Is That Smoke Smell Your Burnout?

Are You Burned Out?

Burnout Burning From Both Ends

Here are the symptoms:

  • Everything looks bleak
  • You don’t even have enough energy to care
  • Your tolerance of other people is very low
  • You feel unappreciated
  • You feel like you’re going through the motions
  • It doesn’t seem like anything you do makes a difference
  • You’re tired all the time
  • You’re  accident prone/clumsy
  • You have low immunity and are getting lots of colds/illnesses

Burnout happens to everyone at one time or another.  Sometimes you can see it coming.  Usually burnout takes a while to develop.  Sometimes burnout catches you by surprise, when you didn’t notice it coming on.  It is caused by relentless stress.  This is not the same as too much stress.  You can have too much stress, too much work, too much responsibility and not be burned out.  Lots of overworked people still have a positive perspective and feel hope that the work will end/be done/get better.  Burned out people don’t.  “It’s always going to be this way.” “It will never get better.”

The things that cause your burnout are different than the things that cause mine. We’re all different.  If you need to be appreciated and you can’t get any appreciation, that can cause burnout.  If you need to be in control and the situation has you feeling completely without control (different from feeling out of control), that can cause burnout.  If you don’t get to take any time for yourself, and you need some quiet introspection or if you need to be creative and that is missing from your work–burnout.

So What Do You Do?

Curing your burnout is hard.  It is hard not because what you have to do is hard, but because it is hard to find the energy to do it.  So the first thing you do is acknowledge that you’re burned out.  Look at the list above.  Does that describe you?  If so, decide that you’re going to work on curing your burnout.  Think of it as a cold.  If you don’t take care of a cold, it can get worse.  If you don’t do something to stop throwing up when you’ve got the flu, you can get much worse.  The consequences of not fixing your burnout can be that you get stuck.  It can have serious consequences for your career, for your family and for your future.  So, even if you don’t feel like it–force yourself.  It’ll get better.

1)  Try to figure out what’s causing it.  Look at the list above.  Do you feel unappreciated?  Without control? Do you feel like you aren’t good enough?  Whatever it is, just recognize the issue.

2) Try to think of a way to “reframe” the situation.  Appreciate yourself — acknowledge why you deserve to be appreciated.  Know that you are always in control of the way you deal with a situation, even if you aren’t in control of the situation.  If failed perfection is your problem, understand that that is your standard–not others’.  Let up.  Spend the time and effort to try to figure out a way to think of the problem differently.

3)  Do something nice for yourself.  Several somethings.  Be your own best friend.  Go for a walk.  Go to a movie.  Take a Saturday just for doing anything you want.  Read a good book.  Get a massage.  Play handball. See a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.  Break the pattern of not seeing the good in life.  Force yourself.

4)  Exercise.  Eat healthy food.  Yeah, I know, everybody says to do this.  It will help your immune system.  It will make you think of yourself and do something for yourself.

5) Write.  Write about what’s bothering you.  Write about all the things that are good in your life, your gratitudes.  Write about all the nice things you can do for yourself.  Write about your goals and your bucket list.  Write, write, write.

6) Create something.  Woodwork.  Draw.  Sew.  Paint. Fix something. Make music.  Using the part of your brain that does, rather than the part of your brain than thinks, will help.

7)  Talk to someone.  Talk to a friend.  Talk to a therapist.  Getting someone else’s perspective usually helps.

Keep trying things till you break the pattern.  I know it’s really hard to believe because burnout feels so physical, but it is more in your thinking patterns than in your job.  Once you figure out a way to break the pattern–even for a few hours–then keep doing it.  Build your resilience.  The more skilled you get at diagnosing your burnout before it takes hold and turning it around, the more in control you are of your reactions.

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Filed under Executive Development, Personal Change, Reframe

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