The Sneaky Way Burnout Starts
Tell me if you can relate to this.
You’re successful, driven and smart. You’re a go-getter, an achiever with places to go and things to do. You’re full of ideas and ambitions and dreams. You’re also busier than a bee on a honey mission, running about faster and faster every day, to get it all done.
You may be similar to my clients: Amazing business men and women, successful corporate professionals, high-achieving leaders of companies, and driven entrepreneurs making a marked difference in the world.
Yet lately, you’ve been feeling a little out of sync, a little out of tune, maybe even a bit off of your rhythm. You’re often worried and anxious, and yet you’re not sure what about.
You’re feeling okay, for the most part, but your body is acting odd at times, some aches and pains, some unexplained fatigue. You might admit that you’ve lost a little bit of enthusiasm for your favorite projects. You may even admit to feeling a wee bit deflated or unmotivated, even if you are still going about your business as usual.
Well, if you nodded to the above, you might just be on the outer edges of burnout, a condition that most over-achievers, successful go-getters, and driven ambitious people such as yourself experience on their path.
And one that you would be most wise to avoid at all costs if you are hungry for that lasting success, not to mention maintaining a vigorous state of physical and mental health so you can enjoy said success (or else, what is the point?!).
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Outsmart Burnout: How to be on the lookout before it gets you
Before I tell you my own not-so-pretty experience, let’s talk about how burnout sneaks in and takes over.
The Wikipedia definition defines burnout as: “Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” Here is how I define it in more gross detail:
Burnout begins innocently enough in your mind, in the space in between your two ears. You may feel a general sense of boredom and a lack of enthusiasm and may even be uninterested in projects that excited you before. You may notice that you’re making mistakes and oversights whereas before you were nearly flawless and highly accurate. You’re less focused and thus missing details or forgetting important dates or facts. You may be getting irritated with your business partners, colleagues, bosses and even, family and friends.
You might be in a constant state of stress about your work or your business, unable to relax completely because if you were to let go and smile and laugh and take it easy, you fear that your agenda would fall apart. You might even remove joy and fun from your life so you can “focus harder on work” and produce better results. You may gladly welcome stress and “seriousness” in response to the symptoms you are experiencing.
This cycle can continue for some time before it gets your bigger attention. Most of us brush off symptoms such as the above as having “a bad day”, and sometimes, that’s exactly what it is.
But if it continues, if you notice your mental state is in a place of agitation and anxiety, it’s unlikely that you’re having a series of bad days!
In the meanwhile, the start of burnout evolves beyond the mind and enters the body territory, where the real fun begins!
If your mind finds that its plea for attention goes unnoticed, if the symptoms above are an annoyance that you avoid and keep going at a thousand miles an hour, then this phenomenon will spill over to your physical body, regardless of your age, health, and sense of invincibility :)!
Burnout will then make its presence known through symptoms and signs that we all dread: Strange aches and pains, trouble falling asleep, trouble waking it up refreshed, feeling tired even after 8+ hours in bed, lack of energy even after fueling up, hurting body parts, hands tingling, eyes straining and twitching, neck pain or pinching, foot cramps, odd headaches, feeling unwell in general, and so on.
You are right in that any of those symptoms alone can be a sign of bad posture or an injury or an illness of sorts or a misuse of your body at last night’s aerobics or yoga class, what have you, but when the symptoms come in random and go away, getting replaced with other symptoms also at random, when you notice a pattern of strange odd and inexplicable discomforts in your overall mind and body system, it is time to pause and pay yourself a 100% of your attention.
It is highly likely that you are on the verge of burnout, and that your mind and your body is screaming at you in every way it knows to get your attention. The sooner your turn that attention to your greatest asset: your mental and physical well-being, the sooner you can get out of burnout, perhaps even before you fully get into its danger zone.
Burnout sometimes comes on really fast, matters of days, other times, it’s slow like molasses and takes weeks, and both are hard to recover from once you are in it.
So have you ever experienced burnout? I know that I have.
The Cliff Notes Version of My Story of Burnout:
As any overachiever will relate, I denied my burnout as long as I could … until I couldn’t.
My burnout started when I began flying coast to coast for a “very important project” at my corporate job, a project that took over my life and became more important than the dearest people in my life. Insanity, I know that now but at the time, it made sense. A project that was the beginning of an internal shift that had been simmering for years. The burnout caused severe depression in myself, my marriage and my family relationships, and the irony is that when I suffered in those areas, I turned to work as an escape, the very source of all my problems!
I’m glad for the burnout in hindsight for it helped me see what is most important in life: Health, mental well-being, peace of mind, freedom from fear and insecurities and judgement and feeling loved, cared for, and successful.
It took a couple of years to come out of my burnout and when I did, I decided to re-invent my entire lifestyle: I quit my job, started my business, hired my husband, got passionate about health and fitness, reset my priorities and (I’m sure of it) added decades to the tail end of my life.
All the same, I didn’t have to suffer in order to get the results that I created. And neither do you.
Stop Being a Hero and Avoid Burnout at All Costs
There are no upsides to burnout. There are no heroic stories that we get to tell later. There is no applause, no medal of recognition, no universal vote of approval waiting for you at the end of burnout. The only thing you can look forward to is damage, short-term at best, to your mental and physical health as well as to your career.
Burnout is not something to be proud of, it is something to avoid if you want to continue a sustainable journey of success and happiness and fulfillment along with a healthy body and mind with which to enjoy the beautiful prospects.
And to be blunt, choosing to ignore something you can avoid is plain dumb, and you are too smart to play dumb with your assets. So let’s avoid it, shall we?
Listen, you want a competitive advantage over your peers, right? You want to look attractive and smart to your management (and burnout makes you look far from smart!). You want to make sure you are positioned well for that seat at the leadership table or that partnership or that top client. You want to be strong and healthy and a role model for your friends and family at the same time.
Then take care of yourself! This is a simple thing that our heroic culture wants to put down in favor of other toxic habits. Don’t! Be as smart as you are driven and ambitious and you’ll feel better as well as get further in life.
10 Self-Energizing Strategies that Show Burnout Who is Boss
Here are my 10 self-Energizing strategies to help you avoid burnout. These ideas may work for you or may not be your cuppa tea. I have found that for me and my high-achiever clients, these strategies are extremely effective to keep stress at bay and thus to massively increase productivity, health, and life achievement as a result.
A word of warning on resistance: If you are so set in your ways, you will find your “best friend” resistance show up immediately as you put any of these strategies into motion. You need to be open to receive change, to be able to set aside sarcasm and criticism and to really and truly care about yourself to do the following. In other words: Overcome resistance you must because it doesn’t have your best interest at heart.
1. Measure Your Wins by Effort, not Outcome:
Most of us in the driven category of the human kind love to count achievements by an outcome. Well, what if the outcome is months away? What if you are on a slower journey and you are still making progress? The outcome is not the only way to measure progress. Instead pay attention to what you do daily, make note of small wins and count your progress with pride!
2. Integrate More Passion, Less Responsibility:
Most overachievers confuse work and passion, or for that matter, responsibility and passion. Passion sparks joy, even if it may go against the logical practical mind. Passion is something you look forward to doing like writing, reading, coloring, golf or pottery. People driven by (at least some) passion, rather than by obligation, are rarely at the risk of burnout. Integrate some passion into your life.
3. Rediscover Nature Daily:
Chances are you have greenery somewhere nearby your living quarters. How connected are you to Mother Nature? Sure, you may not be the outdoorsy type, and neither am I but we are human beings, not human doings, and nature gives us our natural rhythm. Go to it for 15 minutes a day. Walk, sit, run, talk to a friend, hang out in the midst of trees and grass and lakes and greenery. Make it a ritual, make it mandatory.
4. Fuel the Body with the Right Proteins:
Fuel your body with lean clean and frequent sources of protein. Pack protein bars with zero sugar and manage your energy as if your life depended on it. I love Ambronite and ThinkThin protein bars, both of which have a high potency of nutrients. Be strict about the high-protein-low-sugar for 10 days and see how you feel.
5. Cut Out Processed Sugar and Alcohol:
What if you could cut processed sugar – also known as slow poison! – from your diet for just a day? What about two? If you could do it for a week, you will be at the tipping point of seeing a difference, and in two weeks, you will have done your body heaps of good. Start one day at a time and read all labels for sugar and don’t reduce so much as abolish sugar from your diet. Watch your energy rise and your temper change by doing this.
6. Set Strict Bedtime Routines:
Studies show that the most successful people in the world have set bedtime routines, and rarely let anything interfere with it. What about you? What if any is your bedtime routine and how important is it? How do you decompress, leave the day behind, and get your mind body and spirit ready to retire for the night? Go to bed at the same time every night, leave your electronics out of the bedroom, and use every natural means to help you ease into the underworld of sleep and dream world.
7. Hydrate before Thirsty:
Drink filtered water all day. Stop drinking sodas and alcohol if you do. Limit coffee and tea and drink only the highest quality. Not much more to say on that.
8. Do Your Yoga:
I don’t normally preach anything, least of all yoga, I simply practice it but alas, this is an exception so brace yourself: Do Your Yoga. It is the miracle that has proven the impossible possible to me on many levels. If you don’t have a daily routine of breathing and stretching, get one. Yoga is the very best way to get balance, strength and flexibility into your system. I love Ashtanga yoga but hey, all yoga can be good as long as it pushes you outside your comfort zone and helps you leave the day behind.
9. Respect Thyself with Boundaries:
If you don’t respect yourself, nobody will. If you don’t respect your time and energy, nobody will. So if you are constantly saying yes to every request that comes across your desk, work or personal, then you are saying it’s okay to the outside world to abuse your generosity. At some point, this habit will overwhelm you, so start to set boundaries today. Practice saying “I’d love to help you but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m already over-committed.” with a smile.
10. Be Kinder to Yourself:
On a recent group coaching call on my Women Leadership Program, one of the women was explaining her progress as she was coming out of a heavy burnout period and asking what else she could do about it. Her actions were great, she was doing all the right things but she was angry at herself for not being there already. I told her what I would tell myself and you: Be kinder to yourself. When you’re doing the right things, you will prevail. It is a matter of time and time requires patience, and in that time, you must must must be kind to yourself. This kindness goes a long way to battle depression, anxiety, and even kick burnout in the rear. So won’t you be kinder, nicer and sweeter to yourself for a change? And if you need a little help, use my proven system to help you on that kindness path!
Wanna talk about it?
If you’re not convinced this will work for you or even applies to you and yet not all is right with your world, I can help. Let’s explore how to get you out of the state you are in and into the place you dream of going. You can contact me here or leave a comment below sharing your thoughts.
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