Updated: Jan 20
Read on to discover what burnout is, how to recognise it and my top tips for reducing your risk of 'burning out'
This blog is a bit longer than I would normally write! But I think it’s important to understand what burnout is and why we need to take notice. I’ve read a ton on the topic, and have included the main sources for this article below if you want to read more too.
Have a particular section that you want to read? You can skip to it here:
What is burnout and how much of an issue is it?
While it’s not a new concept, Burnout was recognised officially by the World Health Organisation, in 2019. They classified it as an Occupational Phenomenon, ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’.
The fact Burnout has this recognition highlights it’s a global concern, and if you are facing it, you are not alone. In the UK, research conducted by Westfield Health also showed that close to half (46%) of workers were close to burnout in 2022, and Glassdoor also found that reports of burnout skyrocketed by 48% in a study of 382,000 employee reviews. This kind of data is hard to ignore, and it’s top of mind for many company HR departments too.
Is Burnout the same as Stress?
The short answer is no. Some stress is inevitable and often it’s a good thing. It helps us reach out goals, stay motivated, but typically it’s not associated with any real threat or fear. For example playing competitive sports or riding a rollercoaster will drive a stress response but it’s also exciting and thrilling.
However, bad stress, where you perceive a threat or fear a situation or outcome, wears you out, leaves you jittery and can lead to anxiety, confusion, poor concentration and decreased performance. Keeping that up over a prolonged period, in a work environment, is where the danger of burnout lies.
How do I know if I am 'burning out' or 'burnt out'?
Typically someone heading towards burnout will feel exhausted, under constant stress may recognise some of these symptoms:
- Physical/mental overwhelm
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loss of confidence, self belief
- Inability to make decisions
- Feeling alone/isolated
- Unusually tearful
By the time you hit burnout, the WHO reports 3 key symptoms 1) energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job 3) reduced personal efficacy. But it can be more serious than this, with some feeling suicidal, hopeless and disconnected from support networks which could have serious consequences.
I’ve also seen references to recovery timeframes from 3 months to 1 year, and imagine there is a whole spectrum of individual needs. The important thing to recognise here is that stress that becomes chronic, and continues over a long period is not something you should ignore.
My 8 Top Coaching Tips for reducing your risk of burnout & where to get help
Firstly, if you are suffering from signs of burnout, please talk to your GP to get the right level of support for how you are feeling. It’s also worth checking to see what help is available at work, talk to your manager if you feel comfortable or reach out to an HR professional.
In addition to these, Coaching support is also a great way to help you step out of the day to day, evaluate where you are, what you want, and help you get practical support to make the changes you need to reduce stress and start to thrive both short and long term. I’ve used many of these tips and more with my clients and seen great results, so please get in touch if you want to discuss how coaching can support you too.
The first step is always awareness. You may already be here, since you are reading this article, so that’s a great start. Consider,
How often do you feel stressed?
How easy do you find it to disconnect after work each evening/at the weekends/on holiday?
How long have you felt like this?
How is it impacting your life right now? How long are you prepared to feel this way?
What would it take to reduce the stress you are under?
Can you think of 3 strategies which might help you (perhaps speaking to a colleague/leader, taking a break, chatting to your GP)?
2. Reconnect with your WHY?
What’s the big picture? It can really help to get some perspective in order to recognise if the effort required is fulfilling your ultimate purpose. It’s not unusual to lose sight of this over time, especially if you have been working in the same career for a while and experienced big life changes like having a family or experiencing loss, so now’s a great time to ask yourself:
What is it you are working towards?
What’s the big vision for how you want your life to be, and how does your current job/career support that?
What goals do you want to set and work towards, and what steps could you take today to start moving towards those?
3. Re-connect with YOU.
Stress and overwhelm can lead to periods of self-doubt and knock your confidence. So how do you stop and build yourself back up? This isn’t a simple process but I often start with values.
Do you know what your values are? The things that drive you and motivate you? These are words that resonate strongly with you and you recognise as being present in your life through the years and when you feel happiest (and often when you get most riled too!).
Mine include values like Family, Connection, Integrity/honesty, Kindness, Creativity, Adventure – and I’m at my happiest when I prioritise these things and have them show up in my work and life on a daily basis. I have a workbook on this if you need help, so feel free to reach out!
4. Set Boundaries
Do you find yourself saying yes to everyone? Are you scared of what might happen if you say no? People Pleasing tendancies can be deep rooted, and often contribute to overwhelm and stress levels. When you do the first 3 activities on this list, you start to recognise whats really important to you, and in turn, this can help you find your voice and say no to the things that don’t support your personal goals.
It’s tough to get started but so worth it! Honestly, you will earn a whole new level of respect from those around you and may even see your career sky rocket! I have a whole blog post on this topic here too.
5. Recognise & crush your limiting beliefs.
These pesky little voices in your mind can cause all sorts of trouble! Do you find yourself saying things like I cant do that/could never do that because I’m x? Maybe you see yourself as overweight, or from a poor background or not the clever one or the pretty one, so you set yourself a whole bunch of limitations to live within.
There are several tools to help you with this including affirmations, the catch/challenge/change tool and lots of neuroscience provides evidence that simply reframing our mindset can have significant and positive impacts on our lives. (Coaching can support you through this process, just ask me for more details and I'm happy to help)
6. Practice self-compassion
Do you find yourself saying cruel things to yourself? Im such a failure, I’m rubbish at that, I’ll never be able to do that? Not nice is it? When this happens, start to notice it, and pause. What would you say to a best friend if they did the same thing? Start to become your own best friend. Journaling can be a great way to start to recognise thought patterns and start to practice this. Give it a go.
7. Lean how to ‘ground’ yourself in times of stress
When things are spiralling, it’s sometimes hard to catch your breath. As yourself what has worked for you in the past when you feel stressed? What is the best way for you to switch off and wind down? It might be a bath, a walk in the woods, a chat with a friend or even meditation. There are so many options to chose from whether it's meditation, breath-work, barefoot walking on the grass, connecting with nature and more – the trick is to try them, take your time and find what works for you.
8. Practice self-care
This should probably in the top spot, but it's often hard to prioritise yourself when you feel under the weight of other peoples expectations or your own, and you are working so hard and in the middle of a tough time, self care always goes to the bottom of your to do list. But trust me (I've been there), learning to put yourself first, and recognising that your mind and body are what carries you through life is cruicially important to avoiding burnout. The trick is following the first 3 steps on this tip list, to really get a better understanding of your priorities, dreams, goals. Doing this helps you see th ebig picture, and in doing so, start to prioritise your health and wellbeing.
To actually do this, it's all about habits, and routines. Step one is ensuring you are meeting your basic human needs such as sleep, nutrition and exercise. So think about what this looks like now, and what it would take to change it? If this feels daunting, break it down, focus on one small step at a time. As yourself, what is one small thing I could do today to get closer to this goal? And then repeat. And repeat.
I hope you find this article useful and the top tips resonate with you? If you can think of anything else to help reduce the risks of burnout, please let me know and I’d love to include them!
If you want help with any of these coaching tools, please get in touch. Simply book a Discovery Call here, and we can talk about what you are experiencing and build a coaching strategy tailored to your needs so you can achieve your goals.