The Harsh Reality of Burnout
Today’s post is one that I have been wavering on doing for some time now, however, recent events in my own life have reminded me of the importance of taking care of oneself and being aware of the possibility of taking on too much.
I’m a giving person, and while I may not have a lot financially to hand out to every cause that comes my way, I am often fairly quick to give my time in any way that I see possible. This may mean taking on the marketing responsibilities for an upcoming fundraiser, acting as an event photographer for a fair, parade or event, volunteering to supervise children or oversee a school-sanctioned function or volunteering to teach music to eager students at our local schools.
I love it, I do – there is nothing that brings a bigger smile to my face than knowing that I can help out. The problem is, I often forget that I, like everyone else, only have so much time in my day. I work as a ghostwriter, own my own marketing business and maintain my own blog, plus I have housework to do, pets to take care of and a husband I’d prefer to spend time with. This doesn’t even account for a social life…
This reality, the reality of burnout, is one that is too often overlooked in today’s society. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in our responsibilities, and what we feel like we need to do for those around us, that we forget about our personal health an sustainability. This results in feelings of complete exhaustion on a physical, mental and/or emotional level – more than just being stressed or ‘tired,’ but completely and utterly worn out.
Not only does this wear you down, but there are some SERIOUS potential long-term consequences to be aware of. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who experience repeated, ignored and unaddressed burnout may, either immediately or over a longer period of time, suffer from the following consequences:
- Heightened levels of stress
- Insomnia or troubled sleep habits
- Depression or anxiety
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Heart disease
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Type 2 diabetes (especially in females)
- Obesity or significant weight gain
We need to now, more than ever, acknowledge the importance of our own personal health and wellbeing. That should top your priority list, more important than your favourite charity, or that friend that you always want to ‘be there for.’
Often in today’s society the idea of saying ‘no’ is seen in a negative context. Those who are told no may feel as if the person doesn’t ‘want to’ assist them or doesn’t ‘care’ for their cause. If this is something that they are regularly involved with, they may question their dedication and commitment to the cause at hand. On the flip side, the person saying ‘no’ may experience feelings of guilt. This is a dangerous cycle and one that needs to be broken!
You are ONE PERSON, and there is NOTHING wrong with putting your own health and wellbeing at the top of your priority list. This is where it should be! If anyone tries to guilt you or make you feel bad for doing so, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
The fact is, burnout is bad for everyone involved! If you are pushed to the brink you will not only struggle in your personal life, but you will lack enthusiasm, passion and motivation in your life, your performance will slip, and your overall attitude and mood towards all that you do, and those that you associate with, will become strained. At the end of the day, no one wins!
As we head into this crazy busy holiday season, it is time that we step up and take the steps to take care of ourselves!
Check out this important infographic addressing the importance of protecting yourself from burnout, and read on for more information about each point!
Learn to Say No
As I already discussed, the first big step that many of us struggle with is to learn to say no. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care for an organization, a charity or someone in your life, it means that you are prioritizing your life. Only allow yourself to take on the responsibilities that you genuinely have the time to handle, and learn to find compromises. Remember, there are others who can step up and step in when needed – it’s not all on you regardless of what someone may say in their effort to convince you.
If you are interested in being involved with an organization take the time to assess what you can and can’t feasibly take on. You don’t have to be the bearer of all responsibility! Maybe you can set up their next charitable event but can’t actually stay for the full event, or you can show up later in the day to assist. THAT’S OK! Never allow anyone to bully you into thinking what you have to offer isn’t good enough, and if they do try then walk away because they don’t deserve the time and effort you are giving them if they can’t appreciate and respect it. There are many others out there who would love to be on the receiving end of all that you have to offer!
This doesn’t just apply to charitable organizations. Consider this also when looking at the relationships in your life. Relationships can be INCREDIBLE draining if they are entirely one-sided. If there is someone who is always in need of your support, care and time it may be time to reconsider the boundaries that you have put in place. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are struggling yourself. You are not a bad person if you need to take time away from the situation to recoup and recharge.
I have posted before about the importance of self-care, but this is especially true if you are currently in the middle of a busy time of your life. Whether you are in the final stretch of preparing for a major charitable event or hitting a holiday season such as Christmas, there are times in life that are going to demand an increased amount of time, focus and dedication. During these times you need to actively increase your efforts to take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
If you wake up one morning feeling incredibly ill physically – your head is pounding, your stomach is sick, your body aches from head to toe and you can’t warm up despite your best efforts – you are going to stop and take the time to tend to this ailment to prevent it from getting worse and to promote a quicker recovery, no? The idea of ‘sick days’ are well accepted and respected for physical ailments like colds and flus, but what about your mental and emotional health? Furthermore, we take vitamins and minerals and pay attention to our overall dietary needs to promote our physical health, but what are we doing for our overall wellbeing?
Self-care constitutes eating right, getting the right amount of sleep, including physical activity in your day, but also activities that help to protect and promote better health on the mental and emotional level. This could be carving out an hour to curl up with your favourite book, a relaxing bath, a hot cup of tea, or some time just talking with a good friend. These are incredibly important, so take the time to schedule them into your day planner the same way that you would a doctor’s appointment! More importantly, once they are scheduled in, hold yourself to them!
Ask for Help
As I already mentioned, you should never be shouldering the full responsibility for anything that you take on. There are always others that can step in and take care of some aspect or even the full situation, should the problem arise. As I like to say to the kids when collecting emergency contact forms – you never know if you’re going to be eaten by a dinosaur tomorrow! We can’t predict the future, so if you were eaten tomorrow, who would be ensuring that everything continued to function? Surprise – there’s always someone!
It is easy to get wrapped up in the idea ‘I HAVE TO do this or else the organization will suffer,’ but not one of us is irreplaceable at the end of the day. If you are noticing that you are taking too much on, or have too much on your plate, reach out to others that are involved for some assistance. Break the task down into smaller, manageable pieces and delegate as necessary.
Asking for help is NOT a weakness. This is a sign that you are mature and responsible enough to accept and acknowledge that it is not best for anyone for you to continue on your own. If you do turn to a group that you are involved with requesting help and you feel judged, attacked or looked down upon for doing so, it may be time to reconsider your involvement. You don’t need to welcome negative or toxic influences into your life – nothing good is going to come from it!
Re-evaluate Your Priorities
It doesn’t matter who you are – a regular Joe or Superman himself – at the end of the day we all have just 24 hours each day to spend. During that time, you need to fit everything into your schedule from eating and sleeping to the biggest board meeting and important webinar. If you keep taking more and more responsibility on you are going to hit the point that there is more on your plate than you have time for, regardless of how you arrange the schedule! When you are scheduling out your day you need to start by ensuring that you have a solid understanding of your priorities.
No one can set your priorities but you, and no two people are going to be exactly alike. There is NOTHING wrong with having a different set of priorities than your friends, co-workers or even your family members. Maybe you strongly believe that your Tuesday night workout class is one that you CANNOT function without in your life. That’s completely okay – set your schedule up knowing that timeslot is already blocked out.
Take the time to sit down and make a list of all of the responsibilities that are currently in your life, or that you are currently wresting with the discussion of taking on. Following your heart and your beliefs, and only YOUR heart and beliefs (not the pressure of others) order these items by importance in your life. Keep that list beside you when creating your schedule. If something ranks low on the priority list and your schedule has already filled up, then it is time to let it go and allow someone else to take it over at this time.
Be Patient with Yourself
At the end of the day, YOU ARE HUMAN! Just in case you needed that reminder, I know that I sometimes do. You are never going to be perfect, that is just a fact of life. Rather than focusing on perfection, try to cut yourself a little bit of slack and just focus on being the best YOU that you can be.
Many of the overwhelming expectations that we face on a daily basis are actually self-imposed, so by changing your own thinking, you can actually take a lot of the stress of yourself. Start by finding some little areas in your life that you can loosen up a bit. For example, maybe you expect your office to be 100% tidy at the end of every day. Allow yourself to take it easy, not trash the office, but maybe there are a few things you are currently working on that don’t get tidied up until tomorrow and you allow yourself that freedom. In time you will feel some of the overwhelming stress lighten up.
Also, be patient with your ability to meet the demands of everyone else in life. If you have a family member with unrealistic expectations, it is ok to accept that they are likely not going to be 100% satisfied with your choices. This is your life, not theirs!
YOU ARE IMPORTANT! YOU ARE ENOUGH!
This is the important, underlying concept. You don’t need to be more, do more or accomplish more than is feasible for you, as you in and of yourself are exactly who you need to be for the right organizations, events, situations and people. If you find that this is not the impression you are getting from those around you, take some time to re-evaluate who you are surrounding yourself with and who you are giving your valuable time and energy to! Your health is a priority – never lose sight of that!
Have you ever experienced burnout? In what ways do you prioritize your own wellbeing in your day to day life?