We all experience stress from time to time, especially at work. Maybe you’ve had a particularly unpleasant meeting or your to-do list seems never-ending. Most of the time we can deal with these busy times.
We’ll have a good moan to our friends or go dancing to let off some steam. But when this stress becomes constant, when the feeling of overwhelm and exhaustion doesn’t let up – you could be headed for burnout.
Burnout is when we experience chronic stress and it’s difficult to shake. This can lead to both mental and physical health problems if you don’t do anything about it. In some cases it may force you to take time off from work to heal.
Stress and busyness are often worn as a badge of honour, especially at work. Some people mistake stress with success. We’re here to dispel this myth. Stress is a sign that you’re taking on too much, not looking after yourself and not coping. It’s nothing to be proud of, or ashamed of.
Recognising that you may be headed for burnout and knowing what to do about it can help you stay in control, productive and happy at work.
Feeling constantly time-poor
Do you find yourself constantly saying “I never have time for…”? If you feel as though tasks on your personal to-do list are being overtaken by your work to-do list it could be worth stepping back and re-assessing how much energy you’re giving to work.
Struggling with small changes
When we’re struggling with stress, the smallest change in plan is enough to set us spiralling. For example, if you’ve planned your week at work to the minute to ensure you get everything done, and you get an unexpected email from your boss asking you to do just one ‘quick’ thing… it can quickly become the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Feeling exhausted/run down
Sure, we all feel the need to turn to coffee sometimes, but if you’re feeling tired every day – you could be suffering from burnout. When we become overloaded with stress and overwhelm, our body and mind want to shut down to conserve energy, making us feel exhausted.
Coming down with more coughs and cold
Chronic stress affects our immune system and can leave us susceptible to illness. If you feel like you’re picking up every bug going around, look at your self-care regime and stress levels to see if something’s out of whack.
Feeling like you’ve ‘checked out’
This is another way our minds try to cope with overwhelm. You may start to feel demotivated, cynical and like there’s no point to what you’re doing. You may struggle to make decisions and start procrastinating.
If you recognise the warning signs above, you’re not alone. In 2016/17 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The good news is, there is something you can do about it! Here are some initial questions to ask to regain control:
When was the last time I took a break?
Look at your calendar and see when your last day off from work was, and when your next one is planned. If it’s been a long time, consider it a sign that you need to book something in. Sometimes just one day dedicated to self-care can make all the difference. Or, if you have taken time off recently but are still feeling overwhelmed, consider whether or not you would benefit from professional support.
Who can I delegate to?
If your workload is causing you to feel stressed, consider who you can delegate to. If there is no one available to support, it’s time to speak to your manager. We all want to be able to ‘do it all’ but if your mental health is suffering, it just isn’t worth it. Have an honest conversation with your manager, tell them you’re struggling and agree on an action plan to reduce the impact to your stress levels.
What’s the bigger picture?
When we’re passionate about our work, it can feel like the most important thing in the world – but the reality is… it isn’t. Try taking some time out and reconnect with the ‘you’ outside of work. Spend time with your loved ones, do something creative and remind yourself of your ‘why’. What’s your purpose with your work? What is the ultimate aim? And is working until you’re burnt out really going to help you achieve this?
How a coach can support you
When burnout hits, the simplest of tasks can seem huge. Our to-do lists pile up and we struggle to see a way out. This is where a coach can really help. Working with you they can help you navigate out of burnout, looking at ways to break down overwhelming tasks, reduce stress and help you find your true purpose.