What is burnout and is it real?

Most of us have days when we feel stressed, listless, lacking in enthusiasm, and frankly, not at our best. But what if it’s turning out that EVERY day for you is a bad day? A degree of stress can be energising. A deadline can motivate and push you on. However, excess amounts of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are counter-productive, and cause the condition known as burnout, first described by US psychologists in the 1970s. The World Health Authority, in its international classification of diseases (ICD), has defined burnout as “Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Yes, burnout is a genuine condition, which you ignore at your peril.

One in four adults will be affected at some point in their lives, and it can take you weeks, months, or sometimes even years to recover, so it is worth spotting potential symptoms early, and taking steps to counteract them. Ask yourself the following questions –  do any of these ring a bell??

Exhaustion. Are you persistently and perpetually tired and lacking in energy? Do you feel emotionally and physically drained most of the time in a way that is not relieved by sleep or rest?

Loss of enthusiasm and motivation for work. Do you dread going into work? Are you becoming negative and resentful towards colleagues and tasks? Do you feel undervalued and unappreciated? Do you put off and procrastinate? Do you feel disengaged and detached?

Work performance suffering. Are you struggling to concentrate? Does everything seem to take longer than it used to? Are you not coping with deadlines, or becoming forgetful? 

Worry and  anxiety. Does work make you feel anxious or depressed? Are you stressing the small stuff? Are you increasingly isolating yourself from others? Do you feel trapped or helpless?

Mood swings. Are you more irritable and volatile than usual? Are you taking out your frustrations on others? Would others describe you as moody?

Physical symptoms. Are you more prone to infections, tummy troubles or muscle aches? Suffering from frequent migraines? Struggling to sleep?

If you suspect you may be on the brink of burnout, here are six top self-help tips.

Ditch the perfectionism. Perfectionists are recognised as being more liable to suffer from burnout. Don’t have such high expectations of yourself. Set realistic goals and don’t beat yourself up if that email doesn’t get sent today – what’s the worst that can happen?

Look after yourself. This starts with a healthy diet. You may be craving carbs, sugary snacks and caffeine, but they are your worst enemy. Eat fresh unprocessed food, include plenty of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, pulses and healthy fats, and especially foods high in Vitamin C. Get enough magnesium, a mineral essential for energy production, and also beneficial for anxiety management. Keep hydrated.

Don’t underestimate the power of exercise. It may be the last thing you feel like, but 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to discharge excess stress chemicals. Walk, swim, dance, cycle – whatever takes your fancy. Break it up – even a 10 minute session of something can improve your mood for up to two hours. Make it a priority.

Create for yourself a sensible timetable. Start and finish work at a reasonable time. Take regular breaks, and set aside a time each day to completely disconnect from all technology. Make sure you switch off from work in the evenings and at weekends. In other words, maintain a healthy work/life balance. Delegate if you feel overextended.

Explore relaxation tools. Meditation, yoga, mindfulness can all help reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Start by talking to a GP, who will check for underlying causes for your symptoms, and who can refer you on to other specialists if necessary. It’s not always easy to break deep-rooted patterns of behaviour.

Hi, I’m Emily Claire.

I’m an Online Business & Accountability Coach helping FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS ditch the overwhelm, scale through SYSTEMS, and TAKE ACTION with MORE STRATEGY and LESS STRESS. I’ll teach you how to break through perfectionism, stay motivated and strategically build daily disciplines, systems and habits into your life that will push you into action.

Using the “Do Less, Achieve More” method, I’ll turn you into a ROUTINE QUEEN in no time. If you’re a struggling procrastinator, or just fed up of giving up on your self/goals/promises/intentions then I invite you to check out my coaching packages. We’ll set the direction and kickstart the action, with me alongside coaching you.