5 signs of burnout
There was a feeling of utter helplessness as my car crawled slowly across a medieval bridge in Derbyshire. There was no way I could make it all the way home. It was dusk, the weather was fine and there was hardly any traffic on the road. With only 10 miles to go, I wasn’t even sure I could make it as far as the next junction. I pulled into the car park of the pub just over the bridge and phoned my wife. She had to drive out to get me. I could go no further, there was nothing left. I’d completely missed the tell-tale signs of burnout.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 526,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, and 12.5m working days were lost as a result over that period. The independent watchdog’s research shows that workers in health care, social care and education are more likely to suffer than those in other industries. The signs of burnout are everywhere once you know what to look for.
As it turns out, this was my first step on a long journey that resulted in opening my Cognitive Hypnotherapy practice in Harley Street. It’s also why I focus on helping clients overcome the affects of anxiety, depression and stress. I meet an increasing number of clients who, juts like me all those years ago, suddenly find that they have no energy left to keep going. It’s almost as if their career has sucked them dry without them even noticing what was going on. This is what it’s like to suffer burnout.
What triggers signs of Burnout?
The road to burnout usually starts off as rising to the challenge of progressing your career. In striving to perform,you aim to be in a positive, high energy state all the time. As it isn’t possible to maintain both positivity and high-energy indefinitely, you end up trying to keep your energy levels high gradually using up all your reserves. Eventually there’s nothing left to fallback on and you start to see the signs of burnout.
That’s what makes it so insidious, says Brian Rock, psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist and director of education and training at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. He describes it as, “a drip, drip, drip. Patients will say: ‘I didn’t know this was happening to me.’ It’s like a mission creep of sorts, where you find yourself working a bit later, taking calls on weekends, being less inclined to play with your children or feeling more isolated and irritable.”
It’s as if there’s a part of your unconscious mind that decides enough is enough and kicks into self-preservation mode. This protective part of oyu realises that will-power was all that was keeping you going, so it short circuits the problem and switches off your determination.
Andrew understands burnout as a defence against intolerable pressure and stress: “In the people I have met, it can be quite functional – the only way your mind and body have left to keep you safe, of protecting you when there are no other options available. But it’s not a decision that you make; it happens unconsciously.”
Five signs of burnout
People in the throes of or heading towards burnout might experience the following symptoms, say psychologists Rachel Andrew and Brian Rock:
- You feel exhausted, so you might experience things like disturbed sleep & flu-style symptoms.
- You have difficulties concentrating and feel as if your mind is zoning out, going into a daze for hours on end.
- You feel irritated and frustrated, often becoming self-critical.
- Supermarkets and similar places begin to feel overwhelming.
- You feel detached from things you used to love.
Suffering burnout doesn’t always mean you have to leave your current job or change your career. Often a shift in mindset and tactics can be enough to change the balance back to positivity & recovery. For others, like me, it changes your focus and you find a completely new direction which is even more fulfilling.
- If you recognise any of this in yourself or people close to you, it’s time to seek help.
If you feel you can, speak to your manager or HR department. They’re often more understanding than you might expect.
Talk to family & friends. The act of sharing your fears can bring them back into perspective.
Seek professional help. Your GP or a qualified therapist like me can help you recover yourself.
- Take a look around the website whilst you’re here. You might find this page useful next: self-care downloads
- Ask for a 20-minute telephone consultation with me here.