Burning out and don't understand why? ABC of Burnout

you business your career your life Dec 18, 2020
Emotional Burnout How To Spot It and How To Combat It

The early signs of burnout are a vital warning system, serving a similar purpose to the proverbial “canary in the mine” and if not heeded to, burnout can deal a crippling blow to your health and life overall.

Burnout is a serious road hazard in life that committed, hardworking people should be keeping a very close eye out for. Sadly however—often because of personality and mental health stigma—they rarely see it coming.

Hardworking achievers are often so committed to what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working exceptionally long hours, taking on exceedingly heavy work loads and putting enormous pressure on themselves to excel—all of which make them ripe for burnout.

Key Symptoms of Burning Out

  1. Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to symptoms and signs such as:

A. physical and emotional exhaustion

B. Cynicism, disengagement and disinterest

C. feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.

The good news, if you can call it such, is that burnout doesn’t just happen overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden “have burnout.” Its nature is much more slow yet insidious. It’s creeping up on us over time, like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize. It also makes it more tempting to procrastinate about responding to its early signals. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognize it before it’s too late.

What are the signs of burnout?

Each of the key areas described above is characterized by certain signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms exist along a continuum. In other words, the difference between stress and burnout is often a matter of degree, which means that the earlier you recognize the signs, the better able you will be to avoid burnout.

A. Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

  1. Chronic fatigue.
  2. Insomnia or interrupted, non-continuous sleep
  3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention.
  4. Physical symptoms: Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
  5. Increased frequency and tenure of illness: Because your body is depleted, your immune system becomes weakened.
  6. Appetite Abnormality: Loss of appetite or excessive over-eating.
  7. Depression: In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad, occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result.
  8. Anger: At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace.

B. Signs of Cynicism and Disengagement

  1. Loss of enjoyment.
  2. Isolation:  towards you, or you may come in early or leave late to avoid interactions.
  3. Disengagement: Disengagement is a general sense of feeling disconnected from others or from your environment.

C. Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment

  1. Feelings of apathy and hopelessness:  It presents as a general sense that nothing is going right or nothing matters. As the symptoms worsen, these feelings may become immobilizing, making it seems like “what’s the point?”
  2. Increased irritability.
  3. Lack of productivity and poor performance.

All executives, especially those shouldering large work loads and enormous responsibilities, should keep these warning signs front of mind; always remembering that burnout is an insidious condition that creeps up on you as you’re living your busy life. Keeping them in mind not just for themselves though but for others in their team or circle of peers.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, this should be a wake-up call that you may be on a dangerous path. A path that is also a slippery slope. It’s hard to predict just how much more pressure it will take for the mind’s fabric to fissure and tear.

Take some time to honestly assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late. Given how different we all are, the signs are different as are the remedies to help ameliorate or preferably, mitigate it.

Burnout is not like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some serious changes in your life. Your life has been gradually nudged out of balance and it urgently needs re-aligning and restored to healthy equilibrium.

As hard as that may seem, it’s the smartest thing to do because making a few little changes now will keep you in the race with a lot of fuel in the tank to get you across the finish line.

Feel free to contact us for our hands-on, caring advisory assistance, be it in a one-on-one capacity or in a team format where executives are coached, advised and supported with important workplace counselling skills.

Support is also available via Executive Counselling Sessions, Executive Advisory Meetings or with our eclectic suite of team-training sessions in Executive Counselling Skills for The Workplace.

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