I hate using the words chronic fatigue and burnout.
However, I have been so tired, some days to the point that one flight of stairs feels like that is all I can manage, for over 4 years now. My tank is often empty, my body hurts and it is all a total mindf&*k. I feel constantly ‘lazy’, annoyed and my positive attitude feels thin. But yet, I am here, grateful for so much and by most accounts healthy.
Is it a) burnout? b) perimenopause? c) an undiagnosed physical illness/ reactivated virus? Or d) all of the above?
Who knows and it is not for the lack of trying on my part. I have seen many doctors and a wide selection of alternative health practitioners. Perhaps it is just this stage of life and I know I am not alone.
Nick Petrie’s article, How to Avoid Burnout – 2023 Findings, shared their findings after studying how to perform at high levels without burning out.
There is an overwhelming exhaustion experienced by many working individuals.
It’s important to acknowledge that burnout doesn’t stem from a singular cause. Each person’s journey into burnout is unique, necessitating tailored solutions instead of one-size-fits-all remedies.
Burnout often emerges from a mix of individual and organisational factors. Individually, traits like an extreme work ethic, misaligned values with the company, and an inability to detach from work play a role. Simultaneously, organisational factors such as unsupportive leadership/relationships, unrealistic workloads, and toxic workplace environments compound the issue. When several of these factors converge, the consequences can be severe.
Contrary to the popular notion of burnout being a binary state, their research identified three degrees of burning experienced by individuals. It’s not just a sudden transition into burnout; rather, it’s a gradual progression:
- 1st degree burn: Intense stress and overwhelm, yet managing to function effectively.
- 2nd degree burn: Chronic stress leading to fatigue, reduced motivation, and effectiveness, entering a ‘survival’ mode.
- 3rd degree burn: Complete burnout where both mind and body start shutting down, basic tasks become unmanageable, and emotions spiral out of control.
Matching the level of burn with appropriate solutions is crucial. While some organisations offer first-degree solutions like yoga or taking a day off, individuals experiencing third-degree burnout often find these inadequate and dismissive. Contrary to common belief, mere rest isn’t a panacea for burnout.
What can we do about it?
We believe good advice starts with taking an individual approach to address burnout. This involves tailoring strategies to your unique circumstances, stressors, and needs. Firstly, refer back to the degrees of burnout;
- 1st Degree Burn: Self-care practices such as breaks, exercise, and yoga.
- 2nd Degree Burn: Behavioural changes like setting boundaries, learning to say ‘no,’ and prioritising self-care.
- 3rd Degree Burn: Fundamental life changes such as considering a new workplace, career path, reassessing personal values, and envisioning a different life chapter.
Reflection and Adjustment:
Reflect on Values: Assess if your values align with your work. Realigning your work with your core values can bring a sense of purpose and reduce burnout.
Adjust Goals: Reassess your goals—set realistic and achievable milestones. Celebrate small victories and allow yourself grace for setbacks.
Communication and Advocacy:
Communicate Needs: Communicate your needs to your support network, team, or clients. Advocate for changes that can alleviate stress or improve work conditions.
Negotiate Changes: Explore possibilities for flexible work arrangements, workload adjustments, or task delegation to ease the burden.
Review and Adapt: Regularly review your strategies. Adapt and modify them as needed. What worked before might need adjustments as circumstances change.
Remember, individual approaches to burnout are iterative and unique to each person. It’s crucial to regularly reassess and tweak your strategies based on what resonates and provides relief. Prioritise self-awareness and self-compassion in this journey toward mitigating burnout. Try the following;
- Meet friends and mentors – one you realised you couldn’t repeat your past, you need new perspectives and a new approach. You can get these from family, peers, coaches, therapists and support groups. It is wise to remember that inadequacy makes us feel alone.
- Taking action – take new actions, sometimes big – change of job, change of career – sometimes small – set new boundaries, restart a hobby, get a therapist. Some things helped, some things did not. It didn’t matter. The key thing was you are doing NEW things and not repeating old habits. New actions lead to new insights and habits.
- Deep reflection – come off autopilot. Reflect deeply on the past – what caused you to burnout? What was driving you? And the future – what sort of work and life do you want going forward? How can you move yourself towards this vision? (On that subject, please join us for our Take Stock Workshop where much of the time is spent reflecting on the past year. This is also an opportunity to get back into the wisdom of your body by checking in with yourself, your breath and listening to what you have learned over the past year.
I keep going back to this– how do I want to be remembered?
This is the information I need for instructing how I want to live. I have been having conversations about this with many and we are designing a workshop for women who are thinking about how to plan for the end of their working life. How can we approach this phase much sooner and how can we make sure we are intentional about how we spend our time? We think it is too important not to think about. Look out for our workshop in the New Year called Wise Women.
Here is to the gratitude of another year and the promise of a new one.
If this resonates with you, we would love to hear from you.