Burnout is a state of exhaustion that can best be compared to the resulting bruised, battered, defeated feeling you’d experience if you ran into a wall at high speed then ricocheted backwards off said wall and had to get straight back to work after you regained consciousness. 10/10 do not recommend.
Yet, so many people are living in this perpetual state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. Whilst I am all for a visit to a medical professional to address the awful symptoms of burnout (they are so similar to depression symptoms, it’s easy to be misdiagnosed), what’s needed in the long term, rather than an ongoing prescription for antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds which merely bandage over the symptoms, is a treatment plan that tackles the root cause of the prolonged stress that leads to burnout. In my (perhaps not very humble) opinion, this is where the support of a coach can be really powerful.
Here are ten of the most common signs of burnout:
- Fatigue: feeling tired all the time even after a proper night’s sleep
- Demotivation: losing interest in activities that your pre-burnout self found fun and exciting
- Irritability: getting annoyed, angry or overly reactive about people or situations that would ordinarily not phase you
- Low or no productivity: struggling to get even the easiest of tasks done
- Insomnia: having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Stress manifesting as physical symptoms: digestive issues, tension headaches and muscle pain
- Dissatisfaction with your work: no longer feeling satisfied or fulfilled by what you do
- Social isolation: avoiding spending time with your family or friends
- Negative self-talk: burnout will have your inner critic working overtime (sadly this inner voice never gets tired or burnt out)
- Cynicism: if ‘what’s the point’ is a looping inner dialogue, it’s time to address your stress
I’d also add comparison, feeling overly emotional and an overbearing sense of overwhelm to the list above which of course all compound to make you feel worse.
So you identify with feeling burnt out, now what?
The first port of call for a burnt out person is rest. Easier said than done if you’re feeling inadequate, unproductive and like the biggest underachiever that ever lived, but a hard stop is very, very necessary to get burnout in check. I’d also suggest a visit to your GP to check for any underlying health stuff that might be exacerbating your burnout symptoms.
The second recovery phase is to get a handle on the stressors in your life and make changes that either get rid of them entirely or phase them out gradually, if total stressor annihilation isn’t possible.
Recovery from my own episode of burnout back in 2016 looked like this:
- Recognising that I had a severe business management problem; it became apparent when I came to after my impact with the burnout wall that working 7 days a week for 14 hours a day wasn’t sustainable….
- Hiring a business coach to help me objectively look at what I needed to get rid of and change in my business to stop the burnout stressors and support me as I made said changes
- Doubling my prices to reduce my workload
- Managing my time more effectively
- Putting systems in place that took care of time consuming, non-profitable tasks
- Hiring an assistant for a few hours a week to help me with admin
- Getting clear on my business goals
- Adhering to the new, easier way of doing things
It takes time to bounce back from burnout. I struggled to let go of my old way of doing things, even though the methodology had been completely inefficient. But, within 6 months of making the changes above I’d tripled my business income, halved my client base, won a bunch of photography awards and had time and money to spare. The changes worked.
I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on Toni Chowdhury’s Women Who Win podcast and we discussed burnout at length during our chat. It’s more common than you think, it’s not talked about enough and it’s not recognised for what it is – the toll of prolonged and unchecked stress. You can listen to the podcast here.
For the past few years since my burnout episode, I’ve been on a quest to understand what causes burnout and what can be done to prevent it, manage it, recover from it and stop it from recurring again. Life is not meant to be something you whiteknuckle your way through, it’s an experience to be enjoyed. So, if you’re battling with burnout, I’m here to help. I know firsthand the positive impact a supportive coach can have when you’re making big changes, it’s why I became a coach myself and why I’m so passionate about helping people with stress and burnout. Please get in touch with me here to find out more.