You may not recognise burnout until you’re in it. As someone who has suffered burnout I know that, for me, it was as a result of excessive and prolonged stress and overwhelm.
There are many symptoms of burnout but these can can include:
- The feeling of being completely overwhelmed, unable to cope and just exhausted, all the time!
- Suffering physically with headaches and muscle/joint strains
- Your ideal may become the want or need to retreat or give up on everything
- You constantly compare yourself to others and feel like a failure
- You may become over-emotional about everything
- Your personal relationships may start to be impacted.
Realising and accepting that I was suffering from burnout was the first step to getting better and proactively encouraging a better work / life balance for myself.
The good news is that you can do something about burnout - once you're aware of it!
Something that really helped me initially was to consider my thinking style and start to watch for those times when an unhelpful thinking style was impacting on me and my business decisions negatively.
Unhelpful thinking styles
There are a variety of unhelpful thinking styles and most of us will have a combination of a few. Each of these thinking styles can threaten our mental health, depending on whether you can recognise your unhelpful thinking and act to change it to a positive. For me, unhelpful thinking styles included:
- negative thinking - where you tend to only want or need to see the negative in everything
- brooding - whereby you tend to worry and think about every experience in intricate detail over and over again
- paranoia - or worrying that you’ll be criticised, exploited or rejected perhaps - not everything is black and white, but perhaps you fail to see a middle ground and it tends to be all or nothing
- or do you catastrophize situations - by magnifying or exaggerating the issue unnecessarily
- or maybe you’re impulsive without much consideration
- or are you a perfectionist, setting yourself ridiculously high standards and are you unable to tolerate failure?
Maybe consider how you think about situations that you find yourself in - as yourself how you maintain perspective and change those negative thoughts into positive ones?
Mind your Language
I found I was saying and thinking negative words/thoughts, which in turn lowered my mood, made me anticipate negative outcomes and made me stressed. By starting to use more positive language, I seemed to feel more hopeful and strong, anticipating better outcomes and just feeling a lot more chilled about things! So one really positive thing I did fairly early on was to proactively consider the language I was using in everyday conversations - I made a real effort to change any negative statements into positive ones, such as:
- ‘I couldn’t do that’ = ‘I can do anything that I put my mind to’
- ‘I’m not good enough’ = I’m a great woman who can do whatever she sets her mind to.’
Ways to combat burnout and change unhelpful thinking
I tried a number of ideas to combat burnout and turn things around which I found really helpful:
- Social contact - nature’s antidote to stress! Invest in close relationships and turn to your friends and family for support
- Try to be more sociable with your coworkers
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Find the right balance and take time off to focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy
- Set boundaries - don’t overextend yourself!
- Set a time each day when you completely disconnect from social media / screens etc.,
- Get plenty of relaxation and sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce sugar and carb intake and enjoy alcohol in moderation
- Ask for HELP! There are all sorts of great resources out there who can help you - I needed to learn to ask for help and brought qualified, reliable virtual assistants, sub-contractors and business partners onto my team, who could relieve some of the stresses and overwhelm of my workload!
- Recognise each and every positive achievement throughout your day, from the smallest to the largest – they are all worthy of praise!
Don’t allow the negative effects of burnout to spill over into every area of your life.
Ask yourself when you wake up in the morning – How do I want my day to go today?
*Sources Helpguide.org and thriveprogramme.org