Life is generally exhausting. Finding balance between what you need to do and want to do, in addition to the push and pull of family/non-work relationships and finding enough time to enjoy life is difficult, stressful, and very possibly exhausting.
I have worked as a Coach with many over-stressed and time-poor individuals. The two tend to go together. The richness and enjoyment of life has been wrung out of them by doing too much. They live life on the run, splitting themselves into ever-smaller slices, taking short cuts with home and work and cancelling things at the last minute. It’s a difficult circle to be in; they are quite often difficult people to be around.
Why recognising exhaustion and burnout is important
Exhaustion is described as a state of extreme physical or mental tiredness. Ongoing/chronic fatigue syndrome occurs when energy-delivery mechanisms in the body break down, or energy is being used elsewhere, perhaps by the immune system to fight an infection. This means there is little energy left to live, which in itself is an awful realisation.
Exhaustion can lead very quickly to burnout and ill health. It is possible to overcome the condition; recognising early symptoms can help.
How do you spot the early symptoms of chronic fatigue and burnout?
• You can’t think straight
• You are more than stressed-out most of the time
• You have constant thoughts of ‘how much you have to do each day’
• You lose interest quickly in anything not on your ‘have to do’ list
• Your usual healthy choices have been replaced by chocolate, crisps, caffeine drinks, alcohol
• You can’t bear the thought of exercise
• You spend more money on quick fixes to make you feel better
• Your mood is tumultuous
• You are short tempered, get upset easily and lose perspective
• You feel short of breath
• You make excuses for not spending enough time with people
• You struggle with family – children, elderly relatives
• You seem to permanently have a cold
• Your thought processes go in a constant loop
• You take little joy in anything – you rarely smile or laugh
• You feel wiped out at the end of the day and then can’t sleep
I sincerely hope there aren’t any readers of this article who have all these symptoms, but there is a good chance a few of these will resonate if you’re reading an article about exhaustive burnout.
If you think you might be at risk of exhaustion, firstly visit your GP for a check up to rule out a physical reason. A GP is likely to examine for blood pressure, heart rhythm, temperature, thyroid and liver function, post-viral fatigue and medication side-effects, amongst other tests.
Hopefully they will also ask questions to help pinpoint the causes of your exhaustion/ongoing fatigue or you might know them already.
If you are experiencing burnout:
• Relaxation – take it seriously and designate time for it.
• Cultivate a rich non-work life – hobbies, sports, fitness, volunteering. Re-engage with the things you used to like to do.
• Unplug – obvious this one – and set boundaries for when you are available to respond to various media.
• Get enough sleep – or at least try to.
• Be organised and prioritise. Try not to cram everything or half-achieve.
• Keep in touch with how you feel about your health.
• When enough is enough – know your boundaries. If it’s work-related stress causing exhaustion/burnout and they’ve been unsupportive, remove yourself/know when it’s time to move on.
• ….. But before moving on – if you work for an organisation with a secure infrastructure it is worth talking confidentially to your immediate boss or HR/Coach. In these enlightened days it is rarely seen to be a sign of weakness. A burnout, exhausted individual is of considerably less use to a company than one being supported to greater effect over the longer term.
There is, of course, an enormous amount more on the subject of Exhaustion and Burnout – enough for a whole book in fact, but that is for when I have enough time…. More to follow in future 18-07 articles.
However, I will leave you for the time-being with this thought; the compromises you make with your own life are rarely sufficiently worthwhile to feel the extremes of exhaustion or burnout.
Fall in love with life again… and remember to smile.
18-07 works with individuals and organisations – helping people achieve their goals faster.