Last week I spoke about managing your stress so you don’t get overloaded and head into burnout territory. But what if it’s already too late? And how can you tell if it is?

Today I’m going to address:

What causes burnout?

What are the repercussions of burnout?

What does burnout feel like?

How can we deal with it?

When you're beyond stressed. What burnout is and how to deal with it.

Burnout is MISERY. I speak from experience here as I have suffered from both mental burnout AND physical burnout (adrenal fatigue). Both are equally as taxing and ultimately it doesn’t matter whether your body has given up or your mind, the effects are much the same. No desire to do anything. And if, by some miracle, you do want to do something, no energy or focus to get it done.

WHAT CAUSES BURNOUT?

In it’s most basic terms burnout is caused the demands of your life being greater than your resources to handle them. In a short term situation you can push yourself through it, suck it up, and manage to get it done. Many of us can handle short, intensely stressful periods like that push right before a launch, provided we get a break afterwards to decompress. It’s the persistent stress, frequently coupled with a lack of emotional support, that puts many over the edge.

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Let’s be clear on something – NO ONE is immune to burnout. If you see someone that manages intensely stressful situations and never burns out then that person is managing their stress and taking care of themselves. Another person in a similar situation who is not taking care of themselves will eventually get burned out.

Which leads me to my next question-

WHAT ARE THE REPERCUSSIONS OF BURNOUT?

Some might say to burnout:

So what! That’s what retirement is for! If I work hard enough now, by the time I get burned out I can just quit and enjoy my life.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for most people. Many people work themselves way past the point of no return and by that time they

  • adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol
  • destroy relationships with friends and family
  • become obese due to emotionally eating and/or all the cortisol coursing through their veins
  • develop heart disease due to stress and poor health habits
  • develop depression and/or anxiety

This is an absolute laundry list of things I think we can all agree we don’t want to happen to us. If you need even more reasons go ahead and google “illnesses caused by stress” and look at the length of that list. I’ll wait….

If you’ve now decided that burnout is NOT the way to go, below are some of the symptoms of burnout to watch out for:

EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION

This is exactly what I was talking about above. No will or desire to do anything – even the things that were once important to you.

Favorite tv show? Don’t care

Favorite sport? Not interested

Favorite hobby? Meh

The phrase “the struggle is real” no longer applies to you because you don’t care about it enough to struggle.

This, however, is an example of full blown burnout – where it’s settled into every part of your life. Oftentimes it starts in just one area, like work, and may or may not creep into other parts. If you start having the below experiences on a regular basis – in any part of your life – you might be heading for burnout.

  • Feel used up – either emotionally or physically
  • Start getting sick more often
  • Can’t think – quick to anger or sadness
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DETACHMENT

While the emotional exhaustion is a result of too much stress or busyness and eventually burnout – detachment is a defense mechanism.

Detachment, or depersonalization as it’s known the the psychology world , is usually a temporary condition where you feel separated from the world and those around you. You may even feel like you’re a robot or that you’re just observing your actions instead of participating in them. This can manifest as

  • Alienation or cynicism towards those around you
  • Feeling separated from the world by a pane of glass
  • Not knowing how much longer you can go on like this

REDUCED PERFORMANCE

For some of us, this might be the hardest one to stomach. Many of us reach burnout from trying to keep too many balls in the air, until one day one drops, then another, and you realize you don’t have the strength, or desire, to go pick it up again. For high achievers, this is a slippery and terrifying slope. We feel like we have no choice but to keep going with the balls we have and if anyone tosses us more, to keep those going as well. However, choosing to put some down will save you from the burnout that will all but force you to drop them. Symptoms for reduced performance are:

  • Reduced capacity to live up to typical standards
  • Lowered self belief in abilities
  • Less desire to work – which might be seen as being uncooperative and then lead to you getting less help when you actually need more
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HOW CAN YOU DEAL WITH IT?

If you’ve already landed in burnout let’s be clear about one thing – you cannot “suck it up” to get through it. Trying to do anything of the sort will only deepen your condition.

The four steps that will help you are:

  • Replenish your lost resources
    • This is a very personal task based on what burnt you out in the first place. But basically what you can do is prioritize self care and to rest. The amount of rest you need will be proportionate to the length of time you were killing yourself. If you spent a couple weeks working non stop on a launch then maybe a 3 day weekend will cut it. But if you’ve spent your entire career working a pressure cooker job, don’t expect a short break to be enough.
  • Avoid further depletion
    • This was something you probably knew you needed to do when you were getting burned out, but you thought you could handle it. Or perhaps you really didn’t acknowledge how much someone or something was draining you until they had sucked you dry. Either way it’s time to check in with the big things you spend your time on and decide if they are energizing you or depleting you. For easy ways to figure this out – check out this post.
  • Spend time on high value/energizing tasks
    • once you’ve established what things energize you, it’s time to decide which will bring the most value to your life and start there. These tasks won’t feel as hard because you’re excited about them and then the payoff will be high – which will energize you even more. This will bring life back into your daily tasks.
  • Assess your situation
    • Before you take on any new tasks, or if you’re doing something that used to excite you, but is now draining you – consider your health first. Things like asking for help, setting your boundaries, and saying no to depleting tasks are paramount to recovering from and preventing burn out. If you’re a people pleaser, saying no may seem impossible at first, but if you consider that by going into burn out you probably won’t be able to help anyone, you’re actually helping more people by saying no to some of them.

These four steps need to all happen and can all be done at the same time. The more you prioritize your health and well being, the quicker you will be able to recover. Once you’re feeling better, make sure to continue these practices so that you regress back into burn out.

If you’re struggling with stress and burnout, or if you feel like you are working harder and harder to get less done, click here to see my packages. We can have a free consultation to show you how I can help.

If you’d like to know more about my burnout recovery process, check out this post.

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