One of the biggest challenges in any career is how to stay focused, motivated, and avoid frazzle, or even worse burnout.
Over the next few weeks, I will tackle each of these challenges separately. Today, I want to focus on burnout.
I’m starting with burnout because unless we are able to recognize burnout and its symptoms and separate them from emotional and mental stress, things get a bit fuzzy.
So, what is burnout? The Google box tells me that “burnout” is a “state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”
For me, and in my opinion, burnout is not about stress. When you experience stress, you can feel it in your body, you can observe the thoughts associated with the stress or stressors, and often times stress heightens productivity and ignites the biological fight or flight responses. Many of my clients are attorneys and stress heightens their productivity and senses. They thrive on it. Burnout is beyond that stress.
Burnout is characterized by a general apathy about life. It mimics many of the symptoms of mild depression. It’s like a car that is nearly out of gas and running on fumes – it’s moving but more out of inertia than choice and nothing that comes along will create a heightened response. It is seemingly immune to outside stimuli. Similarly, when someone is in burn out, they respond less readily to normal stressors. They just don’t care because they are just out of gas.
When I see clients who are experiencing burnout, the approach is entirely different than the approach I use when someone is stressed. Burnout is characterized by a general disengagement in life and inability to sense emotions properly or develop long-term plans or goals. When someone is in burnout, as a coach, my work is to help them engage in the bigger picture. See life for more than whatever is causing their burnout.
The burnout spiral is not conducive to examining one’s thoughts, goals, motivations, and dreams. There is a general lack of emotion and interest in life. A pervasive numbness. (To be clear, burnout can sometimes be more properly classified as clinical depression, in which case, it is essential to see the support of a licensed medical provider for support.)
The only solution to burnout is to reconnect with life. Take an inventory of your life and recognize which areas you have been neglecting and steer your course in that direction. Call in sick. Take a spa day. Go to the gym and get to the office late. Take a vacation. Take whatever time you can away from the primary stressor driving the burnout. Spend time with friends and family. Talk with those closest to you about your situation. Connect with your community through volunteer work or environmental endeavors. Whatever can help you see that life is so much more than the job, relationship, money, or person associated with your fatigue. Take space. That is the first step to curing burnout.
If you are burnt out, you suffer from tunnel vision. You have difficulty seeing the big picture and, as a coach, I can’t bridge that gap for you. You must rebalance and refocus your vision before we can start coaching toward a brighter future.
I have experienced burnout numerous times throughout the course of my career. When I experienced burnout, work was like a dream. I was floating through the motions. I hated being there but also didn’t really care one way or the other. I didn’t care about any deadlines, I wasn’t concerned with any office drama or chaos, I was just beyond the ability to care. I had accepted that this was my life and I was just going to get through each day as simply and easily as possible and just. keep. moving.
My burnout was the product of emotional fatigue that reached a pinnacle. I felt helpless and lost and unwilling to “fight the good fight” any more. I felt empty and uninterested in the battle. I was just going to “do my job” and forget about the rest – no emotional or personal investment, life was simply a transaction. I did my time at the office, completed the assigned tasks, received my paycheck. Nothing more, nothing less. My work became the least enjoyable aspect of my life, just a means to an end.
It was a miserable existence.
It wasn’t until I got some space from the office that I realized how unhappy I was. I realized that the current work environment was a toxic relationship and I was ready to break up.
Spending some time meditating by the ocean and enjoying time with my family, I realized how much I had to be thankful for and how much I had felt disconnected from the goodness of life. I was able to address my burnout and rejuvenate myself.
With a clearer head and a renewed focus, I started drafting my new life. I had something to look forward to.
To be clear, stress and burnout are not the same. Working hard and hustling are not burnout and do not create burnout. Burnout, as I use the term, is a general lack of connection and engagement in your life/profession/relationships, etc. It is disengagement and apathy often preceded by stress and a disorganized brain.
If you are experiencing burnout, I so relate to you. I spend my time working with professional women to address and remedy burnout and stress. That is not the way we were meant to life! We all deserve better. Schedule a free consult with me and let’s get a plan in place to make space, release the burnout, and refocus on your future. You deserve a life you can be invested in and excited about. Don’t sell yourself short any longer.