Have you suffered from occupational burnout?

5 Aug

Have you ever found yourself slipping down that hole?

What to do to stop the slip and rise up again?

Stress in our working lives is a common thing, sometimes a bit of stress can be experienced as a good thing, a jolt of excitement. However, burnout is when you are under a huge amount of stress that isn’t exciting you, but instead, wearing you down. It is relentless. It is a symptom of prolonged periods of intense focus and excessive demands on your energy and resources. And it feels unstoppable, and you feel powerless to escape.

For me, sliding down that hole on the way to the bottom and potential burnout means:

  • Ridiculously long days, where sleep is minimised
  • Poor sleep when it does come, and smelling the sweat on the sheets.
  • A constant nag in the head about things to do.
  • Panic rising at the simplest of setbacks.
  • Screaming at the computer.
  • Taking two or three times as long to do things in a “more haste less speed” way.
  • OR as a result of the stress, fear and perfectionism raise their heads to slow me down and make me falter.
  • Arguments with loved ones over the lack of time you take outside work and how scratchy you are when you do take time.
  • Finding fault, and in others.
  • Feelings of guilt at not giving enough time to outside work, personal and family time, and desired commitments.
  • Squaring up to imposter syndrome.
  • Poor diet choices.
  • Too much wine at the wrong times of the day.
  • Losing credit cards.
  • Leaving keys in the lock.
  • Mislaying my phone, over and over again.
  • A constant feeling that I am caught in a trap and can’t get out.

I could go on… but I think that is quite enough!

Have YOU been there?

What to do???

  1. Get balanced: the scales of work life are weighing you down.
  2. Stop, think, and take a break.
  3. Prioritise, and construct a work/life that you balance your outside life and commitment, with those of your work.

Not rocket science you may say? So why is it sometimes so hard to put into practice?

You may feel that you are here sliding down that hole towards burnout because of the demands of others, thinking that you have no choice but to listen to the lure of that state of mind which pulls us in like a siren: “If we don’t do it, no one else will” – we say to ourselves – “We must save the day”.

REALLY? Everyone relies solely on you? The world will collapse if you take a break? This is what we say to ourselves on the slide down to burnout, and it isn’t true.

Check in with yourself. Seriously. What ARE you doing? WHY are you doing it? Know that while you may not be able to control others, or single-handedly change a toxic culture, you can control your reaction to others and refuse to be poisoned by toxicity.

You are in charge of your mind – not it of you. Now that is a feeling that really attacks the powerlessness that we feel on the slide down.

Decide to get comfortable with saying, “no, I can’t take that on”, to yourself as well as others… and be kind to yourself.

My tips for you are:

Check your breathing! I would say it wouldn’t I? If you have been following my blogs, you will know the importance I always place on breathing. Find time to take a few deep, breaths into your stomach and fill and fully empty your lungs. Breath in on a count of three and breathe out for longer. Try breathing out on eight to start with, and work up. This will help you ward off panic attacks, and take control of your fight or flight response when under stress, so you can be calm and work things through.

Know that the work or the world will not end if you don’t get through your to-do list. Take the time to prioritise ruthlessly, and learn from what is not getting done. Using a daily list with a smart prioritisation system that you can stick to is key.

If you are an entrepreneur get some of it “done for you”. Weigh up the financial cost against the time saved and mistakes avoided of the benefits of you spending more time in your own zone of genius. It can be worth the extra financial investment multi times. As the famous scent advert says, “You’re worth it”!

If you are employed or collaborating, learn to say “No” and “Yes” when it is right for you, and you can complete the task required. You don’t have to take everything on to prove you are a team planner. Ignore the ‘mainly’ fiction that comes up in our heads about the devasting consequence of us not being prepared to take on everything that is demanded of us. I have found it a wonderful moment when I realise that people do accept ‘no’, and usually without ire. You can’t blame them for asking, you just need to stick up for yourself, and without emotion.

Have boundaries. Take some time between finishing work and moving into family, domestic or social life to re-frame and leave it behind. In a practical sense, literally ‘step out’ of work into other life – when you finish work and/or return home change your shoes.

It only takes a trice to do the shoe thing, but if you have more time, give yourself 20/30 minutes (or more) just to wind down from one work persona into you in a different guise. A mindfulness or meditation session for example; or make a cuppa and settle down with a non-work book, watch something on the telly or listen to a podcast.  Bridge that change of role so it becomes defined.

Insist on 30 minutes of exercise during each day. You may not feel you can justify a two-hour session at the gym (although, why not!?), but anyone can go out for a 30-minute walk or get out a skipping rope. Another fabulous thing to do – if you like to dance and have the right setup – is to turn your screen off at least 3 times a day for ten minutes and put some sounds on and dance around the room. Or you could do 6 times for five minutes. Exercise really gets those endorphins going.

Start and end your day by gently moving your thoughts away from the negative to the positive. This doesn’t change the facts of a situation, but ensures that you are solution-focussed, rather than a victim.

Smile! You may think this sounds cheesy, but this has the backing of science: smile, a lot, during your day. Even if it is just on your screen. The action makes you feel better and gives a message to your brain that you are looking for positivity and peace.

From where you felt powerless and as though your situation was relentless, you will be able to take a good hard look at yourself to see if the above measures are designed to “take back control” to use a much-maligned phrase(!). You can then decide whether the situation requires radical change to abort your slide down the hole to burnout and blink again in the bright lights of a freer life.

To find out more about Fiona’s 90-minute online interactive workshop delivered via Zoom, ‘Breath of Life, Joyful Voice’, which shows you how to liberate your voice and understand how your breath can change your mood and remove stress do contact her at fiona@locuscoaching.com and ask for details, or find out more here.

Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

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Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching

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If you want to liberate and enjoy your voice, be in control when speaking, and make successful connections…

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