Feeling burnout goes beyond tiredness. It’s as if your brain has been fried and you can’t seem to get it to work in the way it usually does. People experience burnout differently and there are serious knock on effects that can take a long time to recover from but the overarching symptom is a physical and / or emotional state of exhaustion.
Burnout isn’t something which goes away on its own. Rather, it can worsen unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore the signs of burnout, it could cause further harm to your physical and mental health in the future.
‘As prevalent as it is, burnout is often misunderstood, stigmatised, and costly both to employees’ health and wellbeing, and employers’ productivity. 46% of UK workers feel ‘more prone to extreme levels of stress’ compared with a year ago (March 2020), while only 15% feel ‘less prone to extreme levels of stress’. - Mental Health UK
Mental Health UK also report that gender and age play a role in this prevalence, with women and young people reported feeling more prone to extreme stress and pressure at work.
Whilst there have been many changes over recent years to the ways in which a large portion of the work force do their work, it appears the tactics to support employees has not. Mental Health UK’s research found that just 23% of people knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot signs of chronic stress and burnout in employees. They also report that a staggering 1 in 5 told say they feel unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace.
A recent Mental Health UK study explored eighteen factors which could significantly contribute towards burnout in the UK over the lockdown period and whilst that time has ended, we've moved onto a cost of living crisis which has meant there are continued pressures which are overwhelming people so we'd argue their findings are still extremely relevant. Below, you can read about what these factors were and get expert advice on what you can do to help combat them if you're experiencing them currently.
Interestingly, despite WHO’s definition of burnout being an 'occupational hazard', not all of these factors were explicitly work-related, indicating that its often the combination of many pressures that are having a big impact on our wellbeing.
Working from home
Worries about job security
Caring for others
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn't happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. The signs and symptoms can be subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that something is wrong that needs to be addressed. If you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent a major breakdown. If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, you may be on the road to burnout so please do take the time you need to get your health and happiness on track. Regain your balance and feel positive again.
If you’re working in an environment in which you have the ability to support others around you and you want to prevent them from burnout then you could use a Wellbeing Plan. This is a tool to help you identify what good wellbeing looks like for you and your team, and spot when things things aren’t so good. Sharing this resource with those around you could share this with your team so that you can help to look out for each other.
Stress Risk Assessments are another way you can explore stress in yourself and others at work. These work the same way as a regular health and safety risk assessment: you identify a risk, then explore ways of removing or reducing the risk. This could be explored during 1:1s or less formal check-ins.
In the interest of transparency, always, I am writing this feeling on the brink of burn out. I don't always get it right when it comes to self-care, in fact sometimes I get it horribly wrong by giving too much of my energy to work and ignoring signs from my body, telling me to be calmer and rest more. My eye has been twitching non stop for a few weeks and I can feel my jaw clenching often. On top of that, my hormones have been out of balance for a very long time. Here I am on a recent shopping trip, needing a lie down, because I felt overly exhausted - a little bit embarrassing.
I am researching and reading up on what I can do, myself, to prevent burning out and I thought it would be valuable to share what I'm learning here in case anyone feels the same way I do. We won't always feel our best and sometimes, we'll have to touch the fire to realise it's hot and it hurts and we shouldn't do that again, despite everyone around us warning us not to touch it in the first place - plus our common sense telling us its not a smart idea. What matters is being kind to ourselves, especially when we feel we could've done more to prevent a situation from occurring, because all we can do is make decisions about the present and do our best, for ourselves, right now. If you're reading and are feeling burnout, please be kind to yourself and feel free to reach out to me anytime to talk.
You're not alone.