As we approach the holiday weekend and what's often our busiest month of the year comes to a close, are you feeling that 2022 has all been a bit overwhelming? December and the run in to Christmas is often punctuated by the professional pressures to finish projects, while entertaining key relationships and putting everything else on-hold until January. If you’re looking to generate new leads in December, this can be a very thankless task.
Asides an overflowing calendar in December, we are at the end of a 12-month cycle and we are at the nadir of winter in the northern hemisphere, with the least amount of daylight available experienced on Wednesday 21st December. We’ve seen three Prime Ministers in one year, with one taking the prize for the shortest service in office ever and we’ve had one funeral - Rest In Peace your Majesty. On top of an unsteady sense of direction from our public leaders, we contend with economic challenges, with the price of energy and food being our biggest daily hardship. But why am I reminding you of all this and is it helpful?
It’s fair to say most people are over 2022 and whether or not you’re looking forward to what the holidays bring you, it is an important time of year to reflect and acknowledge what is going on, how you feel and what does 2023 look like.
Day to day, we live so much of our time working “IN” our lives, driven by our deadlines, habits, busyness, quick rewards and ‘shoulds’. Although this time of year is also full, it is a natural moment of pause—like the end of an exhale, before we breathe in again.
It’s a time for us to look at how we could work more “ON” our lives – that inner, deeper self that gets crowded out by the noise in your life, and which you can only connect with once you quieten distractions and mind, switch off autopilot, and create space for yourself.
This brings me back to the title of our article - “Burnout”. Burnout is not a medical diagnosis. It is a specific type of work-related stress. The Mayo clinic definition
“Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Given the tumultuous few years we’ve experienced since March 2020, many of us could be be feeling that life is too short to continue with the status quo. Ask yourself if any of the following emotions or symptoms sound familiar:
- Sense of failure and self-doubt.
- Feeling helpless, trapped and defeated.
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
- Loss of motivation. Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
Although burnout is essentially caused by work-related stress, the symptoms that an employee exhibits when they are burned out, and the signs that they may be becoming burned out, are different to those symptoms of an employee experiencing stress. Stress causes an employee to over-engage with their work environment. Feeling anxiety that their productivity levels are not high enough, they will display symptoms like hyperactive and urgent behaviour. This is more a physical sensation, fed by adrenaline and cortisol in the body.
Instead, the symptoms a person who is burned out will experience are primarily psychological, related to feeling increasingly detached and unmotivated at work.
If you’re feeling any or all of the symptoms above, start by acknowledging it. When you acknowledge it and legitimise how you’re feeling, you’ll likely feel better. This is the most important step, as there’s no help available if you don’t ask for it. Acknowledgement is the foundation for any improvement to follow.
As a personal trainer, experiencing emotional exhaustion happens. This is best described as developing a lack of interest in clients and their problems, known as compassion fatigue. In jobs which entail approaching one’s work with empathy on a constant basis, compassion fatigue can be a key sign of burnout.
Perhaps it’s time to think about working “ON” your life more. Ask yourself, what are your stressors? What are the things within your control to change and what are not? Is it time to talk to a coach or therapist and build your support network that surrounds you? Are the rewards at work under-compensating your efforts and if so, is there something you’d find more fulfilling?
There are many ways to soothe and improve our lives from burnout. First of all we might simply benefit from some time off and space to nourish ourselves with what we enjoy doing. Then there are those life enhancing techniques we’ve all heard of so many times; eat well, sleep well, practise meditation and exercise.
It is exercise above all that could offer the most radical improvement to our psychological state of burnout. Expressing our physicality and awakening our bodily potential is a powerful antidote to mental and emotional stressors that we experience in our modern, fast-paced lives. Our bodies are designed for movement and a sedentary lifestyle can deprive even the most resilient of minds, from a needed lift in mood, clarity of thought, improved energy levels and endurance through the day. Further benefits of exercise include; improved sleeping patterns, enhanced metabolism and insulin resistance, as well as being meditative (time away from work), fun and social.
The by-products of exercise include re-establishing a connection with others, an improved sense of identity and self-worth, body appreciation, confidence and resilience. Physical improvements enhance self-efficacy and the ability to deal with difficult situations.