In 2007 the cumulative effects of burnout caught up on me. I made some dumb personal decisions that led me to resign my senior leadership role, leave my marriage, and, after a period of grieving, start to rebuild my shattered life.
How do I know it was burnout?
Because the strongest emotion I felt for about 12 months, after resigning my very busy role, was relief. I was so relieved to not always have to be somewhere doing something for someone else. I found a casual job from which I could walk out every evening and not think about it again until the next day when I returned. I was so deeply tired of people, and problems, and of living a life that was slowly destroying me.
Burnout is real
Anyone can experience burnout. No-one is exempt. If you are in a demanding role that takes your time and energy every day you can experience burnout. It may not be the job that causes the burnout. Burnout is caused when:
- A busy role becomes all consuming, and you do not have enough variety in your life.
- You have not learned to carve out time to replenish emotionally each week
- There are constant pressures in your workplace from overly demanding people
- Your own internal pressure to perform puts you under unhealthy stress
- You are in a role which is not suited to your behavioural style and so you are using more energy to perform the role than is healthy for you
Burnout creeps up on you.
In the 21st Century work has crept into every part of our lives. With the internet and especially smart phones we are always connected to our work via email or other communication apps. Technology is a wonderful tool, but the downside is we never fully switch off from work. We do not let down and enjoy the weekend away from work. Even on vacation we tend to check our emails and stay in work mode.
Burnout is a slow burn. The cumulative effects of burnout are not easy to notice in oneself. Close friends and family may notice first. Our irritability. Our lack of empathy. Our inability to fully unwind. We are so used to doing, we often do not know how to just be.
Burnout is not always obvious
You can be on the edge of burnout and still function well.
This is the truth. No-one suspected that I was struggling. Even I had become aware that I was in trouble. I could not relax. I was deeply restless and, upon reflection, bored with my work. My work was important and helping people, but it was not touching me, and I was increasingly disengaged. I was functioning at quite a high level but becoming more and more emotionally disengaged. This is scary because I lost my connection between work and purpose. I became unsure of my mission and why I was doing my role.
Burnout can lead to serious mental health issues
Due to the increasing busyness and pace of change, burnout is dangerous. Sometimes burnout leads to severe mental and emotional illness. AMP Insurance reports that income protection (IP) claims in 2016 for psychological injuries (stress, anxiety and depression) have increased dramatically and are now at the same level as physical injuries and double the rate for cancer.
More information on how to avoid Burnout
For some tips to avoid burnout check out this article I recently wrote for The CEO Magazine. And for a more positive approach how to ensure you always have energy when you need it.
This is an important and relevant topic for all of us. My hope is that I can assist you to avoid the shattering pain of the effects of burnout in your life. If you are struggling I suggest you see your local GP and begin a journey of selfcare. You may need a referral to a psychologist – I did for more than 6 months to help process and heal my broken inner world.
If you are in a demanding role, and often get to the end of the week totally spent emotionally, then I strongly suggest you reach out for a mentor to walk with you for a season in your life. Click here to make contact with me for a free 30-minute conversation.