout you can feel; exhausted, helpless, trapped, irritable and quick to inappropriate anger, with that little voice in your head going "why bother". It is a scary, uncomfortable place. You might notice
more sick days, due to backache or migraines and prone to lethargy or quiet desperation. The balanced manager who, almost out of the blue, starts shouting or conversely becomes lethargic. The rock of a spouse who cries at the least little thing or distances themselves. The reliable employee who is unusually sick with incredible regularity. These physical and psychological symptoms are indicative of burnout.
Who? The thing is anyone can experience burnout! You can't look at someone and say with absolute certainty; that person will never burnout. It could be the case they are a bit like a duck, all cool on the surface but paddling furiously underneath. There are some characteristics, which can make you more likely to burnout. Not being in touch with your emotions so that you supress or numb them rather than being aware and acknowledging it and then choosing your most useful emotion for a given situation, which will allow you to respond more effectively. So if your boss criticises your work and you seethe inside you probably do not take in the comments, whereas if you could choose to detach yourself emotionally from the situation and view it with curiosity you might notice there is something for you to learn. The curious aspect of burnout is, often times when you are experiencing it; you don't understand what is happening with you. You don't know the signs or even if you do, you don't see them in yourself. Moreover even if you do realise you are burning out and you are an executive, you are fairly unlikely to do very much about it for fear of it impacting negatively on your career. So you do nothing.
Why? There are always reasons, in fact the mind is brilliant at generating reasons, even good reasons, for anything you are doing, thinking or feeling. Are those reasons valid? If you believe they are, then they are. Although you may not have realised there are always more perspectives. Interestingly 'why?' is not a very useful question in this situation because the result is you simply tend to blame yourself or others, which doesn't help your situation and certainly doesn't mitigate your stress. In fact focussing on the blame aspect can add to your frustration and irritability and burn up more of your valuable energy.
When? Burnout can happen at anytime and is more likely to occur when you have a sense of being out of control of your life or work. For example if your workload is increasing steadily and you have no way to call stop, or others to whom to delegate. Thus you keep your head down and work and work and work. Perhaps you feel the compensation you are earning for all this is just not worth it. You may begin to feel it is not fair and you have been dealt a bum hand and that nobody cares anyway. Then you start to distance yourself from others loosing your sense of community and belonging. So as you can see there is a vicious circle spiralling downwards. Now some people seem to be able to deal with enormous workloads whereas others simply become overwhelmed, it does not say anything about the sort of person you are, it is just the way it is.
What can you do for yourself to put out the flames before you burnout? First of all acknowledge all is not totally right with you and recognise something needs to change. When I say 'something' it sounds like something outside of you and maybe that is true, like changing your job, talking to your boss, partner, or colleagues and of course this requires you to do something different to what you have been doing up until know. You may be saying to yourself now "Oh no, more pressure!" so perhaps the first thing would be to begin to learn how to relax so you can clear your mind to be able to develop some clarity which would allow you to begin to find your way and put burnout in the past.
Julie Silfverberg has worked in the field of personal and professional development for more than 20 years. She works with a diverse and exciting group of people. Each with their own unique talents and potential.