AD | Defined as a state of exhaustion, burnout can be caused by prolonged and excessive amounts of stress. Commonly associated with work pressures, it can actually be caused by any type of chronic stress. Something I think most of us can admit to feeling at one time or another, especially over the last 12 months or so. If you’re juggling family life and a career, for example, the competing pressures and ongoing stress could lead to feeling overwhelmed. So, if that sounds like you, here’s how to recognise when you’re on the verge of burnout.
What are the signs of burnout?
Burnout can affect people differently, but it often involves physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. You may feel constantly fatigued, unable to concentrate, and debilitated, for example. Due to the impact that this can have on your well-being, it’s important to take steps to prevent exhaustion from taking hold. A phrase you may hear a lot is the “five stages of burnout” as defined in this article, but loosely summarised here:
- Honeymoon phase: high levels of satisfaction, commitment, energy, creativity, and productivity
- Onset of stress: some days feel more difficult than others, feelings of anxiety, inability to focus, irritability
- Chronic stress: feelings of exhaustion, pressure, lack of control, physical illness
- Burnout: behavioural changes, escapist mentality, chronic physical illness, self-doubt, social withdrawal
- Habitual burnout: a significant ongoing mental, physical or emotional problem, as opposed to occasionally experiencing stress or burnout.
How do you fix burnout?
Do you recognise any of those five stages? I certainly do, although I’m glad to say only the first three, the last and more serious two haven’t ever affected me. However, with the above all in mind, let’s take a look at these four things to do when you’re on the verge of burnout:
1. Ask for Help
When feelings of collapse are caused by an excessive amount of stress, it’s a sure sign that you’re trying to do too much. By asking for help and delegating some of your responsibilities, you can lighten your workload and reduce the amount of pressure you’re under. This might mean asking for more support at work or reaching out to family members and friends for help at home. Alternatively, you may want to talk to a therapist or a life coach to help you address any emotional issues you’re dealing with. This podcast offers some great insights and management tips on the real impact of stress and burnout.
2. Adjust Your Schedule
Once you’ve asked for help (and received it!), you’ll be able to adjust your schedule accordingly. If you’re going to have a lighter workload, you can remove some of the tasks you usually do on a day-to-day basis and replace them with alternatives, such as relaxation and self-care. However, it’s important that you don’t use the extra time you have to try and undertake extra responsibilities. This can simply exacerbate the symptoms of burnout and leave you feeling even more out of your depth.
3. Prioritise Sleep
When you’re dealing with excess and ongoing stress, it often has an impact on your ability to sleep. If your mind is racing when your head hits the pillow, or you wake up frequently throughout the night, it’s going to have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. In turn, this can leave you feeling fatigued and lead to other symptoms, such as headaches, trouble concentrating, and increased anxiety.
If you feel like you’re on the verge of burnout, it’s essential to prioritise sleep. Going to bed earlier, switching off screens, and breathing exercises can all help you to sleep more soundly, but investing in a new mattress could have a major impact on your sleep quality too. Take a look at this post on the best king mattresses and learn more about the benefits that a new mattress offers.
4. Talk to Your Doctor
Most people experiencing burnout have been dealing with chronic stress for a long time, which means they may already be suffering a number of related symptoms. Ongoing stress can cause a wide variety of issues, such as increased blood pressure, depression, stomach ulcers, and even hair loss. While some symptoms of chronic stress are noticeable, others are easier to ignore. By visiting your doctor and having a health check up, you can work out whether you need any treatment to help you deal with the impact that elevated stress levels are having on you.
How to recover from burnout
If you want to know how to recover from burnout, lowering your stress levels is critical. You can do this by reducing the amount of pressure you’re under, but learning how to manage stress in a healthier way can be helpful too. By learning new relaxation techniques, using exercise to relieve tension, and eating to enhance your well-being, for example, you’ll find that you’re more resilient and able to cope with daily stressors more effectively. And that will definitely set you on the right path to avoid burnout in the future.
Have you ever experienced any stages of burnout? How did you handle it? What would you recommend to anyone who thinks they may be in the early stages of overwhelm, before it progresses too far?
* This is a sponsored post, please see my Disclaimer.