At the end of 2016, I was working around the clock, managing conference calls with international offices at early and late hours, trading emails with an HR team that seemed to work best at 2am, and learning to deal with being a new mother to my son, Tyler. I felt like I was drifting through my days in a fog, waking up in the middle of the night with a terror that I’d forgotten something and wondering how I could get everything done. I felt solely responsible for so much, yet completely unable to catch up or even keep up. I was doing everything at about 60% and not doing a good job at much of anything.
I got sick with the flu, which I called “a little cold” for 3 weeks, and then it turned into pneumonia. I couldn’t stop coughing, and I wasn’t getting better. I officially knocked myself out of commission by ignoring every sign my mind and body told me, until my body basically shut down. I spent 10 days on the couch, which was the minimum requirement by the doctor until the medicines worked enough so that I wasn’t considered contagious, although my team was supremely annoyed by me even trying to drag myself back into the office. And still coughing.
Looking back, I realized I was experiencing burnout. I was reacting to everything and in control of nothing. I was withdrawing more and more into myself and didn’t know how to ask for help, considering I believed that I was the only one that could take care of these responsibilities. The thought of training someone to help me felt ridiculous as I naively believed everything would then take twice as long. I was sleepwalking through life, trying to get the bare minimum done before I was racing to put out another fire, without a thought for myself or my future. Until my immune system shut down, I repeatedly ignored the signs until I could no longer physically function.
So how can we deal with burnout before it gets to this point? First, we look at burnout as separate from stress. We all must manage and deal with some form of stress, but it is how we feel about our daily life stressors that differentiates burnout.
Symptoms of Burnout:
Most people theoretically understand that the cure for burnout is to ask for help, take time off, exercise more and eat right. However, part of burnout is feeling as though these are impossible options to achieve. Until we have a health or other personal crisis, we are slowly marching our way through burnout, and as a society, we have learned to “just deal with it.”
There are two things you can start today to help with combating feelings of burnout, and these are as simple as drinking more water and improving your sleep patterns. When we are dehydrated, we feel more irritable and foggier, so by adding more water to your life will improve how you are able to tackle life’s challenges and responsibilities. Sleep falls into the same bucket. We recharge during sleep, and if you continue to deplete your sleep, it will catch up with you. Click on this link to read more about the importance of sleep as well as this link for tips on getting to sleep.
Next, consider your end goal. Stop and think about what you want this new decade to look like and work backwards from that goal. If you want to spend more time with your family, talk to others at work about that and set boundaries. If you want to exercise and/or meditate more, put it on your calendar as time you block off for yourself and commit to it as you would to a valuable client. Use a sleep app to track your sleep and sleep quality. Shut down technology a little bit earlier each night and allow your body to get into the rhythm of a normal sleep pattern.
Stop the patterns of behavior that got you to this point. Do you respond to emails at all hours? Do you say “yes” to every request without question? Is complaining without acting on advice how you behave each day? Make one small change and let the action snowball. Ingrain new habits with these tips.
Finally, allow PUSH511 to help you. We can work with you on goal setting and helping you manage life’s stressors before it gets to the point of no return. There’s no cost and all the benefits of getting the support and guidance you need.