As a clinical psychologist for corporate high achievers, a pattern that I notice repeatedly is the “I can do it all” mentality these individuals have.
While I’m continually inspired by the passion and enthusiasm my clients have for their work, there is an evident downside to this ‘all in’ approach, one that sees life outside their work suffer. On top of that, if they’ve been in a prolonged state of stress, high expectations of themselves and crazy workloads, they may even start to notice their work output diminish, which often sends them into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. This is a dangerous road to go down and often people don’t even realise they’re on the path to burnout until things reach a boiling point.
It’s a blessing to be able to catch the early warning signs of burnout, and work to remediate the effects before it becomes a bigger issue, and causing even more detriment to areas of work, life and health.
It’s also easy to brush off the signs and get to a point where the cumulative effects seem to hit you all at once, leaving you in a perpetual state of tiredness, lack of concentration and lowered levels of enthusiasm/motivation to work.
It’s crucially important you take time to reflect on whether you’re approaching this danger zone. I’ve listed out a number of signs (by no means exhaustive) that may signal that it’s time to restructure your life so that you can slow down and recover and work your way back to feeling at your best.
Signs of burnout:
Waking up tired, going to sleep tired, feeling spent before the day even begins… this isn’t a normal state to be in and is a clear sign something is off balance. Exhaustion can be felt within the physical, mental or emotional realm, and can take you away from feeling like yourself even outside of the work environment.
2. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention
If you’re noticing your cognitive abilities are just not where they’re usually at, and there’s an interference with your attention or concentration, this a sign not to be ignored.
Approaching burnout will place you in a “fight or flight” mode, which will tend to make you focus on the negative elements of our situation, which may be productive in the short-term, but in the long-term, this can seriously deplete our mental reserves to see the situation with clarity. Further to this, it can place us in what’s known as a scarcity mindset, which may further propel you into a feeling of helplessness and overwhelm.
3. Increased illness
If you find yourself more prone to illness, experiencing gut related and digestive issues, these are clear signals your body is sending you that something is not right.
In the early stages of approaching burnout, you may notice yourself becoming more prone to irritability, tension and a difficulty in ‘switching off’. Over time, this may develop into an issue that interferes with your interpersonal relationships at home and work, your emotional state and overall feeling of satisfaction with your life.
5. Lack of motivation
Where once you were excited to start the day and accomplish your career ambitions, now you may feel resentment and a lack of any inspiration to perform at your usual best. There’s a dullness to you and your usual positivity may be replaced with pessimism, resignation and cynicism.
All of these signs are important to reflect upon, and if you have any (or all!), it’s definitely time to make serious changes before you find yourself in an even more challenging situation.
Here are a few ways to help you get back to feeling yourself:
- REST and RECOVER.
A simple concept but one that busy executives often find difficult to implement. Getting to a place where you’re nearing burnout is a clear signal that we are not invincible and we do need to slow down and take time for ourselves.
Take your relaxation seriously. Make time to do things that help you unwind become a non-negotiable and ensure you have the same determination with resting as you do with working. Trust me, taking more rest now is going to pay dividends when you avoid burnout, which would require you to take a much longer period of rest and recovery.
2. Say NO
Another simple concept but one that busy corporate workers often fail at. We all want to please our colleagues and contribute meaningfully to our work, but there comes a point where you’re doing yourself a massive disservice by taking on more than necessary.
If the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is check your emails, it’s time for you to change that now. By continuing with this habit, you’re negatively effecting the quality of your sleep, and giving yourself very little opportunity to recover emotionally and mentally.
A great start is to militantly avoid your emails an hour before sleep and not until you have your breakfast in the morning.
4. Get the help you need
Trying to get over burnout on your own can be a challenge – especially when the burnout has begun to affect your relationships and your mental wellbeing. Skip the struggle of trying to figure it out all by yourself and get an expert to work alongside you.
This may be the perfect opportunity to set yourself a powerful foundation of habits and changes in mindsets so that you can actually perform better than ever before.
As a clinical psychologist – I’m here to help you improve your mentality and work life, giving you an avenue to speak freely about issues that you otherwise may not share. An external perspective such as a therapist can recognise your blind spots, and empower you to powerfully work through your hurdles, and allow you the opportunity to come out of the other side stronger than ever.
It’s never too late to accomplish your 2019 career and personal goals and address the mental blocks that are holding you back from living your best life.
Dr. Aileen Alegado is an expert in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Schema Therapy and other therapy models that are evidenced based to achieve results. For more information on working alongside Dr. Aileen, visit: www.mindsetpsychology.com.au