Whether you’re a counsellor, teacher, or therapist, you’ve dedicated your life to looking after others. While this can be extremely rewarding, it can also be very stressful and emotionally draining. Too much stress can have serious consequences on your health, such as burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.
The negative effects of burnout can affect your personal and professional relationships and cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. It’s therefore important to identify the warning signs and take steps to look after yourself.
What are the tell-tale signs of burnout?
The symptoms can present in three distinct ways:
- Feeling exhausted and lacking in energy
- Lowered immunity, feeling sick a lot
- Frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches
- Change in appetite or sleeping habits
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Isolating yourself
- Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
- Taking out your frustrations on others
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it should be a wake-up call that you may be on a dangerous path. Take some time out to assess the amount of stress in your life and find ways to reduce it before it’s too late. Burnout isn’t like the flu; it doesn’t go away after a few weeks unless you make some changes to your life.
Here are some simple things you can do to avoid burnout and regain some balance in your life:
Start the day with a relaxing ritual
Rather than jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend fifteen minutes meditating, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you. Use this time to set positive intentions for the day.
Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits
When you eat well, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy to deal with life’s demands and stresses. If you’re feeling run down, it’s time to focus on self-care, by overhauling your diet and exercise regime. Yoga, Pilates and Mindfulness meditation are all great ways to calm the mind, while working out the body.
Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time and resources. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things you truly want to do.
Nourish your creative side
Creativity and play are a powerful antidote to burnout, as is anything that nourishes and invigorates you. Try something new, start a fun project, or take up a new hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work and make you feel good. Sing. Paint. Dance. Explore the world of creative arts!
Get some support
If you’re feel stressed and overwhelmed, there are support networks in place to help. I offer supportive supervision groups for people that are heading for burnout. It’s an opportunity to unburden yourself in a supportive community, restore your sense of purpose and be looked after.
Burnout can be avoided if you learn to recognise the signs and take action. What are your stress triggers and your coping mechanisms for dealing with them? Please share your experiences below!